I hope you had a nice time with your family & friends and that you’re going to have a Happy New Year.
As 2014 draws to its end, I still have time to squeeze in a few more blog posts. Today I’ll grab one more song from the bottomless pit of modern Spector soundalikes.
You may remember that I wrote about UK duo McAlmont & Butler and their triumphant single ‘Yes’ some weeks ago? Bernard Butler, who penned and produced the duo’s material, seemingly has an uncanny knack for churning out brilliant Spector tributes if he feels like it.
A very proficient musician, he’s been a significant member of Britpop band Suede and the group Tears as well as releasing solo albums and producing songs for other artists. The last part of his résumé is where it gets interesting. Production work has no doubt proven a playground of sorts for him, providing freedom to occasionally try out some Wall of Sound techniques.
Butler certainly had the chance to indulge his Spector obsession in 2008. Back then, he produced three tracks for the highly successful debut album ‘Rockferry’ by Welsh singer Duffy. Remember her? She broke through on the strength of ‘Mercy’, – a very catchy single and a dead ringer for a Northern Soul floorfiller. Along with similar releases at the same time by Amy Winehouse, the Duffy album helped the whole retro-soul movement gain momentum.
Duffy’s debut album is firmly placed in the retro-soul mold, but there’s one track on there that stands out in all its Wall of Sound glory; the Bernard Butler produced and co-written ‘Distant Dreamer.’ It probably attests to the album’s strength that such great a song wasn’t even released as a single.
‘Distant Dreamer’ sees Butler pull out all stops in creating a Wall of Sound production that’s a sort of hybrid between Spector’s 60s Philles heyday hits and his more dirgelike 70s creations. The tempo is steadily pulsating forward with new instrumental textures introduced throughout until what began as a sparsely sounding song has evolved to a dense, throbbing production with the obligatory use of shimmering strings, tinkling glockenspiels, saxophones, an army of strummed guitars etc.
It’s particularly rewarding to hear Butler’s use of strings and sax as those are key elements of the Wall of Sound that much too often are left out, probably due to costs, whenever modern artists go for a Spector sound.
Even though this is one of my favorite modern Spector soundalikes, I can’t help but wonder if the result could have been even better with a more soulful vocal. I think Duffy’s voice is a little thin-sounding on this one, as if she’s at odds with living up to the major production backing her. You be the judge when clicking below.