If you don’t already know, Christmas is coming. That means everyone has been bombarded with holiday tunes for at least a month now. There is so much crap on the radio it can be a bit tiresome trying to avoid it (grocery shopping has never been completed with more haste).
To put it lightly, 1963 was an absolute luscious year for pop music. Phil Spector’s babies: The Ronettes, The Crystals, Darlene Love and Bobby B. Soxx The holiday tunes on A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector is Surprisingly, the album only reached the number 13 spot on the Billboard charts that year (to be fair, it was released the same day that Kennedy got shot – it didn’t stand much of a chance).
Right from the opening piano chords, it instantly feels of Christmas warmth, but oh that Wall of Sound sounds SO good. Actually, this album is the reason many popular holiday songs sound like they do today. This album is the first place the dramatic “Santa Claus is coming to down” was repeated in the chorus. Essentially, Jackson 5’s version wouldn’t have been possible without the arrangement for The Crystals.
The star of the album is supposed to be Darlene Love, but the track that shines the most is The Ronette’s “Sleigh Ride.” The absolutely infectious “ring-a-ding-a-ling” is bright – the way it should be.
The album is 50-years-old this year, but this it’s more classic than ever. With all the saturation of Christmas music it can be a bit difficult to fully appreciate when a song is just plain good or when it’s shit (it all feels like Hell some times), but A Christmas Gift for You… is a fantastic album. The sound now is a familiar part of the season. Although it might not feel as revolutionary as it probably is, there are bits of American history wiggled in the grooves that make it sound oh so cozy. It made Christmas pop music what it is today (to put it simply).
Whether or not you feel creeped out by Spector or not, the closing track is actually really sweet and worth a listen. He thanks not only his musicians, but everyone who worked on it. A good reminder that there are plenty of good things about the season worth remembering.