Album Review: Be My Baby: The Very Best Of The Ronettes

Be My Baby: The Very Best Of The Ronettes, by The Ronettes

As is something that may be a tradition here, given my somewhat morbid tastes, the report of the death of the titular Ron of the Ronettes has led me to listen to their best-of collection and see how it works. As far as it tracklist is concerned, there is at least one obvious defect of this collection and that is that it neglects one of their biggest hits, albeit not a representative one, in Sleigh Ride. While the Ronettes are pretty notable pop figures of the first part of the 1960’s, with at least a couple of hits that have been remembered that found their way to this collection, admittedly most of their body of work is pretty obscure to me. So how does this collection serve as an introduction to their body of work?

This particular collection is eighteen songs long (again, the omission of Sleigh Ride is puzzling in light of the fact that there was still plenty of room for it after eighteen other mostly much ore obscure songs). Of those songs I only knew of two of them ahead of time: the titular song “Be My Baby” and one other, “Baby, I Love You,” which had been covered in a version I had as a b-side from a mid-90’s single from Natalie Merchant. Besides those two songs, these songs are pleasant enough to listen to, with gorgeous harmonies and a generally wholesome and innocent look at love. A startling number of these songs are about the problems of being too young for marriage but longing for it anyway, with the assumption that one should not be in love before one can marry [1]. Indeed, the predominant theme of this collection of songs is longing for love and romance and marriage, with the assumption that all of these will be found in the first person one is drawn to and that one will enjoy all these things while one is young and that they will last for a lifetime. Is this how people lived for thousands of years, only for us to screw up and mock such expectations so thoroughly in a couple of generations?

The selection of these songs makes more sense when one knows the tangled label history of the Ronettes. In 1961, the Ronettes recorded eleven songs with Colpix Records. None of them are included here. No songs are included from their Christmas album released by Phil Spector, nor their novelty singles recorded as The Crystals, nor any material from the collection Everything You Wanted To Know About The Ronettes…But Were Afraid To Ask, which was released after this album was and included previously unknown songs recorded by the Ronettes at an unknown date before they broke up in 1965. Besides those omissions, this is an admirably complete record of songs, with all eight of the songs that hit the Hot 100 between 1963 and 1966 as well as a great many of the songs that were not released on their only studio album with Philles Records that were released later as part of the collections Phil Spector Wall Of Sound Rare Masters Vol. 1 and 2. Given the tangled musical history of this group, this is a pretty complete collection of their best work, all things considered.

The larger question, though, is whether this particular collection is for you. As someone with a high appreciation of the biblical standard of morality that these songs model as well as someone with a high degree of interest in music history, this is a beautiful collection of generally innocent songs. Not everyone will appreciate this collection, especially because there are not any songs about personal empowerment or the enjoyment of sexuality. Not everyone in the contemporary era can relate to just how these albums reflect on what is considered at present to be a rather juvenile and immature view of love. If you are able to look to a bygone age with some appreciation of rather different standards and ways than we now experience, this album is a time capsule of considerable value and interest.

[1] Admittedly, this is an assumption shared by the Song of Solomon.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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