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Be My Baby: Sundazed Preps Spector Reissues On Vinyl

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It’s once again time to go back to mono.  Sundazed has just announced the vinyl reissue of four classic albums from Phil Spector’s Philles label.  On July 31, The Ronettes’ Presenting The Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica by the Ronettes; Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah by Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans; and The Crystals’ Uptown and He’s A Rebel will all receive the Sundazed treatment.  All four albums were reissued on CD last year from Phil Spector Records and Legacy Recordings as part of The Philles Album Collection box set, but this Sundazed campaign marks their return to their original vinyl format.

These four LPs tell the early Spector story and in doing so, the story of a shift in American popular music as the music business took notice of the buying power of the teenager.  The then-21 year old Spector’s earliest hits, The Crystals’ “There’s No Other (Like My Baby)” and “Uptown,” are both heard here, as well as the breakthroughs “Be My Baby,” “Baby, I Love You” and “Walking in the Rain” for the Ronettes.  The development of the “Wall of Sound” is traced from the early New York sessions, many with arranger Arnold Goland, to the famous Hollywood recordings on which Spector was aided by the power of the Wrecking Crew and arranger Jack Nitzsche.

After the jump, we’ll take an in-depth look at all four albums!   Plus: track listings and a pre-order link!

The Crystals Twist Uptown (PHLP-4000, 1962) is distinguished mostly by the presence of unsung arranger Arnold Goland, Spector’s most consistent collaborator prior to Jack Nitzsche.  New York’s Mira Sound was the studio for these early recordings, with a sonic signature far less dramatic than Los Angeles’ Gold Star.  It’s clear on these tracks that the producer and arranger were still finding a “sound,” but one bona fide classic arrived right out of the gate: Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s “Uptown,” a definitive mini-movie, or melodrama.  Their Brill Building comrade Doc Pomus co-wrote “Another Country, Another World” with Spector himself.  The song has remnants of the Atlantic uptown soul sound which Spector would have learned from Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller: those shimmering, swirling strings, the Burt Bacharach-esque “La la la”s.  The Crystals split up lead vocal duties; Patsy Wright handled “Oh Yeah, Maybe Baby,” and it’s La La Brooks on “Frankenstein Twist,” which contrary to the lyrics, won’t make you fall into a trance.  It’s not particularly ghoulish, but it’s the track that nominally gave the LP its twisting title.  A cover of Carla Thomas’ “Gee Whiz” also has La La on lead and “Twist” parenthetically appended to its name, but I defy you to attempt to dance to it!

Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s “Please Hurt Me” is musically a 1950s leftover, and lyrically of the masochistic variety (“If you’ve gotta hurt somebody/Please hurt me/And if I have to be your plaything/That’s what I’ll be”).  It predates “He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)” which explores a variation on the same unsettling theme.  The most fascinating track on Twist Uptown is Mann and Weil’s “On Broadway” in its original version, before the songsmiths joined with Leiber and Stoller to give it a makeover, both in the lyric and arrangement departments.  “What a Nice Way to Turn Seventeen” explicitly addresses the album’s target audience, and “No One Ever Tells You” is another study in teenage angst and melancholy.  Despite the lack of a concept for the LP, its songs are of a piece (“No one ever tells you of love/And how it can make you cry/No one ever tells you/How your heart can break/When someone that you love tells you goodbye”).

The seismic shift came with the title song of The Crystals’ next LP, also being reissued by Sundazed on vinyl.  For He’s a Rebel (PHLP-4001, 1963), New York gave way to Hollywood, and Goland to Nitzsche.  “Rebel” crystallized the so-called Wall of Sound, and its ingredients at various times included thunderous echo, stacked layers of choral vocals, percussion, a soulful yet sophisticated rhythm section, a swath of strings and a honking saxophone, with multiples of instruments playing in unison.  La La Brooks recently recalled a comment made by Jack Nitzsche: “If it wasn’t for me, there’d be no Phil.”  One could say the same thing about the musicians of the Wrecking Crew.  There’s not enough room here to list them all, but let’s recognize Hal Blaine, Glen Campbell, Steve Douglas, Carol Kaye, Barney Kessel, Larry Knechtel, Bill Pitman, Ray Pohlman, Leon Russell, Tommy Tedesco and Nino Tempo, consummate musicians all.

The LP itself is essentially a retread of The Crystals’ debut platter, with nine of the original eleven songs retained. “Please Hurt Me” has given way to an even harsher song in the same vein by the same Goffin/King team, the infamous “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss).”  It was recorded at Mira Sound with a Spector/Goland chart just a couple months after “Please Hurt Me” in 1962.  Spector pulled the song as a single, realizing that the lyrics would prove controversial on AM radio.  Gerry Goffin agreed with the decision, admitting his lyrics were “a little too radical” for the time.  The song’s chilling depiction of abuse is a powerful one, but the singles audience of 1962 wasn’t ready for a song, sung in character, that could have emerged from a dark musical.  There’s nothing “pop” about it.

The Carla Thomas cover “Gee Whiz” has also disappeared.  “He’s a Rebel” and the ebullient “He’s Sure the Boy I Love” (both sung by Darlene Love and the Blossoms though credited to The Crystals) provide the album with crucial jolts of energy.  Though separated by mere months, the Gold Star tracks heralded a pivotal new sound.  Steve Douglas’ honking saxophone on “He’s a Rebel” could have signaled the change.

The Crystals ceded to Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans for Philles’ third LP release, Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah (PHLP-4002).  Darlene Love took the spotlight from the lead singer of the group, Bobby Sheen (who supplies the out-front vocal on “Let the Good Times Roll”) as Spector continued to craft his perfect formula.  Jackie DeShannon is represented with two early songs, the groovy “Jimmy Baby” and “I Shook the World,” with its cool organ part.  The Sheen-led songs are particularly discoveries for those only familiar with the Bob B. Soxx recordings sung by the versatile Love. The exciting “Dear (Here Comes My Baby)” is a lost gem with Sheen in the lead, as is the atypical blues “Everything’s Gonna Be All Right” which he effectively drawls. (Another track from these sessions, “Do the Walk,” also featured Sheen on lead.  It, however, wasn’t released until 1981 on a Philles anthology.)  Bobby might have been usurped by Darlene on many of these tracks, but he in turn, replaced Billy Storm of the Alley Cats for their classic “Puddin n’ Tain.”

It’s remarkable that Darlene Love never saw an original solo LP on the Philles label, so volcanic are her contributions on this album.  The men back her up with the onomatopoeic sounds on “Why Do Lovers Break Each Others Hearts” while she’s slow-burning on “My Heart Beat a Little Faster.”  Spector clearly liked the title of a very different “Baby (I Love You),” a solo composition of his, and also must have had a fondness for “The White Cliffs of Dover” which he recorded here and later famously covered with the Righteous Brothers.  Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” with its light guitar strumming and piano tinkling, seems an odd inclusion, as if it wandered in from another album altogether.  The same goes for the song that rounds out the LP, the instrumental “Dr. Kaplan’s Office,” with its “Sea Cruise” feel and some wild crowing!

The final album in Sundazed’s series, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica (PHLP-4006) is one of the most cohesive sets in the small but influential Philles catalogue, with the repeated cuts kept to a minimum.  It’s hard to top the opener of “Walking in the Rain” by Spector, Mann and Weil, but the producer’s latest favorite team of (Pete) Anders and (Vini) Poncia were able to follow in their big footsteps.  “Do I Love You” is as driving and danceable as anything that came out of the Motown hit factory; just try to keep those hands from clapping!  From the same duo came “(The Best Part of) Breakin’ Up,” again proving that the new team could compete with the other greats Spector poached from the Brill Building and its environs.  Greenwich and Barry’s “Baby I Love You” appears here, and epitomizes the joy that’s over practically every track of this album, even the melancholy ones.  Put simply, it’s the sound of young love as epitomized by Ronnie Spector (then Veronica Bennett), Estelle Bennett and Nedra Talley.

“So Young” is a throwback, with one of Ronnie Spector’s most aching vocals.  Originally recorded by The Students, it was one of her favorite songs and also appeared on a quickly-deleted single bearing the Phil Spector Records imprint, not Philles.  The quirky “How Does It Feel” boasts a fast tempo, insistent percussion and some big-band style horn flourishes – and then there’s another familiar tune, like “On Broadway” from the earlier LP, in a largely unfamiliar version.  This time it’s the original, pre-Dixie Cups “Chapel of Love.”  This track shows that the First Tycoon of Teen didn’t hit it out of the ballpark every time!  It took Spector’s old mentors Leiber and Stoller, at their own Red Bird label, to give Greenwich, Barry and Spector’s song the success it deserved.

All four titles are in stores from Sundazed on July 31 and can be pre-ordered directly from the label here!

The above has been adapted from our review of Legacy Recordings’ The Philles Album Collection!  If you don’t already own that remarkable set, you might just want to check it out!

The Crystals, Twist Uptown (Philles PHLP-4000, 1962 – reissued Sundazed LP 5408, 2012)

  1. Uptown
  2. Another Country, Another World
  3. Frankenstein Twist
  4. Oh Yeah Maybe Baby
  5. Please Hurt Me
  6. There’s No Other (Like My Baby)
  7. On Broadway
  8. What a Nice Way to Turn Seventeen
  9. No One Ever Tells You
  10. Gee Whiz Look at His Eyes (Twist)
  11. I Love You Eddie

The Crystals, He’s a Rebel (Philles PHLP-4001, 1963 – reissued Sundazed LP 5409, 2012)

  1. He’s a Rebel
  2. Uptown
  3. Another Country, Another World
  4. Frankenstein Twist
  5. Oh Yeah Maybe Baby
  6. He’s Sure the Boy I Love
  7. There’s No Other (Like My Baby)
  8. On Broadway
  9. What a Nice Way to Turn Seventeen
  10. No One Ever Tells You
  11. He Hit Me (But It Felt Like a Kiss)
  12. I Love You Eddie

Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah (Philles PHLP-4002, 1963 – reissued Sundazed LP 5410, 2012)

  1. Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah
  2. Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts
  3. Let the Good Times Roll
  4. My Heart Beat a Little Faster
  5. Jimmy Baby
  6. Baby (I Love You)
  7. The White Cliffs of Dover
  8. This Land is Your Land
  9. Dear (Here Comes My Baby)
  10. I Shook the World
  11. Everything’s Gonna Be All Right
  12. Dr. Kaplan’s Office

Disc 6: The Ronettes, Presenting The Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica (Philles PHLP-4006, 1964 – reissued Sundazed LP 5411, 2012)

  1. Walkin’ in the Rain
  2. Do I Love You
  3. So Young
  4. (The Best Part of) Breakin’ Up
  5. I Wonder
  6. What’d I Say
  7. Be My Baby
  8. You Baby
  9. Baby I Love You
  10. How Does It Feel
  11. When I Saw You
  12. Chapel of Love

Written by Joe Marchese

May 11, 2012 at 14:42

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