A Christmas Gift from Phil Spector
By Ron Powers
Now that the holiday season is in full swing, I thought I’d write a little about one of my favorite albums played this time of year. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector was released in 1963 and peaked at No. 13 on Billboard magazine’s special, year-end, weekly Christmas Albums sales chart. The album features 13 tracks, 9 of which have become classics played on heavy rotation each year on holiday radio and in just about every shopping center. Composed of songs performed by artists like The Ronettes, The Crystals, and Darlene Love, A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector is easily one of the best holiday albums ever created. Year after year it continues to stand the test of time and is enjoyed by millions of people young and old. I’ll be discussing a few of my favorite songs from the album here.
The eleventh track on Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector is called “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and it’s my favorite off the album. I love this song’s anticipatory intro music with its violin trills, rich bells chiming, horns blazing, and bass guitar notes dancing around. The intro rises in energy until Darlene Love and her backup singers burst into an expansive verse singing the lines, “(Christmas) The snow’s coming down / (Christmas) I’m watching it fall / (Christmas) Lots of people around / (Christmas) Baby please come home”. There is such a depth of feeling in Darlene Love’s vocal performance and that feeling blends with the music to create a song that isn’t merely a nice holiday tune. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” stands among some of the greatest music created in the 1960s.
For “Sleigh Ride”, the fifth track on the album, The Ronettes and Phil Spector begin by creating a festive feeling with woodblock sounds, chimes, and horse neighing. Then, with a snap of the snare drum, the music takes off like a bebopping horse-drawn sleigh across a snow-covered lane. While The Ronettes deliver irresistible melodic hooks to the ears, the drums, bass, and horn section work together to put a groove in the hips and shoulders. From the production quality of the music to the charming vocal performances, “Sleigh Ride” is a holiday classic full of feel-good energy and Christmas spirit.
“A Marshmallow World” is yet another song from this album that offers jubilant holiday fun that never seems to grow old. The music and melody of this track work together with the somewhat silly lyrics to create a light and carefree listening experience. Composed of a host of rock-n-roll instruments permeated with reverb, the production of this song shines with that unmistakable “wall of sound” production technique Phil Spector was famous for. The song begins with a traditional holiday strings arrangement followed by a bright piano melody. After the intro, the full band kicks in and doesn’t let up until the song is finished spreading all the sugary Christmas cheer the listener can handle.
If you like Christmas music, A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector is a must for the holidays. Whether you wrapping presents, going shopping, or hosting a Christmas party, this album adds to any holiday activity. You can find it on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, and most places music is streamed or sold.
About the Author: Ron Powers is an independent A&R specialist and music industry consultant and is constantly searching for, discovering and writing about new talent.