On 1st December my friend Laura Boyd posed a question on Twitter; what is the best Christmas song ever? Laura's choice was Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses, a song I also really love.
My own personal favourite, and also one that I would argue is the best, is Darlene Love's Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) from the seminal Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift To You album.
In my tweet to Laura I said; My favourite is Darlene Love with Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). Such an incredible vocal performance, the musicianship is stunning, the lyrics have real visualisation and the whole song has a soulful and uplifting feeling to it. Perfect.
I didn't mention the gut wrenching emotion that pours from it, but then you only have so many characters in a tweet, so I thought I would write a blog.
A huge opening chord that is repeated four times over the sound of sleigh bells ushers us gently into Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), then at 15 seconds pounding drums build to kick the song into full throttle. The backing vocals sound glorious singing Christmaaaassss and then Darlene Love's incredible voice soars heavenly.
Spector captures a truly sensational performance. I've just listened to the song 6-times in a row on headphones and I could easily listen another 6-times. This was recorded in 1963 and it still blows me away, the power and urgency that leaps out ensures the song still sounds fresh and vital. It will be played forever.
(Christmas) snow's coming down
(Christmas) I'm watching it fall
(Christmas) Lots of people around
(Christmas) Baby please come home
Darlene Love's vocal performance must rank highly in all-time top vocals; it's spine tingling, hair raising, heart-aching, gut wrenching soul.
The lyrics are pure poetry; the classic Christmas picture is being painted in front of Darlene Love's eyes and she can describe it, but she keeps returning to her plea for her baby to come home; the church bells in town, all ringing in song, full of happy sounds, baby please come home.
There is a brief let up in Spector's Wall of Sound and the backing vocals to allow Love's voice centre stage as she sings they're singing deck the halls, but it's not like Christmas at all, I remember when you were here, and all the fun we had last year with the drums rolling on the final line and bringing the Wall of Sound and backing singers back in to gel with Love and propel her onwards.
(Christmas) pretty lights on the tree
(Christmas) I'm watching them shine
(Christmas) You should be here with me
(Christmas) Baby please come home
After an instrumental things break down again for a repeat of the third verse with Love's voice on and all the fun we had last year being pushed to its limit. She finds more!
The last verse is simply sensational, off the charts. Things just build and build and build to an incredible climax. We learn that is is actually Christmas day and as soon as that line is sung we enter a mind blowing 30-seconds of Love just going for it and repeating please, please, please before losing herself in the line baby please come home.
(Christmas) oh if there was a way
(Christmas) I'd hold back this tears
(Christmas) oh but it's Christmas day
(Please) Please (Please) Please (Please) Please (Please) Please (Please) Please
Baby please come home, baby please come home, baby please come home, baby please come home
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah
What a song! What a performance! Somewhere in the vaults there are the original recordings and you wonder how long the song went on as it fades out on the record.
Listening to the song on headphones repeatedly has made me appreciate it all the more. Turn it up, sing-a-long and just get lost in the last 30-seconds as Darlene Love loses it over a beautiful piano as the musicians create a classic Spector Wall of Sound - glorious.