Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews
The Crystals – Da Doo Ron Ron: The Very Best of the Crystals – Phil Spector Records/Sony Legacy
Published on February 20, 2011
The Crystals – Da Doo Ron Ron: The Very Best of the Crystals – Phil Spector Records/Sony Legacy 88697 61288 2 ****:
Now I remember what happened to all the money I earned from mowing lawns. It went to buy 45 rpm records by The Crystals (and the Ronettes). I liked that they didn’t sing about dances like the Twist and the Locomotion (which I couldn’t do), but rather about teen angst and yearning (of which I had plenty). Da Doo Ron Ron: The Very Best of the Crystals contains every hit they ever produced and more. So what more could you want by these teenaged chart busters of the early Sixties? There are the slow dance gems like “There’s No Other Like My Baby” “and “What a Nice Way to Turn 17.” (My wife calls them “girl sex songs.”) But it was probably for their peppy rhythmic numbers like “Uptown” and “He’s a Rebel” that the Crystals earned a place in the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame (2004) and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame (2006). They’re sweet and intense and over quick, much like a cherry cordial or an Atomic Fireball.
“He’s a Rebel,” penned by Gene Pitney, was actually recorded by Darlene Love when The Crystals were out of town. Phil Spector wanted to steal a march on Vicki Carr, whom he overheard recording the song in a booth. It worked. The song tapped so deeply into teen urges of independence and defiance that it charted No. 1 in the fall of ’62. For this and other songs Spector use his “Wall of Sound” technique. As a reverberant sound mixture, it reproduced well on AM radio and jukeboxes. Spector had electric and acoustic guitarists play the same parts in unison, then added musical arrangement the size of orchestras. Sometimes he even recorded using an echo chamber (“Little Boy” and Da Doo Ron Ron”).
He called his songs “little symphonies for the kids.” Not all of them reach the same level of feel-good dynamics as “Then He Kissed Me.” Some are quite disturbing by today’s standards, like the flip side of “He’s a Rebel.” The title says it all: “He Hit Me (and It Felt Like a Kiss).” Listeners may wonder how much that dark song and “Please Hurt Me” reflected Spector’s own attitudes towards women.
By the time the British invasion happened in 1964 the brief reign of The Crystals was over (even though they didn’t disband until 1967). Note that this collection has the previously unreleased “Woman in Love.” It’s a nice number, but has nowhere near the breathless energy of “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.”
— Peter Bates