Wednesday, November 23, 2011

November 23: The Crystals, "Da Doo Ron Ron"

Artist: The Crystals
Song: "Da Doo Ron Ron"
Album: Da Doo Ron Ron (single)
Year: 1963

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Though many may wish to believe that it is some musical element which links them all together, the fact of the matter is that the true definition of "rock and roll" lives within a certain spirit in the music in question, and it is this tone which enables one to place the more modern style of rock music on the same plane as the earliest vestiges of the sound more than half a century ago.  Furthermore, once one eliminates the actual musical contrstruct for purposes of definition, one can see the way that the rock and roll attitude manifested itself within countless other parts of music, and it is impossible to deny the strong links to the style within what many critics classified as the so-called "girl group" sound.  While some such acts were more restrained, if not quieter, there were a number of female-led groups that took a far more aggressive and "fun" approach, and few were equal in any aspect to the power and presence of The Crystals.  Recording some of the most well-known hits of the era, one can easily make the case that before the "British Invasion," The Crystals represented everything that was great about the American style of rock music.  Though they had a number of massively successful songs throughout their career, there may be no better a definition of The Crystals' unique sounds than in their fantastic 1963 single, "Da Doo Ron Ron."

From the moment that "Da Doo Ron Ron" begins, it is clear that the song will be a far cry from a majority of the "girl group" sounds of that era, as there is an edge and swing from the onset that quickly captivates the listener.  It is the blurted horn which opens the song, quickly giving way to one of the most infectious rhythms ever recorded that makes the song so enjoyable, and one can easily imagine how "Da Doo Ron Ron" would have lit up any party at the time.  The way that the sound seems to burst forth from every angle represents some of the finest work in the history of Phil Spector's "wall of sound" style, and it is the way that he is able to perfectly blend together the big band horn sound with the rockabilly piano and the flawless vocals that makes this such a wonderfully unique moment in music history.  "Da Doo Ron Ron" quickly takes on a brilliant swing, and in many ways, it is songs like this that are able to transport the listener back to the time during which it was released, as the authenticity and purity of the music is nothing short of perfect.  The stomp that runs throughout the song would be used by countless similar groups in the years that followed, and it is due to the aggressive sound and tone of the song that makes it easy to argue that not only was "Da Doo Ron Ron" a brilliant single, but also a clear turning point in the way that pop songs were orchestrated.

While one cannot overlook the power and historical significance of the musical arrangement found here, there is no question that the focus of the song is on the absolutely phenomenal vocals from The Crystals.  Though by this point in their career, they had gone through a few different configurations, "Da Doo Ron Ron" features the lead voice of Dolores "LaLa" Brooks.  Truth be told, Darlene Love had originally recorded a lead vocal for this song, but in the end, Spector used the Brooks take, and once one hears the song, it is impossible to consider any other voice being as perfect within this setting.  There is a grit and strut to Brooks' singing that was a bit more aggressive than most other "girl group" songs, and yet it is also this aspect that would strengthen the role of females within the world of music.  The fact that she is able to inject this sense of power into the song, whilst still bringing a vocal that is as "classic" as any other sets "Da Doo Ron Ron" further apart from other songs of the era, and it is this combination that has played a large role in the songs' perseverance over the decades.  However, it is also the way that Brooks' voice blends so perfectly with the rest of the group, and the ringing resonance of their harmonies is without question one of the most outright enjoyable sounds to ever be captured on tape.

All throughout this era in music history, there were countless combinations of "girl groups" that were pushing the idea of popular music into many different styles.  Whether it was the way that some incorporated the "doo-wop" sound, the softer, jazzy tones, or the more soulful blues numbers, there is no question that the existence of this musical movement was one of the most vital in the development of nearly every style of music.  However, most tend to overlook the contributions to rock and roll that this era produced, as it would quickly be overshadowed by the musical occurrences throughout 1964.  Yet in retrospect, one cannot deny just how important these transitional years were, as it was acts like The Crystals that were able to take the sounds to rockabilly and give them a new, modern flare.  The way that the group were able to so perfectly match the attitude within their vocals to the slightly aggressive, swinging sound of the music over which they sang remains one of the most beautiful and mesmerizing moments in the entire history of music, and it is this combination that set The Crystals far apart from every other group with a similar label.  The fact that The Crystals had so many different configurations leads to the group having a number of diverse sounds within their singles, and yet there is no question that on every level, the group was at the finest for their magnificent 1963 single, "Da Doo Ron Ron."

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