Odds & Ends – ‘Silence is Easy’

It’s time to dust off yet another Spector production, – one that’s not too obvious to focus on when discussing Spector’s body of work.

As you may remember, my ongoing series of ‘odds & ends’ is meant to highlight and discuss some of the more overlooked Spector productions. So no ‘Be my Baby’, ‘You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling’ or ‘River Deep’ dissertations here! Previously, I’ve written about the no-holds-barred Spector-frenzy that was ‘I Wonder’ by the Crystals and Cher’s gloomy ‘A Woman’s Story.’

Today I’d like to focus on a track which actually was a sizeable hit but that I think tends to get both overlooked and dismissed during talks about Spector’s oeuvre; ‘Silence is Easy’ by UK group Starsailor and Spector last ‘real’ production job if you, as I do, discount his work with Hargo ‘Crying for John Lennon’ and the supposed production of wife Rachelle’s cheesy ‘Out of my Chelle’ album. Produced by Spector? Yeah right! As if!

The Hargo track sounds a little more like something the former Tycoon of Teen could have been involved with but it’s still a far cry from his Wall of Sound glory days.

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‘A Phil Spector Production’ it says on the cover. Hmmm. Really?

So, back to ‘Silence is Easy’ and a short recap. Spector had teamed up with this young UK indie band a while before that fateful night at the mansion where Lana Clarkson lost her life.

Allegedly, Spector was hired by the band with an eye towards producing a whole album’s worth of material but along the way, the band didn’t feel Spector’s vision, or way of working for that matter, matched theirs and thus gracefully ended the working relationship.

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Only two Spector-produced tracks have surfaced from the sessions – ‘Silence is Easy’, which became the title track for the band’s next album and ‘White Dove.’

While pleasant and beautifully sung by Starsailor lead vocalist James Walsh, the latter’s Spector production credit should puzzle any fan of the Wall of Sound. If you didn’t know he seemingly had a hand in it, you wouldn’t be able to tell at all.

‘Silence is Easy’ however has a gradual build-up and a stately elegance that oozes Spectorness; think his work during the 70s on the Dion album or the singles by Cher.

James Walsh’ vocal style will throw some listeners off but if you really get into it, like I did from the very first time I heard the song, his dramatic lead vocal really compliments the dark feel of the lyrics and Spector’s production.

How much say did Spector have in the studio while recording the song? Well, who knows – and the final aural outcome is probably some sort of compromise between Spector, the band and their management. I doubt the production as is is totally as Spector would have it. Left to his own devices, I feel pretty sure that the track would have been further enhanced by echo, more acoustic, strummed guitars, a string section etc.

Still, there are enough Spector trademarks throughout to make me consider it a genuine production by hum, none the least the cool tinkling glockenspiel that pops up mid-way through and adds a great deal to the production’s feel and build-up.

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Having said that, I completely understand while some fans felt the track was a bit of a disappointment after finally witnessing a new Spector production after so many years. At the time, I thought the opinion by fellow producer Mark Wirtz at the Spectropop message board was interesting – even if I don’t really agree with him:

“My opinion, as a lifelong Spector student and fan(atic), even having produced and released tributes to the man, AS WELL AS being a fan of Starsailor’s music, I find this release to be a disgrace. It may well become a “hit,” and elements of the record (notably the brilliantly performed and recorded vocals) make it deservedly so among Starsailor fans. Alas, to me, this hybrid is nevertheless a tragic humiliation of Spector (or “echo-boy” as Starsailor so condescendingly call him) – and at the worst possible time. No doubt (and according to the article), it was the “Silence Is Easy” song in demo form that initially attracted Mr. Spector. Hardly surprising – it is exactly the kind of simple, hypnotic, melodic tune and message that Spector was such a master of transcending into a riveting spectacle. And I bet, any of us that KNOW Spector’s style, can virtually hear it, truly and fully realised HIS way. And with visionaries like Spector, there is only that one way. All else is “a little bit pregnant.”

Having heard the entire album, as well as having been very familiar with Starsailor’s first CD, it appears that the pairing of Spector and Starsailor was an inevitable collision waiting to happen, making for a symbiotic, not synergistic partnership – with Starsailor the vegetarian, and carnivorous Spector trying to open a steak house together…

In my fantasy, Spector would have passed on producing Starsailor, then ultimately grabbed that song (as anybody could once published), and autonomously recorded and released it with a brand new artist (ideally a soulful girl singer) under his control. Man, I would rob my piggy bank to buy and own and possess THAT record!!!”

(Posted during discussions at Spectropop Sep 10th 2003.)

What’s your take on the song? How do you feel about it?

Lost classic or something that’s best forgotten when discussing overlooked Spector productions?

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2 thoughts on “Odds & Ends – ‘Silence is Easy’”

  1. Do you know if anyone has heard the songs Spector produced for Celine Dion in 1995? Those tracks have got to be the holy grail of rock music, and it’s unbelievable that not even a snippet of them has ever leaked.

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    1. I know of some who’ve heard the tracks from the sessions – sans her vocals. The tracks are said to be incredible and proof that Spector still ‘had it’ – when he was inspired and focused – in the 90s. Whether or not us mere mortals will ever get to here the tracks – I doubt it, sadly….

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