Various Artists: Wall of Sound – The Very Best of Phil Spector

Fresh mono transfer and remaster of Spector’s best

In the lull between the primordial spark of ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll and the ‘60s echo brought by the British Invasion, Phil Spector reinvented the pop single. He broke into the music industry in the late ‘50s with his group, The Teddy Bears, and subsequently elevated the stature of “record producer” with his unique Wall of Sound methods. Starting in New York, and eventually decamping to Los Angeles, Spector’s fame eclipsed that of his artists. Though the Ronettes and Crystals got star billing, and the A-list studio players got their historic due as the Wrecking Crew, these singles have collectively become known as “Phil Spector records.” And given Spector’s reclusive lifestyle and his 2009 incarceration, the records are more than ever his public legacy.

This 19-track collection samples the key years, 1961-66, during which Spector produced for his own Philles label. With the Philles catalog now in the licensing hands of Sony Legacy and EMI, the fiftieth anniversary of the label’s 1961 founding is being celebrated with a new round of reissues. Alongside this remastered collection of Spector’s hits are collections for the Ronettes, Crystals and Darlene Love. This set stretches from the Crystals’ and Philles’ first single, 1961’s “There’s No Other (Like My Baby),” through the 1966 release whose chart failure is reported to have broken Spector’s heart, Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High.” In between are key sides from the Ronettes, Darlene Love, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, Righteous Brothers and more from the Crystals, gathering together all of the label’s Top 40 singles except for three mid-60s releases by the Righteous Brothers.

This is a great look at the peaks, both commercial and artistic, of Spector’s run at Philles. It’s missing the warm-up act of pre-Philles sides with Ray Peterson, Gene Pitney, Curtis Lee and the Paris Sisters, as well as Spector’s comeback work in the ‘70s and 80s, but as a single disc overview of the Wall of Sound, and given the per-track royalty model for U.S. releases, it’s hard to argue with the choices. To reach deeper into the Phil Spector and Philles catalogs, to hear B-sides, album tracks and the few non-charting Philles singles, seek out the individual artist collections being issued in parallel, dig up a copy of the out-of-print box set Back to Mono, or spring for the imported Phil Spector Masters. This isn’t the vault archaeology that fans seek, and many will complain about the mono line-up (all except “River Deep”), but it is a welcome overview of one of pop music’s greatest auteurs. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

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