Phil Spector’s “wall of sound”: Isn’t it a pity?

Posted on Mon Aug 27 2007 at 12:58 pm in the category 1970s, Beatles, Harrison, George -- Copyright notice

Listen while you read: Beware of darkness (Spectorized) (audio snippet)

Phil Spector’s influence on rock n’ roll cannot be underestimated. His production of several Beatles albums ensured this. Spector‘s style of production (by the mid-late 1960s) with heavy reverberation and very full orchestral arrangements mixed with the original performances and overdubs has sometimes been known as the “wall of sound”. Spector tunes also look like a wall when you see a wave file.

George Harrison’s “Beware of darkness” is a good case in point, since it is available in both fully Spectorized, “wall of sound” form and in more basic, quick run-through form on the CD re-release of 2001. I have mixed feelings about the “wall of sound” approach as my recent re-listen to All Things Must Pass (1970; CD remaster 2001; © Apple/EMI) reminded me.

On the one hand, you are overwhelmed by the fullness of the music and somewhat complicated instrumentation in the Spectorized versions, even if “Beware of darkness” is among the more modestly produced tracks. On the other, you start to yearn for a moment of hesitation or quiet in the music. I like french horns and orchestral arrangements as much as the next guy, but where is Harrison and his guitar? Where is the lyrical and melodic clarity.

Listen while you read: Beware of Darkness (basic) (audio snippet)

Thanks to the CD re-release you do get a taste of what “Beware of darkness” actually is. The more basic version — basic in a good sense, I would say — draws more attention to the emotion in the lyrics and Harrison stands out more fully. You still have the sense of a dramatic build in the song nonetheless. If you get a chance, pick up All Things Must Pass, which is excellent regardless of your view on what Spector did with Harrison’s great performance and writing.

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2 Responses to “Phil Spector’s “wall of sound”: Isn’t it a pity?”

  1. Kim Says:

    nice ,Harrison was my favorite Beatle.

  2. Ben Says:

    Harrison’s first solo work is awesome with or without Spector. However, being familiar with all of his post-Beatle’s catalog, I must say Phil Spector added real magic to All things Must Pass. I love the majority of George Harrison’s work, even Extra Texture (check out ‘You’), but I wish it was all produced by Phil Spector.
    I don’t want to be accusatory, but there has been a lot jumping onto the bandwagon since a certain day in 2003.