PHIL SPECTOR A Christmas Gift For You From Philles Records (Sundazed)
Its creator’s subsequent actions might have rubbed some of the festive cheer from this hardy seasonal perennial, itself ignominiously released on the day of President Kennedy’s assassination, but “A Christmas Gift For You” remains top of its particular tree nearly half a century on. Even Dylan couldn’t top it, laudable though his “Christmas In The Heart” was. Given the throwaway, transient nature of the music it embodies and celebrates, that’s a remarkable achievement, its temporary flash elevated to something like art.The music is almost too familiar to describe: there’s the carefully sculpted AM-attuned buzz of Spector’s wall of sound (famous contributors to which include Leon Russell, Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono), and the effectively interchangeable parade of Philles Records artists (“four of the greatest teenage stars in America”, as Spector’s never-knowingly-underplayed sleevenotes describe them) who provide the vocal froth on top of it. It’s a giddy, tinsel-strewn rush that makes even “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” ecstatic in its misery. In fact, the only disappointment is the closing “Silent Night”, in which Phil’s voluminous ego slops over into a sanctimonious voiceover that threatens to ruin your Christmas if you can’t get to the turntable fast enough. Similarly, his sleevenote declaration that “because Christmas is so American it is therefore time to take the great Christmas music and give it the sound of the American music of today” sounds like megalomania bordering on regime change. But if you don’t read the sleevenotes and stop it short of the final track “A Christmas Gift For You” is as perfect as ever it was.
Sundazed’s vinyl reissue does what it can with what it’s given, but this album will never be a hi-fi spectacular. Tinny and fizzy, it’s the sonic equivalent of a violently shaken soft drink can. Therein lies its charm, though.