Various Artists

Touch the Wall of Sound, Vols. 1-3

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These Japanese imports are pretty pricy, but they're the best compilations of rare girl-group and Phil Spector-style productions from the early and mid-'60s currently available. With 20 tracks on each volume, well-known names pop up here and there (Shelley Fabares, the Chiffons, Cher, Earl-Jean of the Cookies, Diane Renay, the Shangri-Las), but the bulk is devoted to total obscurities that nonetheless cut first-class tunes with a wall-of-sound production that rivaled Spector himself, even as it was clearly blatantly imitative of his genius. Additional bonuses are rare compositoins by pop-rock songwriters of the era like Goffin/King, Barry/Greenwich, Jackie DeShannon, Jack Nitzsche, Sonny Bono, Al Kooper, Jan Berry, Mike Curb, Kenny Gamble, and Spector himself. Most of these were total flops, but you'd be hard pressed to figure out why the cuts by Alder Ray, the McKinleys, Beverly Warren, Roberta Day, and several others didn't make it. Mastered from copies of the original (excruciatingly rare) singles, the sound is acceptable but not top-of-the-line.