Phil Spector

The Phil Spector Sessions

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A four-CD bootleg of unreleased Phil Spector-produced sessions? That sounds like something even a bootlegger would make up as a joke. But it does exist, even if it'll take you some doing to locate it, and probably quite a bit of change to acquire it. Before you get too excited, however, be cautioned that this is not exactly full of the outtakes/alternate versions that are the staple fare of most studio bootlegs. Rather, these are more like backing tracks, unfinished works in progress, and combinations thereof. So while 11 takes of the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and seven of the same group's "Walking in the Rain" might sound enticing -- and that's just disc one -- there's not as much variation, from either the familiar hit versions or among the different takes here, as one might like. Instead, it's very much like eavesdropping on the fine-tuning of arrangements where the difference is usually minor (and sometimes minuscule) to the average listener, though likely something of monumental importance to ears such as Spector's (or Brian Wilson's, to use another example). So it's more of a scholarly exercise for those wanting to analyze Spector's work than it is a groovy listening experience, particularly as most of this consists of numerous tweaks of specific songs sequenced, as you can hear, ten or however many versions of the same tune all bunched together. Between the takes (and sometimes during them), you hear spoken comments and instructions, some of them comic, some serious, but usually not too elaborate. There are some interesting variations to appreciate -- "Be My Baby," for instance, didn't always have quite the same distinctive opening drum riff. The sessions for the Crystals' version of "Chico's Girl" are especially valuable, as that group didn't put out a record of the song (though it was done, without Spector, by a different act, the Girls). But while most of these are classic songs (also including Ike & Tina Turner's "River Deep Mountain High," the Ronettes' "Do I Love You" and "Walking in the Rain," the Crystals' "Uptown" and "Da Doo Ron Ron," and the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Loving Feelin'"), and the fidelity is excellent. These sessions are very much for true specialists, even among the bootleg community, and Spector fanatics.