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English Heart [LP]
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  • Few if any artists of the girl group era were as iconic as Ronnie Spector. As the lead singer of the Ronettes, Ronnie was the crown jewel of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound (and also his wife for a while). But as iconic sounds of the '60s go, Ronnie and her peers had to play second fiddle to the Beatles and the many other British groups who invaded America in their wake. As it happens, Ronnie was a fan of the British Invasion bands just like the rest of us. What's more, she shared stages with the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and the Kinks when the Ronettes toured the U.K. back in the day. So it makes sense that Ronnie would look back at this era by recording an album of classic tunes by great British acts of the '60s. Released in 2016, English Heart features covers of ten memorable British rock tunes from the '60s. (She also throws in one ringer, the Bee Gees' "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart," which the Australian act released in 1971.) It's certainly a fun idea for an album, and Ronnie and producer Scott Jacoby have chosen wisely, tackling hits that suit her moody timbre, as well as a few lesser-known classics. (The Rolling Stones' obscurity "I'd Much Rather Be with the Boys," here given a gender switch, is an inspired pick. So is Sandie Shaw's mournful "Girl Don't Come," a U.K. smash that didn't do much in the States.) Jacoby's production is strong, giving the material arrangements that honor their original era but have a fresh modern twist. It's exciting to hear one of the most distinctive voices of '60s pop take on some of the best songs of the era, and English Heart is an often fascinating meeting of two musical worlds. ~ Mark Deming
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