Following his initial success with the Teddy Bears' 1958 "To Know Him is To Love Him," Phil Spector's mentor, Lester Sill, arranged for his protégé to apprentice with the legendary Leiber and Stoller in New York. Spector wrote songs, played guitar on various sessions, began producing, and made the acquaintance of the brilliant songwriters of the Brill Building. Upon returning to Los Angeles, Sill tasked him with producing the Paris Sisters for the newly formed Gregmark label. The San Francisco trio had been performing since they were children, and recording since 1953, but despite contracts with Decca and Imperial, they'd failed to break through. Spector's touch would soon change all that.
After four years without a studio date the group found their act radically reshaped by Spector, with their three part Andrews Sisters styled harmonies given over to the girl-group lead-and-backing vocals style. Priscilla Paris' breathy vocals, Spector's unusually restrained production and drowsy tempos gave many of the group's Gregmark singles a unique sound and emotional resonance. Their first side, Spector's "Be My Boy," merges love, hope and longing into the sort of idealized dream that Brian Wilson would emulate in early ballads with the Beach Boys. The Paris Sisters version completely trounces the overwrought original ("Be My Girl") that Spector had recorded as Ray Peterson's B-side to "Corrina, Corrina."
Even though Spector rebalanced the group's vocals, he refrained from modernizing them with a backbeat. Their second single, Barry Mann's "I Love How You Love Me," retained the dreamy lead vocal and languid tempo of the debut, but added a violin that gives the recording an extra voice. Topping out at #5, the Paris Sisters finally had a bona fide hit. The B-side (which was originally considered as the A-side), "All Through the Night," picks up the tempo and thickens the arrangement into a prototype of the Wall of Sound. It's catchy, and might have been a minor hit had it not been the flip of something as ephemerally perfect as "I Love How You Love Me."
Spector picked up additional material from Goffin & King ("He Knows I Love Him Too Much"), Doc Pomus ("What Am I To Do?") and another from Mann ("Let Me Be the One"), and though they all capture the fragile magic of Priscilla Paris' voice, none climbed back to the upper reaches of the charts. The group's fifth and final single for Gregmark paired Spector's "Yes - I Love You" with the group's own "Once Upon a While Ago," with neither side charting. Spector began producing a Paris Sisters album, but financial arguments between he and label owner Sill led to the tapes being "accidentally" erased.
Spector would perfect his wall of sound and move on to his greatest fame with the Crystals, Ronettes and others. The Paris Sisters made stops at MGM, Mercury and Reprise where they released singles and an album. Priscilla Paris cut a solo album, but the commercial magic of "I Love How You Love Me" was never recaptured. This collection includes all five of their Gregmark singles, both A- and B-sides, and a stereo remix of "I Love How You Love Me." The latter's an interesting curiosity (if just to realize that the session wasn't physically recorded single-track mono), but, unsurprisingly, it doesn't have nearly the overwhelming presence or balance of Spector's original single.
This is a fascinating early chapter in both the Phil Spector story and the '60s evolution of the girl-group. The only negative is the short 26'48 playing time, of which 2'12 is the stereo remix. But that's what Spector recorded with the group for Gregmark, so that's what you get. Now if someone could only find and restore the "mistakenly" erased album tapes! 4-1/2 stars, if allowed fractional ratings. [©2007 hyperbolium dot com]