Reviewed by Johan Palme on 21st December, 2015
What more can be said about an album that countless rock critics have named the greatest Christmas record of all time? No Christmas record has been lauded as much as A Christmas Gift For You From Philles Records, loved as much, listened to as much, by people who otherwise have no interest in Christmas music at all. It’s the only Christmas album thousands and thousands listen to.
Perhaps it’s particularly interesting to note, then, that A Christmas Gift For You is not actually the record history unicum it’s presented as. Sometimes, lazy historians will construct it as somehow being uniquely worked-though or a daring, new-fangled, ground-breaking release. Quite to the contrary, while Phil Spector certainly spent huge effort at making the album, so did many other record companies at the time, each with its own particular style, hiring choirs and large orchestras, crafting large and complex arrangements. The period from 1960-1963 was probably the time in American recording history with the most and the greatest Christmas albums, a wave Phil Spector very conciously was aiming to be part of, and sort of failing, only reaching Number 13 on the Christmas album chart. His sound may have been different from everyone else, more pointing towards what was to come, but in these pre-British Invasion days the borders between genres were weaker. That Philles records came to do a Christmas album of Tin Pan Alley classics points to how mixed into that tradition they actually were.
And the thing is: This does not make it a lesser record, quite to the contrary. In a genre of Christmas records that was both prolific and brilliant it still manages to utterly stand out, not a pioneer but quite simply one of the finest of the era. Amazingly arranged and produced, played and sung, it’s still one of the greatest Christmas records ever.