Phil Spector the artist is fully represented on Back to Mono, but not Spector as a hired-hand producer. It sure would have been nice to have heard something from two John Lennon records he produced in the early ’70s: Plastic Ono Band and Imagine (fat chance Yoko Ono was going to license Lennon’s music to ABKCO Records, a company run by longtime Beatle nemesis Allen Klein). Unlike anything else in the master producer’s career, these Lennon mixes are understated to the point of mutedness, as if Spector figured the songs basically spoke for themselves. Such deft self-effacement explodes every Spector cliché-unlike his ’70s albums with Dion (Born to Be With You) and the Ramones (End of the Century), which confirm the worst that has been said of him. I’d pass on three other Spector-produced albums: the Beatles’ 1970 Let It Be (which the Wall of Sound left muddled if not mangled), George Harrison’s tedious 1970 All Things Must Pass, and the sloppy lost-weekend nostalgia of Lennon’s 1975 Rock’n’Roll. Not much of Spector’s teen-dreamscape is missing from the boxed set, but you can find choice trivia on Phil Spector: The Early Productions 1958-1961 and Rare Masters, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, released in Britain only, in 1976.
Posted November 8 1991 — 12:00 AM EST
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