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Imprisoned, Phil Spector is credited as producer of wife's new CD

The collection of up-tempo pop songs apparently were recorded before he was sentenced to 19 years to life for murdering struggling actress Lana Clarkson.

May 28, 2010|By Carla Hall, Los Angeles Times

Music producer Phil Spector was legendary for his work with Tina Turner, the Ronettes and the Beatles.

But certainly his greatest feat would seem to be the release this summer of a new CD proclaiming him as its producer while he sits in Corcoran State Prison, serving 19 years to life for the second-degree murder of struggling actress Lana Clarkson.

The new CD is the work of his wife, fledgling singer Rachelle Spector — and it was produced before he went to prison last year.

Rachelle, 29, met her 70-year-old husband at Dan Tana's, the old-style Italian restaurant and bar hangout. They met just months after Clarkson died of a gunshot wound in the producer's Alhambra mansion on Feb. 3, 2003.

Rachelle said she had no clue about his fame — or his infamy — that night.

Never doubting his innocence, she says, she married him in September 2006. The two worked on her CD between that year and 2009, a period that Spector spent mostly free on bail. His first trial ended in a hung jury in 2007. He was convicted in April 2009 after his second trial.

"It was fun," she said of the recording sessions. "It was his outlet. It was his escape back to his roots."

Not that the collection of up-tempo pop songs, some of them dance tunes, resemble the fabled lush Wall of Sound that became Spector's signature.

"He didn't want that," she said of the songs he co-wrote, produced and arranged. "It's not about the Wall of Sound. It's about turning the negative into a positive and getting back to the roots of music."

The cover of the CD, "Out of My Chelle," shows an ebullient Rachelle kicking her leg at an abstract splash of pink paint. The upper-right-hand corner declares "A Phil Spector Production."

But some have raised questions about whether this is really Spector's work.

"Since I've known him in 2004, he would say she was going off to do her songs," said Steve Escobar, who calls himself a friend of the producer. But he added, "... I asked him, 'Are you working on it?' He said, 'No, I just go in and listen once in a while and give my critique.' "

Rachelle countered, "People are going to say what they're going to say. This was my husband's idea."

Said Bob Merlis, a former music industry executive who now runs his own public relations firm and is a friend of Spector: "I told her when I heard it that people will logically conclude it doesn't sound like what you expect from a Phil Spector record. She said, 'You haven't heard him in so many years.' I just accept that. I wasn't at the sessions."

Rachelle Spector, who came to Los Angeles in 2001 to pursue a singing career, said recording with her husband in a Sherman Oaks studio was "magical."

"His ears are amazing. If he didn't like something, he would stop it and rewrite an entire different part," she said.

The songs are produced on her own label, Genius4Ever, and will be available for digital download June 8. The CDs will be available for purchase online starting July 20.

And Spector will be eligible for parole in 2028.

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