Phil Spector – A Christmas Gift For You (1963): Review

spector

Produced by Phil Spector
Label – Philles

Unlike general popular music, Christmas collections are rarely judged by a relevance in terms of critical longevity. The seasonal, lightweight and largely child like content usually makes it difficult to compare against conventional records, and that’s why “A Christmas Gift For You” is a unique anomaly. This Phil Spector produced classic is often regarded by many as the greatest album of Yuletide fayre committed to vinyl. Released on November 22nd, 1963 (the day before JFK’s assassination), it sees Spector’s vision of using his profound production skills to achieve an energetic, modern slant on familiar songs. He would employ famous acts from the Philles label, including The Crystals, The Ronnettes, Bob.B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans and Darlene Love. Jack Nitzsche provides the arrangements, and musicians include Leon Russell, alongside Wrecking Crew members  Don Randi, Al Delory, Bill Pitman, Tommy Tedesco, Irving Rubins, Roy Cayton, Jay Migliori, Steve Douglas and Ray Pohlman. The celebrated “wall of sound” is fully employed, the strings and horn arrangements adding a classy warmth to the sleigh bells, and although the songs are all covers (except “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”), there’s still enough festive fun to keep everyone entertained throughout.

The standout track is the original composition, Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”. Love’s stunning vocal soars above the arrangement, making a decently written tune a yearning hymnal to all the young lovers awaiting the arrival of the special one in their life. The closer, “Silent Night” assembles the artists together, whilst Spector delivers a spoken word soliloquy, thanking everyone for buying the record. One wonders if, at this stage in his career, he was as mad as he actually became, and because of his eventual mental demise, the words have a strange creepy feeling, which of course was not the original intent.

As Christmas compilations go, it is undoubtedly one of the best.

7/10

Track Rating
1 – White Christmas (Darlene Love) (7)
2 – Frosty The Snowman (The Ronettes) (7)
3 – The Bells Of Saint Mary (Bob.B.Soxx & The Blue Jeans) (7)
4 – Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (The Crystals) (8)
5 – Sleigh Ride (The Ronettes) (7)
6 – A Marshmallow World (Darlene Love) (6)
7 – I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (The Ronettes) (6)
8 – Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (The Crystals) (6)
9 – Winter Wonderland (Darlene Love) (7)
10 – Parade Of The Wooden Soldiers (The Crystals) (6)
11 – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) (Darlene Love) (8)
12 – Here Comes Santa Claus (Bob.B.Soxx & The Blue Jeans) (6)
13 – Silent Night (Phil Spector & artists) (5)

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8 responses to “Phil Spector – A Christmas Gift For You (1963): Review

  1. He’s one of the ones I have trouble separating the artist from the art (the title and bottom text on the cover don’t make it any easier!) – but when I’m able to, I agree Geoff, this is a nice festive compilation

  2. Hi Hackskeptic, in recent years the Christmas dross has devalued the musical season and perennial favourite tunes from my childhood have become recurring annoyances. So I turned to Nick Lowe, whose QUALITY STREET album has now become a Badham best! I also heard an LP of seasonal stuff by Blackmore’s Night which was wonderful too. There is hope. But the Spector magic is unbeatable. I agree. Music first, Christmas second. Playable in July without question

    • Kenny, that’s exactly I reviewed it in the middle of the year. The fact that it stacks up as a decent musical experience at this time of year shows its merit. btw I should definitely hunt down the Nick Lowe album.

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