Darlene Love/Phil Spector: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”
In retrospect, knowing how absolutely bonkers Phil Spector is, and what has become of him — in prison for probably the rest of his life on a murder conviction — you’d hardly peg him to have put together what is very possibly the greatest Christmas album of all time. But he did, and how. Phil Spector’s Christmas Album (or A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector in its original 1963 incarnation) is the pop music Christmas album by which all others are measured against, and very few, if any, have succeeded as spectacularly. Nearly every song is a classic — Spector’s trademark “Wall of Sound” production style suited Christmas very well, as it turns out.
With so many great songs, it’s hard to pick just one to single out here today — in doing so, I need to bypass the Ronettes’ incredible “Sleigh Ride” with its great “ring-a-ling-a-ling-a-ding-dong-ding” backing vocals, or Darlene Love singing the fantastic “Marshmallow World” — but “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” co-written by Spector and noted Brill Building songwriters Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, and which debuted on this record, features what is possibly Love’s greatest vocal turn ever. The power of her singing on this song sends a shiver down my spine every time — truly a performance for the ages. If Spector had produced only this album, he would still have been remembered as one of pop’s greatest producers.