While he's been in the news for a murder trial, Phil Spector was once a well-respected maracas player who performed on the Rolling Stones' debut album. My notes also say he was a record producer with a "Wall of Sound," noted as such for adding 20 pianos, 30 guitars and 50 drums where one would normally do. But while he made his name as a puppet master, pulling the strings behind a rotating cast of better-looking characters than himself (not hard to find), he also went on produce albums for other people who loved his reputation and were often miffed by the results, often heard whining afterwards, "Where's my wall?"
Here are the five most important Phil Spector albums:
A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector: He recorded all tons of hits with his Wrecking Crew, putting the "Wall of Sound" in place. But he came of age in an era where the "single," not the album, mattered. Kind of like today, but better. He did manage to collect his various projects and force them to sing some yuletide cheer, making the holidays slightly less hellish. Bonus points for no "Feliz Navidad" or that damned "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" song.
The Ramones--End Of The Century: One wall of sound meets another. Phil made Johnny Ramone play the opening guitar chord of "Rock n' Roll High School" for several days while he thought about it. Then he distorted the crap out of Joey's voice and added all kinds of goofy instrumentation to make the boys sound sophisticated. The album was a great marketing move. Everyone wrote about it. But like all Ramones albums of the time, it didn't sell much. And the band began their downward slide into even more questionable productions.
Death of a Ladies' Man: It's pretty well established that this is the "bad" Leonard Cohen album. But it isn't. It's a "very good" Leonard Cohen album that had the misfortune of coming out at a time when anything Leonard Cohen could have done would have been treated similarly. Cohen was out of step and fashion. That said, Cohen claimed to not like many of the vocal takes, but that seems kind of nitpicky coming from a guy whose whole career is based on the concept that he can't actually sing.
George Harrison--All Things Must Pass: Since John Lennon and Paul McCartney spent most of their time writing enough songs to make sure George never got too many on any one Beatles album, Harrison came to his first real solo album (Wonderwall Music was intended only to become an important Oasis reference) with so many songs that he needed someone to keep track of how many he had. Spector being an excellent counter, got the job and upon realizing the number was "too many" proceeded to make this into a three-record set, including some pointless jamming that tells you how cheap it must've been to make vinyl records back in those days.
Plastic Ono Band: Hearing how Spector un-loused up the Beatles' Let It Be with some bizarre orchestrations and seeing how he forced George Harrison to make a three-record set, John Lennon knew he had to have Phil come over and produce an album that didn't sound anything like a Phil Spector production. Instead of the usual "wall of sound" that I keep harping on, Spector gave into Lennon's demand that more screaming would be more better.
- Phil Spector