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In 1963, visionary producer Phil Spector, then at the peak of his creativity and cultural influence, created one of the first, and still one of the greatest, rock ’n’ roll Christmas albums. Using the artist roster of his Philles label, the Ronettes, the Crystals, Darlene Love and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, and the legendary studio musicians of the Wrecking Crew, Spector applied his fabled Wall of Sound to a set of Christmas pop standards and holiday-themed originals.
The resulting album brilliantly merges the holiday spirit with the singular sonic uplift of the Spector sound. Highlights include the Ronettes’ bubbly reworkings of “Sleigh Ride,” “Frosty the Snowman” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” the Crystals’ upbeat renditions of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and Darlene Love’s soulful readings of “Winter Wonderland,” “White Christmas” and the Ellie Greenwich/Jeff Barry/Phil Spector composition “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”
A Christmas Gift for You concludes with a rare on-mike appearance by Spector himself, delivering a spoken holiday message to listeners. A Christmas Gift for You originally had the misfortune of being released on November 22, 1963, the same day as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and was not a major commercial success. In the years since, however, it has been embraced as a beloved pop-culture touchstone, with many of its tracks becoming holiday airplay favorites.
In 2003, A Christmas Gift for You was ranked Number 142 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Longtime Spector fan Brian Wilson has named it as his all-time favorite LP. The album’s influence has also been reflected in cover versions by contemporary artists. Bruce Springsteen based his interpretation of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” on the Crystals’ Spectorized version, while U2 closely followed Darlene Love’s original when covering “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”