1001 Albums 0037-0038

Published March 10, 2013

My continued journey through the albums featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

0037: Phil Spector: A Christmas Gift For You (1963)
An album I've alredy heard.

This album is a long-standing feature in lists of all-time best Christmas albums, and with good reason.  In 1963 Phil Spector was at the peak of his powers as producer and hit-maker, and these versions of popular Christmas songs - plus the brand new 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)', performed by Darlene Love - have lost none of their excitement over five decades.

The album was released the day before the Kennedy assassination, which prompted Phil Spector to immediately withdraw the album as a mark of respect, so it had no commercial impact at the time. I can only assume it must have made up for that many times over since then.

Listen on Spotify.

0038: Sam Cooke: Live At The Harlem Square Club (recorded 1963, released 1985)

This is apparently widely regarded by many as one of the truly great live albums. As so often in this blog, I have a different point of view. Sam Cooke is a wonderful singer and he is on top form on this album. But although you can sense the excitement in the audience, and you're drawn into the atmosphere of the club on a couple of occasions - when the audience sings along to 'Having A Party', for instance - I'm left feeling that it must have been great to be there that night, but it doesn't quite translate to me as a listening experience. Cooke's many ha-ha yelps and screams of "everybody, everybody!" paradoxically make me feel that I'm not a part of that everybody. And the guitar is out of tune on a number of tracks, which makes them sound just a little too sloppy to my ears.

So, in conclusion, nothing here drew me in like the studio-recorded version of Sam Cooke's hits - they are indeed beyond wonderful - and I already have those on a compilation album.

Verdict: I'm sure it was a great experience to be there on the night, but the album left me indifferent for the most part.

Listen on Spotify.


Phil Spector: A Christmas Gift For You.


Sam Cooke: Live At The Harlem Square Club.