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Phil Spector: Back to Mono
Various Artists
Phil Spector: Back to Mono
Genres: Country, Blues, Folk, Jazz, Pop, R&B, Rock
  •  Track Listings (23) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (19) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (18) - Disc #3
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #4

Among producers, his name remains the simile of choice. If some hotshot studio whiz emerges in, say, hip-hop, he's inevitably labeled "the Phil Spector of rap." That's quite a statement given that decades have passed since...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Various Artists
Title: Phil Spector: Back to Mono
Members Wishing: 13
Total Copies: 0
Label: Abkco
Original Release Date: 11/12/1991
Release Date: 11/12/1991
Album Type: Box set
Genres: Country, Blues, Folk, Jazz, Pop, R&B, Rock
Styles: Contemporary Blues, Contemporary Folk, Cool Jazz, Jazz Fusion, Latin Jazz, Swing Jazz, Bebop, Adult Contemporary, Oldies, Contemporary R&B, Soul, Folk Rock, Oldies & Retro, Country Rock
Number of Discs: 4
SwapaCD Credits: 4
UPCs: 018771711827, 077779806225, 018771711810

Among producers, his name remains the simile of choice. If some hotshot studio whiz emerges in, say, hip-hop, he's inevitably labeled "the Phil Spector of rap." That's quite a statement given that decades have passed since this boy from the Bronx remodeled rock & roll to suit his own visions of grandeur. The story of the girl-group auteur is a fascinating one. Spector composed a No. 1 hit at 17 (the Teddy Bears' "To Know Him Is to Love Him," its title inspired by the inscription on his father's tombstone). By 19 he was head of A&R for Atlantic Records. By the time he was 22, he'd founded his own label (Philles) and was churning out Wall of Sound hits at an unprecedented clip, beginning with the Crystals' "He's a Rebel." The four-disc Back to Mono befits its singular subject in both presentation (the richly annotated booklet includes a piece by Tom Wolfe) and content (60 songs cut between 1958 and 1969, plus the entire classic Yuletide LP A Christmas Gift for You). --Steven Stolder

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CD Reviews

What a boxed set is supposed to be!
Eric V. Moye | New York, by way of Dallas | 11/30/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This set is a compendium of many of the most popular recordings produced by the young genius. Most of the songs included were hits, and there is litle on this set not to remember and like.Say what you will about Phil Spector: He was arrogant, demanding, pedantic and every other derogatory adjective you can think of. Even given all this, however, one cannot seriously dispute the fact that he knew how to produce both popular and very memorable music. What a concept the Phil Spector "Wall of Sound" was! He would start with a whole boatload of instruments; from violins to castanets. To these he would then add some of the most beautifully haunting voices ever heard (those of Darlene Love, Phil's own wife Ronnie, a young singer known then only as Cher and even Tina Turner to name a few). Blended together, these would create a tsunami of sonic power. It creates a force bigger than any song, or any band, and truly become greater than the sum of the parts. Tack on a set of headphones, and you can just relax and let it just wash all over you! Baseball great Rickey Henderson once said of another great Nolan Ryan: "If he hasn't struck you out, then you ain't nobody." A musical corollary can be said for Phil Spector: If he didn't produce your music, you didn't put your very best work down on the vinyl (remember, this was thirty years ago, when '45's were as compact as discs could get). From the Beatles to Sonny Charles and the Checkmates Ltd., everyone who was anyone is here. Go back and marvel at what is here. The index of his songs in this set is nothing less that an anthology of some of the greatest music of the early pop era. You might disagree with Cousin Brucie for calling "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" the greatest song of the decade. You may call George Harrison crazy for declaring that "River Deep, Mountain High" was the only "perfect" rock and roll song; one which could never be improved upon. But no one could seriously suggest that Phil Spector's was anything but some phenomenal music.

This collection would be a cornerstone of any collection of '50's and '60's music. Add some Atco, some British Invasion and a dash of Motown, and you need no more to get through the summer (or the rest of the year, for that matter). It is worth every penny of the cost (even without the Christmas album)."
Classic producer of the early sixties
Peter Durward Harris | Leicester England | 10/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Phil Spector led a troubled life but in his peak years produced some of the finest pop music. This collection is in chronological order for the first three CD's. The fourth CD is his famous Christmas album, which is available separately for those who don't want the other music.

Phil's first success was with To know him is to love him (Teddy bears). Otther early classics include Spanish Harlem (Ben E King) and I love how you love me (Paris sisters) but Phil is remembered (apart from the Christmas album) for producing the Crystals, Ronettes and Righteous brothers.

The Crystals are represented here by classics such as Da doo ron ron, Then he kissed me and He's a rebel. I was surprised to find that there are more tracks by the Ronettes than the Crystals. Both were brilliant but the Crystals were more successful overall. Still, I can't fault any of the Ronettes tracks, the most famous of which is Be my baby. Darlene Love, who was sometimes a member of the Crystals (lead singer on He's a rebel), is represented by several solo tracks. The Righteous brothers recorded their two most famous tracks with Phil Spector, these being You've lost that loving feeling and Unchained melody. During this period, there was one other noteworthy group recording for Phil - Bob B Soxx and the Blue jeans, who had success in America with Zip-a-dee-doo-dah and Why do lovers break each other's hearts?

Among all the success, there was failure. Ike and Tina Turner recorded one album with Phil Spector, featuring the classic song, River deep mountain high. At least, it is regarded as a classic in Britain, where it was a top three hit. In America, it was only a very minor hit. Phil couldn't understand it and lost interest. He occasionally returned to production (notably on Let it be) but things were never the same again. It didn't help that the Supremes and Four Tops eventually had a big hit with a cover of River deep mountain high.

The Christmas album was something of a revolution in its time, at least where Christmas music was concerned, although all that Phil Spector actually did was apply his normal production style to Christmas music. The Crystals sing brilliant, energetic versions of Santa Claus is coming to town, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and Parade of the wooden soldiers. The Ronettes are equally brilliant on Frosty the snowman, Sleigh ride and I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus. Bob B Soxx and the Blue Jeans also excel on Bells of St Mary's and Here comes Santa Claus. Darlene Love sings four songs here. Christmas (Baby please come home) is the only original song here. White Christmas includes the rarely heard verse about being in Beverley Hills. The other two, Marshmallow world and Winter wonderland, are also outstanding. The closing Silent night is just a series of spoken acknowledgements set to a backing track. Don't worry about that - the twelve songs that go before set the standard for Christmas rock albums when it was first recorded and still do, because nobody has bettered it in the forty years since.

This is a brilliant boxed set and a fitting tribute to one of the most important producers in pop music history."
Cruisin' Music Extraordinaire
Paul Frandano | Reston, Va. USA | 05/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When I saw the "Back to Mono" box for 20 bucks, I first thought of the barrage of criticism that greeted this set when first released more than 15 years ago and, in particular, the near universal condemnation of the absolutely horrendous digital remastering that marred what should have been an unbeatable compilation. Then I thought, "So what? I LOVED this music 45 years - AUGH! - ago! This is the background music of my life! And a great collection! And I don't have much of it, vinyl or otherwise." So I bought it.

And yes, the remastering is indeed horrible, particularly when listened to through earphones. But if you can pump this music through a tinny 5-inch speaker, perhaps boosted from a '57 Chevy, it all sounds pretty damn fine. So: don't play it on your audiophile equipment: my vintage boom box does the music all the honor it requires.

And what music. A lot of this stuff didn't chart in the New York metropolitan area, so I'd never heard several tracks, but it's all vintage, no filler, hits and non-hits, lots of Ronnie Spector and the Ronnettes, the Crystals, and fewer, but important, sides from Curtis Lee), Ben E. King, Bob B. Soxx, the Righteous Brothers, the majestic Tina Turner and that sidekick of hers, and, of course, the patented Spector Wall of Sound, complete with timpani, maracas, glockenspiels, strings, horns, full brass section, yackety sax, everything INCLUDING the kitchen sink. On the tree of rock, Phil Spector is a taproot (and Bruce Springsteen the most celebrated emulator/branch).

But let's be serious: these are very basic sentiments, harking back to a very different, much simpler time, before Vietnam, Watergate, and universal irony really invaded our consciousness (the first 29 tracks before the Kennedy assassination). The Spector chronology tracks along through LBJ's "Great Society" and civil rights legislation, Nixon, and the onset of cynicism, skepticism, and the beginning of a much more complicated social and political fabric. Through all this, we underestimate the role this and other top-forty music played in shaping our imaginations: it played, constantly, to GROUPS of people in packed cars, at parties and dances, not to one solitary listener through iPod earphones, shaped romantic vocabularies, taught kids how to say "I love you" and how to rebel against parents who screamed "that guy's no good!" My wife's parents.

In short, this music and its peer recordings helped fill in pieces of our emotional identities. In this set we hear lots of 16 year olds pouring out their hearts into diaries via girl-group doo-wop. From the Righteous Brothers, a more mature, wistful kind of heartbreak with full choirs of strings. And from Ike and Tina, my god - River Deep, Mountain High has enough emotional energy to blow a bank of Marshalls, a clear high-point on a collection of high points.

The 96-page booklet is almost worth the price of the box. I didn't need the lyrics - many of them, goofy, saccharine, maudlin, trite as can be, are grafted into my brain, courtesy of that Chevy speaker - but the photos of those wonderful, innocent, vibrant faces, the essays (one by Tom Wolfe), and the discography are all splendid.

So: if you've ever loved this music - that's a significant qualifier: my kids (all in 20s and 30s) think it's virtually unadulterated corn (with the exception of River Deep, Loving Feeling, and a few other tracks) - forget about the atrocious remastering. (I'll bet Rhino will take care of that, sooner or later, and we'll hear these in gorgeous, layered monaural.) Just buy this now while you can get all four discs, the big booklet, and the huge box for 20 dollars or less. Then boogaloo or slow-dance your baby to these legendary tunes."