Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Wall of Sound: The Very Best of Phil Spector 1961-1966 [Phil Spector/Legacy, 2011]
This one-CD Philles comp reflects the murderer's loss of his mad grip on his overrated legacy and brings its limitations front and center. Of course there are great records among these 19 oddly sequenced selections--by a generous count, as many as a dozen. But there are also three Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans tracks, including the regrettable "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah." Especially given the Crystals classics here that feature La La Brooks or Barbara Alston, these should be enough to convince you to skip the simultaneously released Darlene Love best-of. The Ronettes songs are the only ones in which the lead singer is personable enough to carry material less inspired than "He's a Rebel," "Uptown," and "A Fine Fine Boy." Sometimes, anyway--their much better best-of is spotty nonetheless. Too often, Spector's wall of sound was a miasma. Respect him as a girl-group maestro even more gifted than the Shirelles' Luther Dixon. The great exception isn't the Righteous Brothers, who have worn poorly. It's "River Deep Mountain High." A