PHIL’S SPECTRE-A WALL OF SOUNDALIKES.

PHIL’S SPECTRE-A WALL OF SOUNDALIKES.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So it must have seemed to Phil Spector, as producers on both side of the Atlantic tried to replicate his famous Wall Of Sound. These producers looked enviously at Phil Spector, and wanted to enjoy the same commercial success and critical acclaim that he was enjoying. However, this hadn’t come overnight. Phil Spector had first to overcome a major hurdle.

This problem was one that had plagued the record industry for years. When many records were played on jukeboxes and AM radio, they sounded weak and lacked presence. So Phil Spector decided to find a solution to this problem. He found this at Gold Star Studios, in Los Angles.

With engineers Stan Ross, Larry Levine and the legend session musicians the Wrecking Crew, Phil Spector about finding the solution to the problem. Eventually, they realised it was about augmenting arrangements and creating a density. To do this, Phil Spector would record with a large ensemble, including strings, horns and woodwind. Phil Spector often layered instruments. Often, many of his hits featured two or three layers of the same instrument. The result was a much fuller and richer sound. This new sound was proudly described by its creator as:  “Wagnerian rock ’n’ roll” and “symphonies for kids.” The new sound was also innovative and would prove hugely successful.

Now Phil Spector set about showcasing his new sound. He had the perfect vehicle for his new sound, his new record label Philles Records. 

Between 1962 and 1965, Phil Spector was regarded as a star-maker. He transformed the career of artists. It released thirty-nine singles between 1962 and 1967. Thirty-two of these singles reached the US Billboard 100. However, the most success period for Philles Records and the Wall Of Sound was the period between 1962 and 1965. 

That was when Phil Spector swept all that was before him. Phil Spector  produced hits for Bob B Soxx and The Blue Jeans, Darlene Love, The Crystals, The Righteous Brothers and The Ronettes. In many cases, Phil Spector launched careers or transformed previously struggling career. Phil Spector had the Midas touch, and was regarded as a star-maker. However, some producers looked on enviously. Other producers decided to replicate the Wall Of Sound.

They figured that if they could replicate Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound, then they might enjoy the commercial success and critical acclaim that had come its inventor might enjoy. There was a problem though. Some producers struggled to work out Phil Spector’s secret. However, other producers managed to create a similar sound to Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound. This included the artists on Phil’s Spectre-A Wall Of Soundalikes, which was recently released by Ace Records on 180 grams heavyweight red vinyl. 

Phil’s Spectre-A Wall Of Soundalikes features twelve tracks. This includes contributions from Jerry Ganey, Johnny Caswell, Maureen Grey, Dorothy Berry, Dan Folger, The Knickerbockers and Noreen Corcoran. Each of these artists create what’s essentially a homage to Phil Spector. They feature on Phil’s Spectre-A Wall Of Soundalikes.

Side One.

Jerry Ganey’s Who Am I opens Phil’s Spectre-A Wall Of Soundalikes. It matched the pupil against the master. Phil Spector was the master, while Bill Medly of The Righteous Brothers had been one of the beneficiaries of the Wall Of Sound. However, by 1966, Bill Medley was now a producer, and had produced Jerry Ganey’s debut single Just A Fool. That left just the B-Side.

For the B-Side, a Bill Medley composition, Who Am I was chosen. While Jerry Ganey delivers a vocal full of hurt and despair on this ballad, Bill Medley is responsible for an authentic Spector-esque Wall Of Sound. Bill Medley it seems had learnt from the master; and with Jerry Ganey’s soul-baring vocal it was a potent and powerful combination.

In 1964, Johnny Caswell was signed to Smash Records, an imprint of Mercury Records. He had already released his debut single, which had passed record buyers by. He was looking for the right song for his sophomore single. Luckily, the songwriting and production team of David White and John Madara had just signed a production deal with Mercury Records. They would provide Johnny Caswell with his sophomore single.

This was My Girl, a song that they penned and produced. It was released on Smash Records in 1964, and sounded as if it was a Phil Spector production. There’s a Ronettes’ sound and influence to My Girl, which was the best of the three singles Johnny Caswell released for Smash Records. 

Once songwriter and producer Peter Antell had written (Baby) You Don’t Have To Tell Me, the next step was finding the right singer for the song. He hadn’t written the song with a singer in mind. Eventually, soul singer Bobby Coleman was chosen, and after rehearsing the song, recording began.

Peter Antell hadn’t set out to record a Spector-esque track. It’s just the way the track evolved, as he layered instruments. Adding the finishing touch to the multi-layered arrangement, were backing vocals from the girl group The Percells. They added an ethereal, dramatic sound to this heart-wrenching, soulful, ballad from Bobby Coleman. It showcases a talented vocalist. Alas, when (Baby) You Don’t Have To Tell Me was released on Bounty Records in 1966, it passed record buyers by. Nowadays, it’s a prized rarity, which is much in demand among the soul fraternity.

The only single Kane and Abel released Red Bird Records was He Will Break Your Heart. It was penned by James Holvay and James Peterson; while the single is A DeFrancesco production. He Will Break Your Heart was was released on the Red Bird label in Mayne 1966. Kane and Abel are reminiscent of The Righteous Brothers during their time with Phil Spector. Their vocals are akin a heartfelt warning of the hurt and betrayal that’s still to come; and are accompanied by Spector-esque arrangement of biblical proportions. When the two are combined, it’s the recipe for a emotive and memorable track.

The Falcons originally recorded You’re So Fine in 1959. Four years later, Dorothy Berry was about to released Cryin’ On My Pillow as a single, on the Challenge label, in November 1963. It was penned and produced by David Gates. For the flip-side, You’re So Fine was chosen.

You’re So Fine was written by Lance Finnie,William West and Robert Schofield. In Dorothy Berry’s hands, You’re So Fine becomes an irresistible, hook-laden slice of pop perfection. Just like the other two single Dorothy Berry released for Challenge, Phil Spector’s production style heavily influenced David Gates. Of the six sides, You’re So Fine is regarded as the best. It’s just a pity it hadn’t been released as a single. It had the potential to launch Dorothy Berry’s solo career.

Side Two.

Nino Tempo and April Stevens had started out as songwriters, and worked with Lieber and Stoller in the early sixties. By 1963, Nino Tempo and his sister April Stevens had won a Grammy Award for writing Deep Purple. The same year, 1963, Nino Tempo began playing keyboards on many of Phil Spector’s recordings for his Philles Records. However, by 1966, Nino Tempo and April Stevens had gone out on their own. 

That had been the case for the last couple of years. It hadn’t been easy. The  last year, the hits had dried up. That was until Nino Tempo and April Stevens recorded All Strung Out, a song they had written for The Righteous Brothers in 1963. They turned the song down. Three years later, in 1966, Nino Tempo and April Stevens released All Strung Out on the White Whale label. This quite beautiful single was produced by Nino Tempo and April Stevens, and ended their barren spell. After a year, Nino Tempo and April Stevens were back with a hit single.

Dan Folger only ever released a handful of singles. His fifth and final single was The Way Of The Crowd, a Dan Folger composition. It was produced by Bobby Russell and Buzz Cason. The Way Of The Crowd was released on Elf on 22nd July 1967. Elf had been home to Dan Folger throughout his career. Many thought he had kept his finest single until last. It’s a single that has everything; a vocal dripping in emotion and an impressive, multilayered arrangement. Sadly, commercial success passed The Way Of The Crowd by.  However, nearly fifty years later, and it’s a timeless, heartachingly beautiful song.

Back in 1963, Timmy and The Presidents released Timmy Boy for Olympia Records. It was arranged by Bob Finiz and produced by Lee Lovett. The song had been inspired by Bob B Soxx and The Blue Jeans’ 1962 hit Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah. This was one of Phil Spector’s earliest Wall Of Sound recordings. Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah inspired countless imitators. However, Timmy and The Presidents’s Timmy Boy was one of the best.

Before The Knickerbockers released Wishful Thinking as a single, they had released singles that had been inspired by The Beatles and Jan and Dean. However, when The Knickerbockers covered the Wynn Stewart penned Wishful Thinking in 1966, this present a new challenge for the group. They had yet to perfect the sound of The Righteous Brothers. That was until The Knickerbockers released their 1966 album Lies. It features a cover of Wishful Thinking, which is arranged by Leon Russell and produced by Jerry Fuller. The result is an authentic and melancholy homage to The Righteous Brothers.

In May 1966, Lorraine and the Delights released I Just Couldn’t Say as a single on Barry Records. It was written by Keith Paris and produced by George Kerr. Sadly, this was the only single Lorraine and the Delights released. However, if a group is only going to release one single, make it one as good as I Just Couldn’t Say. It’s best described opera meets Phil Spector’s girl groups. Ethereal, heartfelt and tinged with sadness it’s a real hidden gem. I Just Couldn’t Say is also a reminder of the years Phil Spector swept all before him, and inspired a generation of producers.

Closing Phil’s Spectre-A Wall Of Soundalikes is Noreen Corcoran’s Why Can’t A Boy and Girl Just Stay In Love? It was the B-Side to Noreen Corcoran’s sophomore single Love Kitten, which was written and produced by Nino Tempo. He also wrote Why Can’t A Boy and Girl Just Stay In Love with Phil Spector. When Love Kitten was released on Vee Jay in September 1963, the single failed commercially. However, the wistful sounding ballad Why Can’t A Boy and Girl Just Stay In Love, was too good to be a B-Side.With its Spector-esque arrangement and a rueful vocal full of hurt, it’s a song that oozes quality. That is the case throughout Phil’s Spectre-A Wall Of Soundalikes.

Not only do the twelve tracks that feature on Phil’s Spectre-A Wall Of Soundalikes ooze quality, but they’re akin to a truly innovative producer, Phil Spector. Between 1963 and 1967, when the twelve tracks on Phil’s Spectre-A Wall Of Soundalikes were released, Phil Spector’s star was in the ascendancy. He inspired countless other producers and musicians. This included the producers on Phil’s Spectre-A Wall Of Soundalikes. 

These producers hoped or thought that by trying to replicate Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound, some of his success would rub off. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Most of the tracks that were released as a single, failed commercially. That was no reflection on the quality of music. Instead, it was the age old problem, with many of the singles being  released on small labels. They lacked the personnel and budget to promote a hit single. Other tracks on Phil’s Spectre-A Wall Of Soundalikes were relegated to B-Sides. This sometimes, proved to  a mistake. A couple of these Spector-esque tracks had hit potential. However, for whatever reason, they were consigned to the B-Side. Just one of the singles on Phil’s Spectre-A Wall Of Soundalikes became a hit single, Nino Tempo and April Stevens. This was fitting, as Nino Tempo had worked with Phil Spector.

After working alongside Lieber and Stoller, Nino Tempo played keyboards on many of Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound sessions. This allowed Nino Tempo to see firsthand how the Wall Of Sound worked. Others would have been envious of this, and given anything to stand in Nino Tempo’s shoes.

This included Beach Boy Brian Wilson. He regarded Phil Spector as a musical genius, and was inspired by the Wall Of Sound. Later, in the post Pet Sound years, some would refer to Brian Wilson as a genius. However, genius is flawed. That was certainly the case with Phil Spector.

Phil Spector’s post Wall Of Sound life has been a chequered one. 1967 marked the end of era, when Philles Records released its final single. Phil Spector then withdrew from public life after marrying Veronica “Ronnie” Bennett of The Ronettes. For the next two years, very little was heard of Phil Spector. 

Eventually, Phil Spector made a comeback in 1969, and over the next five years, produced albums for John Lennon, George Harrison and Harry Nilsson. However, gradually, Phil Spector became reclusive. Especially, after a near fatal car accident in 1974. Very little was seen of Phil Spector until his second comeback.

In 1977, Phil Spector returned and produced Leonard Cohen’s Death of a Ladies’ Man. Two years later, and Phil Spector produced End of the Century. However, Phil Spector’s comeback was cut short.

From 1981 right through to 1995 Phil Spector disappeared from public view. He tried to work with Céline Dion in 1995 on her album Falling into You. This didn’t work out, and it wasn’t until 2003 when Phil Spector returned to produce Starsailor’s sophomore album Silence Isn’t Easy. By the time it was released in September 2003, Phil Spector’s life had been turned upside down.

On February 3rd 2003, actress Lana Clarkson was found dead in Phil Spector’s mansion in Alhambra, California. Phil Spector was later charged with murder.

Whilst awaiting trial, Phil Spector produced what was surely his swan-song.  Singer-songwriter Hargo asked Phil Spector to produce Crying for John Lennon. It  featured on Hargo’s 2006 album In Your Eyes. A year later, Phil Spector faced the biggest battle of his life, the one for his liberty.

The first trial ended with mistrial because of a hung jury. A second trial took place in 2009.  Phil Spector was sentenced to nineteen years to life on May 29th 2009. Seven years later, and Phil Spector is still resident in the Californian penal system. For Phil Spector, a man many regarded as a musical  genius it was a sad way to end his career. Genius it seems is flawed.

Sadly, Phil Spector’s glory days were short lived.  Probably his most productive period of his career was between 1962 and 1967. For five years his Wall Of Sound featured on thirty-two hit singles. This included several classic singles. The hit singles Phil Spector produced,  influenced many producers and artists. This includes those on Phil’s Spectre-A Wall Of Soundalikes. It was recently released by Ace Records on 180 grams heavyweight red vinyl. Phil’s Spectre-A Wall Of Soundalikes features a dozen homages to a pioneering producer, Phil Spector during his glory years.

PHIL’S SPECTRE-A WALL OF SOUNDALIKES.

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2 Comments

  1. Very good run-through of this cool release. I’ve been told by an Ace insider that there has been talk about reactivating the series.

    • Thanks for your kind words.

      I hope that the Wall Of Soundalikes series will be reactivated. It was a favourite of many people.

      I enjoyed reading your blog. There’s some interesting articles. Keep up the good work.

      Regards,
      Derek.

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