While it is easy for us to think of the Ronettes as one of the Phil Spector girl groups that so propelled his Christmas album that would be to forget the huge singles that they had put out previous to that seminal release. Quite simply ‘Be My Baby’ and ‘Baby, I Love You’ were two of the most popular songs to be released in the sixties and are still frequently playlisted all over the world. But for today’s discussion let’s focus on the Ronettes 3-song contribution to ‘A Christmas Gift For You’ which came out on Phil Spector’s own label Philles Records in 1963. And what an album it turned out to be, indeed it is probably the touchstone for every Christmas album that was to follow in its wake. With Phil Spector employing his famed wall-of-sound production techniques the Ronettes powered through ‘Frosty The Snowman’, ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’ and ‘Sleigh Ride’ with gusto. The beehive sporting 3-piece was made up of Spector’s wife Ronnie, her sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley and on each track the exuberance from each is palpable. Their crowning achievement is undoubtedly ‘Sleigh Ride’ which must rank as the definitive version of the Leroy Anderson composition. Such is the glee in Ronnie Spector’s delivery that you can just picture the snowy fields and feel the wintry air on your face amid a backdrop of sleigh bells and white topped evergreens. No Christmas would seem complete without it.
In terms of breaks between releases (albeit Christmas releases in this case) it must rank amongst the longest in history as 47 years after her contribution to ‘A Christmas Gift For You’ Ronnie Spector was to return to the season for her own solo EP ‘The Best Christmas Ever’ in 2010. Consisting of 5 newly written tracks for the occasion it showed a singer still able to belt out a signature vocal that has diminished little in almost half a century. The songs while not entirely memorable still boast plenty of festive fizz and Spector’s enthusiasm for the project is obvious for all to hear. Opener ‘My Christmas Wish’ is lively and graced by some wonderful brass parts as well as Spector’s mature take on contemporary Christmastime. Her ‘Best Christmas Ever’ sounds like a song from a different time and is perhaps the pick of the bunch. It is a real crowd pleaser with sing-along potential especially when those church bells kick in on the chorus. Author: Kevin