Taking Stoned Delight in Phil Spector's Wall of Sound


This week's joint: Wall of Sound: The Very Best of Phil Spector 1961-1966


Behind the buzz: News from the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame is usually weird enough sans dope, but the fact that the Hall took until last Wednesday to admit Darlene Love is downright surreal. A finalist since 2009, Love was finally inducted this year, going on to thank "the genius of Phil Spector" for making her "the main voice of his Wall of Sound." That this made ripples in the press is not just due to her generosity in forgiving the Wiggy One's supremely shitty treatment, but in uttering the name of a man now jugged in the state pen at Corcoran for the 2002 second-degree murder of actress Lana Clarkson. The justice system is having its will of the seventy-year old Spector (eligible for parole in 2028), but the Wall of Sound he invented is a permanent delight to discerning stoners. These "little symphonies" for lovers have all the bravura energy of prog rock plus a tight-wound dreaminess shared with the three-minute acid trip of pop-psych nuggetry.

Today's weed: A saucy indica called Purple Squeeze, which brings its own reverb.

Welcome to the pleasuredrone: This collection kicks off with The Crystals' 1962 bad boy fantasia "He's A Rebel," sung by Ms. Love, and already we hear the lie given the oft-repeated canard that the producer tended to bury lead vocals under layers of strings and horns. Ronnie Spector's warm, imploring turn on "Be My Baby" seems the whole point of what Brian Wilson called the greatest pop record ever made. Martin Scorsese famously used "Then He Kissed Me" in Goodfellas to score Karen Hill's total immersion baptism into gangster life, appropriating its spine-tingling innocence for his own brute morality fable. As one celebrated hormonal lament after another speeds by, gussied-up like monophonic Vivaldi, one experiences ordinary sentiments lifted to grand opera heights, of love itself being expressed by means that approach the sound it makes inside the human heart. This 45-rpm mini-utopia is how Ms. Love bids us remember the gun-waving control-room tyrant  -- and that's no doubt wise.

The inevitable show-stopper: All this can only end one way, and that's the deathless "River Deep, Mountain High" by Ike and Tina. Everyone from Eric Burdon to Deep Purple tried to match this declaration of sweet dependence, but Lady T shades them all, riding this most ferocious Specterian whirlwind by sheer force of personality. None of her other collaborators ever gave her a space this big to inhabit, and her '80s records sound like Jim and Tammy Bakker by comparison.

For your next toke: Lay on the Spectorized 1970 original of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass and let "What is Life" and "Isn't It a Pity" complete the annihilation.

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