Various Artists: The Essential Phil Spector

Spector’s genius before, during and after Philles

After decades of uneven reissues – dribs and drabs in the U.S. and abroad – Phil Spector’s catalog is finally being cross-licensed for reissue. The first break came with the catalog’s owner, ABKCO, issuing the Back to Mono set in 1991; but the larger breakthrough has been the licensing to Universal and Sony/Legacy that’s resulted in the Phil Spector Collection and a set of artist compilations on the Crystals, Ronettes and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans issued earlier this year. That licensing is now paying additional dividends with the release of Phil Spector Presents the Philles Album Collection and this new 34-track Phil Spector collection. Note that this 2-CD set is a Phil Spector volume rather than one dedicated solely to his years with Philles.

The set opens with pre-Philles sides from the Teddy Bears (Spector’s first #1), Ray Peterson, Ben E. King, Curtis Lee, Gene Pitney and the Paris Sisters. The tour through his hits at Philles includes The Crystals, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, Darlene Love, the Ronettes, Righteous Brothers, and Ike and Tina Turner. Outside of Philles is a cover of the Beatles’ “Hold Me Tight” that mixes ‘50s doo-wop singing with Spector’s evolving production style, and Spector’s brilliant original “Black Pearl,” by Sonny Charles and the Checkmates. The latter suggested a continuing run as a dominant auteur in the ‘70s, but it didn’t go that way. Legacy’s done a fine job of cross-licensing material from K-Tel, Universal, Warner, EMI and others to pull together a compelling picture of Spector’s hit singles.

Given the wide availability of nearly everything here, this isn’t going to satisfy Spector collectors, but it’s a concise tour through the highlights of his most productive years. Its look at the Philles catalog isn’t as thorough as the earlier multi-disc sets, but the inclusion of pre- and post-Philles sides, hits by the Righteous Brothers, Ike & Tina’s “River Deep, Mountain High” and Sonny Charles’ “Black Pearl,” paint a picture that tells the tale from Spector’s first hit to his last as a producer who’s name rose above those of his artists. This set fits nicely between the single disc Wall of Sound: The Very Best of Phil Spector and the two-disc import Phil Spector Collection, and will inform a new generation of listeners for whom the revolutionary producer’s infamy has eclipsed his fame. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

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