‘Tis the Season for Spector sounds

Due to work obligations I’ve had less time to devote on blogging than I had hoped for. Oh well, I’m back again and hope to be able to post a bit more during the coming months.

And so ‘tis the season once again for dusting off the old Phil Spector Christmas album and let the parade of the Philles roster regale you with holiday cheer. As much as I cherish that iconic album, old-time Cue Castanets readers will be well aware that I also have a soft spot for more recent Christmas music that tries to emulate the sound of Spector’s 1963 Christmas opus.

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Cashbox ad, October 1963

If you haven’t already read my lengthy piece on the subject, why not do so now and get introduced to some stellar Spectoresque Christmas tunes in the process? Go here: https://cuecastanets.wordpress.com/2014/11/29/christmas-equals-wall-of-sound/

Every November and December seem to bring new releases that point back to the sound of the most legendary of all Christmas albums and it’s always fun to see how musicians of today go about recreating the Gold Star magic. Here are a few recent discoveries for you from the last couple of years.

If you happen to come across some new releases that fit the ‘let’s-do-a-Spector-christmas-song’ category, please let me know.

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Sporting none other than the queens of the beehive on the cover, here’s the previously unreleased ‘Christmas is a Time for Giving’ by late 90s garage and punk band the Prissteens. A pretty rough recording but the song has a tasty rumble and a catchy melody that sounds like the long lost cousin of ‘Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)’ Very nice but would have worked better with a more distinctive singer. Darlene or Ronnie could have nailed this one! You can stream the song and purchase it off the Girlsville bandcamp page: https://girlsville.bandcamp.com/track/christmas-is-a-time-for-giving

Not content to simply mine the Spector Christmas sound, Ontario-based duo Scarlett & Disher even pose emerging from Christmas gifts. Hmmm, where have I seen that before? The duo’s 5-track Christmas EP tries its best to live up to the high standards of what Spector and the wrecking crew did during the summer of ’63. The results are pleasant if somewhat synthetic in sound – I miss the tasty reverb of Gold Star but kudos for tipping the hat to the Wall of Sound. You really only need to check out the stand-out tracks ‘Angels We Have Heard on High’ and ‘Wake Up! It’s Christmas.’ https://scarlettanddisher.bandcamp.com/album/that-christmas-feeling

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Then there’s this 2015 holiday release from US singer Felice LaZae which surely reminds me of a specific song whose title escapes me. Nothing original here so what ‘makes’ this release is definitely Felice’s soulful, raspy vocal. I wish she’d had poured on a bit more instrumentation in order to push this track even more towards the sacred halls of the Wall of Sound. Surely, she could have discarded that cheesy keyboard for a bombastic string section, couldn’t she?

Finally, a new release by LA-based duo Best Coast who has previously payed homage to local stallwarts like the Beach Boys and Spector in their music. ‘Christmas and Everyday’ was recorded as a standalone for some online kid special. Like with Scarlett & Disher, this is a take on the Wall of Sound that’s more sharp on the ears and synthetic in sound than the organic and deliciously muddy echo that graced Spector’s work, but if you can see past that fact, this is a pretty cool track. https://soundcloud.com/amazon-music/best-coast-christmas-and-everyday

Happy listening!

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