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I can`t help it if I feel this way
on 9 November 2011
This is the first affordable compilation of the Spector-era Ronettes for decades, due (I believe) to the stubborn intransigence of said mad genius.
The sound of Ronnie Spector (nee Bennett), her sister Estelle and cousin Nedra, is still the ultimate sound of teenege sexual stirrings, the sound too of post-war cosmopolitan New York, of Spanish Harlem, pre-hippy America discovering its postwar self in all its multitudinous shades, shapes and sizes. Would you believe The Ronettes had only one Top Ten hit in the US? Incredible, huh? This is one group (we didn`t have bands then, they were all groups) whose legacy - whose voluptuous,
brazenly opulent, seemingly inevitable iconic uniqueness - is untouchable. If they had only recorded Be My Baby or Baby I Love You, their status would be assured.
Luckily, they recorded more than that, though not so much more.
Here are 18 tracks from the Phil Spector days. He co-wrote most of these songs, and notoriously not only married Ronnie, the lucky swine, but kept her prisoner in his mansion, and made her life an unpredictable purgatory for years before she finally managed to fly the coop. (Read her autobiography, "Be My Baby", it`s superb.)
Compilers are a strange breed. If they`d asked me - and I do wish they would - I`d have opened this collection with the famous ominous drum thwacks of Be My Baby (remember Harvey Keitel waking up to them near the beginning of Mean Streets?) then given us a less well-known number, saving Baby, I Love You for a bit later. Why would anyone want to hear their two most lauded, and similar, songs next to each other? Have some imagination for God`s sake!
Be My Baby has become The Ronettes` calling card, their most iconic song, the one that sums up their allure. It`s sexily sweet, it came first, and it`s perfect.
But spare a moment for the thunderous breadth of Baby, I Love You. This is a track that capitalises on the earlier hit, giving us an even more asssured vocal from Ronnie, as well as those unforgettable "Woh-ho - a-woh-ho ho-ho" lead-ins. It`s a magnificent piece of early 60s symphonic pop that does something to me that I can barely put into words. (In fact, I can`t imagine anyone with a pulse not loving The Ronettes, but such souls do exist, in some nether region no doubt.)
Other inimitable pearls include (The Best Part Of) Breaking Up and Walking In The Rain. But there is not one single song here that isn`t worth hearing, including the original of You Baby (later covered by the Mamas and Papas; not the contemporaneous Turtles song of the same name) and a song the Beach Boys later made their own, I Can Hear Music. I`d forgotten The Ronettes had already sung it.
There is a fulsome, funny, slightly pretentious, suitably adulatory sleevenote by the Patti Smith Group`s Lenny Kaye, track listings, and a few fairly good pics of the girls.
The unrepeatably sumptuous Ronettes were THE girl group. This long-awaited compilation pretty much does them proud. If it introduces Ronettes virgins to their
music - well, imagine if you were hearing Be My Baby for the first time...!
I could go on, but I need to play Baby, I Love You just one more time before I call it a day.
Play as loud as you can get away with.