Review Summary: A love that will last.
The Ronettes, officially, were Veronica Bennett, Estelle Bennett, and Nedra Talley. But to music historians, the fourth member was one Harvey Philip Spector. It wasn’t until the trio joined forces with the then-novice producer and writer that the Ronettes would touch success. Singles like “Be My Baby” and “Walking in the Rain” catapulted the group into stardom, and with very good reason. They were honest-to-god smash hits. The combination of lead singer Veronica Bennett’s sharp vocals, Estelle and Nedra’s sickly-sweet backing vocals, and Spector’s distinct Wall of Sound production/arrangements was a match that has been endlessly described in more eloquent ways than I could ever put it.
And yet, here I am writing a review about them. Over 55 years later, I felt it necessary to talk about the Ronettes’ first (and only) full-length album.
To be fair to myself, I had only heard the album front to back recently. I usually wouldn’t review an older release like this without having listened to the album for at least a couple of years. For some reason, it doesn’t feel right to approach these classic albums like you would a newer release. But the second I finished my first full listen of “...Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes,” I knew I had to review it. It was like a compulsion. There’s a warmth that coats your body when you hear the Ronettes harmonize on tracks like “Do I Love You?” and “You Baby,” or the string arrangements on the fabulous “I Wonder.”
However, the album’s clear standout remains the group’s best-known single, “Be My Baby,” which remains one of the best pop songs of all-time, even all these years later. Every element’s a puzzle piece, fitting perfectly together with near-machine precision. As much as I enjoyed this album, very little else here comes close to that song’s utter excellence. As far as criticisms go, that may seem to be cause for alarm. I can assure you though, I’m merely exaggerating. From the slow doo-wop of “So Young” to the soulful “When I Saw You” and “What’d I Say’s” swinging R&B/rock n’ roll. The classic status that has accompanied this release is justified, to say the very least.
The only other true criticism I have for the album is how little variation there is in topics. By the time you finish “...Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes,” you may never wish to hear the word “baby” or “love” ever again. But I’d say that’s more a product of the time than anything. And if you’re coming into an album like this expecting anything less than a love overload, that’s kind of on you, sorry to say.
Forgive me for extolling the dead, but Phil Spector spun gold like no other producer had or has. It’s safe to say that without his work here, the Ronettes would not be as fondly remembered as they are. That isn’t to downplay their role here. By the same token, this record would be nothing without the fabulous Ronettes. Giving credit where it’s due in this particular circumstance may be uncomfortable, but I know deep down, I couldn’t imagine this album any other way, with any other players. It’s an album that transcends the time period it was made in. One of the few albums you could truly call timeless and not have anyone bat an eye. It’s a love that’s lasted over 50 years and a love that will never die.