I was out driving in my car the other day and put on the debut album by Scottish indie group Glasvegas. That’s a record made for being played at ear-splitting volume while cruising. It also contains some of the most heartfelt, worthy tributes to the Wall of Sound issued in recent years.
For this latest installment of my personal pick of modern Spector soundalikes it would be oh so easy for me to highlight ‘Daddy’s Gone’, – the epic breakout single by Glasvegas that received much hype prior to their 2008 debut album. Replete with ‘Be my Baby’ drumbeats and a bit of Ronnie Spector-like ‘oh ohs’ thrown in for good measure, it’s a loving tribute to the Wall of Sound that deservedly made music critics and rock fans sit up and take notice.
And that voice! The voice of James Allan with a rough Glasgow accent so thick you could slice it. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve heard a singer in recent years sing with so much conviction and emotion as Allan. It sounds as if he sings with a lump in his throat; it’s genuine blue-eyed working-class soul on each and every Glasvegas song. The lead vocals are tense, wrought with emotion, dripping with drama – the perfect foil for a full-blown Wall of Sound.
Not surprisingly, James Allan put himself on a heavy diet of Spector at a young age, endlessly obsessing over all the treasures of the Back to Mono box with the Christmas album being a particular favorite of his. Reminiscing in a Daily Record interview, Allan has remarked: “I think that was Spector at his peak – 1963 is my favorite year for him. He released Be My Baby, Baby I Love You, Then He Kissed Me and the Christmas album, which he did in summer. Be My Baby is my favourite song of all time. (…) [about the Christmas album:] Sound-wise and artistically, the guy is on a different level, what he put into that record creatively and soulfully. Because of its soulful nature and intentions, everything I read about it and what he put into it, maybe I pick up on that energy all these years later.”
That is putting it mildly. Both the Glasvegas 2008 debut and the band’s very own Christmas album from December that same year oozes Spector’s influence in a very imaginative and sincere way. Several songs appear as note-perfect Wall of Sound tributes, none the least the afore-mentioned ‘Daddy’s Gone.’
But as great as ‘Daddy’s Gone’ is – and if you don’t know it already, check out the video on youtube pronto – I’ll have to pass it for now in favor of a song and production off the debut, I think is even more majestic. To these ears, ‘It’s my Own Cheating Heart that Makes me Cry’ is, simply put, the be-all and end-all of modern Spector soundalikes! I’ve heard it a thousand times and I still get moved by it in ways only a few songs do. It’s a tearjerker crossing the border into ‘overblown’ territory head on …but I love it nonetheless.
On ‘It’s my Own Cheating Heart that Makes me Cry’, James Allan wears his emotions on his sleeve, almost sounding like he’s about to break down as the song builds up tension. And sure enough, – during the climactic choruses he can’t resist throwing in some of those ‘oh oh ohs’ that graced many a Ronettes classic. Like Ronnie, Allan is able to convey all there is to know about heartbreak and despair in a gutsy ‘oh oh oh.’
To be honest, I doubt Phil Spector would appreciate most of the modern Spector soundalikes I post about on my blog. Ever the megalomaniac, he would probably deem almost all of them below his standard. But I have a feeling that even Spector would acknowledge this gem as a major achievement and that he would especially dig the out-of –this-world soul-baring lead vocal by James Allan. Spector would instinctly know that ‘It’s my Own Cheating Heart that Makes me Cry’ is the real deal. The verse melody is a rock’n’roll lullaby with stinging thorns; the drone-heavy backing track nothing short of phenomenal. I could easily imagine the Tycoon of Teen cook up something like this during his short stint with the Righteous Brothers.
The official music video uses the shortened single edit of this great song. I prefer the album version which allows for a more gradual, stately build-up, but I make a habit of posting official music videos if available. So here you go – note the tour-de-force ‘grand finale’ in this song from 2:43 onwards. E-P-I-C!