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Phil Spector – A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector (1963)

December 11, 2014

[Album 358/1001]220px-Album_A_Christmas_Gift_For_You_From_Philles_Records_cover

I’ll admit it: I love Keanu Reeves.

Yes that Keanu Reeves.

The one who loudly exclaimed, “my name’s Johnny Utah!” in Point Break and confidently proclaimed “I know Kung Fu” in The Matrix.

I’m teased relentlessly when I confess my Reeves reverence, heckled by nay-sayers that toss around adjectives like ‘wooden’ and phrases like ‘can’t act’ when describing his craft.  To them, I counter with something as relevant yet rhyming as ‘don’t hate, appreciate’ or I simply tune them out!

My faith in him was rewarded when tales of his off-screen generosity & humility started to emerge.

Sometimes the more you know about a celebrity, the better.

Phil Spector is not Keanu Reeves.

Instead, he falls under the ‘less you know, the better’ category.

Yet even when focusing exclusively on his body of work, his lone Beatle production, Let it Be, is likely my least favourite in their catalogue.  Not being a real audiophile, I’ve never fully understood his musical legacy.  Admittedly, in cases like this one, it’s tough to separate the artist from the art (especially when the artist name also creeps into the album name).

Whhen I changed my Chinese Democracy track info to be categorized under ‘Axl Rose’ instead of ‘GNR’, my listening experience improved.  Same favourable outcome here when I approached these songs as ‘Ronnettes’ or ‘Crystals’ tunes as opposed to being credited to the producer.

I don’t know if any of the tracks would be considered the definitive versions of a given carol but as a package it works well.

The arrangements are festive and with the right lens, there’s plenty to enjoy.

What I suggest: transfer tracks 1-12 to an unlabelled CD, focus on the performers & their performances, and voilà, you’ve got another dozen good tracks in the holiday rotation.

Or even more if Keanu’s band ever gets around to making that Christmas album…

From → 1960s

  1. This album contains one of my favorite Christmas songs – The Ronettes’ version of “Sleigh Ride”. It’s fast and it’s fun.

    • An excellent choice!
      I also enjoy the Squirrel Nut Zippers’ version of Sleigh Ride, there’s a great slow down/speed up towards the end that works wonderfully

  2. jprobichaud permalink

    I tried to come up with some witty Bill & Ted reference but they’re all escaping me right now. Reeves is not completely without merit and Spector, though a real nasty package, was quite talented. However, this particular album, I have yet to experience. I shall need to remedy…

    • Not completely without merit may be the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me about Keanu!

      It’s a good one – it sounds like it’s from the 60s and that provides a lot of its charm

    • and it’s the thought that counts on the B&T reference attempt!

    • Seriously though, I like Keanu Reeves. Loved him when I was a teen.

      • haha, that was his other great Matrix catchphrase!

        I think it was Speed that converted me (he also looked like a scholar for passing on Speed 2:Cruise Control). I think he’s coming up on 50 years old too, to borrow a body break expression, looks like he’s been keeping fit & having fun!

      • Yes, I loved him in his early movies – even Point Break. He was hot in Speed. And yes, he turned down Speed 2, but he was in Sweet November, which he was hot in, but that film was a bowser.

      • A bowser? I’m not familiar with the film or expression but I presume it means not so good!

        W & I saw his new one where he’s a former hit man – one of those immediately forgettable if diverting films but a good role for him.

      • Yeah, bowser to me means terrible (woof!). I also saw him in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Didn’t like him in that one either…I guess because the 50s version is one of my favourites…

      • And I have yet to see that one – consider the original version added to my to-see list!

  3. Interesting approach here going from Keanu to Spector. I like it. This has long been my favorite rock ‘n roll Christmas album, and I consider several songs to be the definitive versions. In college I made a mix tape (of course I did) of my favorite R&R Xmas songs where I interspersed these tracks alongside Chuck Berry, Elton John, The Kinks, Paul McCartney, etc…and the Spector songs often jump out from the speakers more than the others.

    • I fully support such mix tapes!
      I’m wondering if I’d be more attached to this one if I’d listened at a different stage of life, I was certainly pleased with the performances all around

  4. I absolutely love this album. It’s so Christmassy and cool!

  5. John Sturm permalink

    I enjoy Reeves’ work as well. There’s stillness to some of his performances (what others describe as “wooden”) that I really like.

    As for the Spector album… listening to it right now in fact. Was a huge feature of my childhood and contains some awesome tracks, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town being a fav. Like you I think of the album as a compilation and have named it so in eyeTunes (Varioud Artists: A Christmas Gift For You).

    • Stillness – thank you John for that, I now have a rebuttal the next time I come across a Keanu-phobe!

  6. Yeah, I think this one is my favourite Christmas album. Absolutely perfect.

    As for Keanu – I’m a big fan of Bill & Ted so he gets some points for those movies. A Scanner Darkly, too. Can’t say I’ve seen too many others.

  7. As great a singer as Ronnie Spector was (and as big a jerk as Phil Spector was), she definitely benefited from his production, on this album and elsewhere.

    • I’m not sure if I’ve heard any more by the Ronnettes – I can see what you mean. I like the girl group sound, I’d be interested in checking out more

      • The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” was Brian Wilson’s favorite recording of all time, and a big influence. My favorite is “Baby, I Love You.”

      • Be My Baby – I hadn’t realized that was them, that’s a great tune. Hurray for the Riff Raff does a nice version of it as well.

        I have Baby I love you on as I type – I like the simplicity of the chord progression, another effective song

  8. Hands down the best Xmas album ever. Love it, especially Baby Please Come Home by Darlene Love. Reminds me of Gremlins!

  9. ‘Phil Spector is not Keanu Reeves.’ is not a sentence I ever thought I’d read! How I wish I could travel back to the 60s via some help from Bill and Ted just too see him record, hopefully sans guns! Haven’t heard this one, but always feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven when I listen to his productions. To be fair to him, he didn’t have an easy job, or a cooperative band, whilst working on Let It Be. He did fine, I think. Didn’t he produce John Lennon’s version of “Be My Baby” as well? That one is gorgeous.

    • Haha,you never know what parallels/non-parallels will show up around these parts Amrita!

      I don’t know about Lennon’s version but he definitely did the Ronettes version that appeared on the Dirty Dancing Soundtrack, fabulous song!

      Here’s another fine cover, courtesy of Hurray for the Riff Raff, really like that band name and the singer’s voice:

      • Gorgeous cover! At times, especially with the higher notes and the “whoa-oh-oh” part she almost sounded like Ronnie Spector, though her take was very individual. I listened to the Lennon version again, and the production was definitely very Phil Spector! Here’s a link:

      • Interesting to hear Spector produce a cover of a tune he produced originally – I like the slower tempo on Lennon’s, and of course the outro vocals!

      • Oh, Phil Spector did that a lot. Most notably (to me, at least) the Ramones cover of “Baby, I love you”. To me, it’s better than the original Ronettes!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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