Music Review: ‘Back to Mono’ Delivers Four CDs’ Worth of Phil Spector Classics

Phil Spector's Back to Mono

One of the first people to consciously treat rock as an art form, producer Phil Spector influenced everyone from Abba to Springsteen with his gloriously recorded “wall of sound” tributes to teen romance.

Some of them, including those by the Righteous Brothers and Gene Pitney, have long been included in other anthologies. But many of the tracks in the new Back to Mono collection—including classics like the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and the Crystals’ “Uptown”— were unavailable for years in the U.S. They finally appeared on the 1977 release of the two-LP Phil Spector’s Greatest Hits. And now we have this greatly expanded four-CD version of that package, featuring three discs with 60 tracks cut between 1958 and 1969, plus a whole fourth disc devoted to the producer’s landmark Christmas album.

You’ll find all the hits—everything from the Teddy Bears’ “To Know Him Is to Love Him” (inspired by the tombstone on Spector’s father’s grave and featuring the producer on harmony vocals) to the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” arguably Spector’s greatest creation and one of the most played records of the last century. Also here are such lesser-known gems as the Checkmates’ “Black Pearl” and the Ronettes’ “Girls Can Tell,” to name just a few. If you’re trying to build a collection of the most important music from the rock era, this would be as good a place to start as any.

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