The story of Albeth, Priscilla and Sherrell Paris – a.k.a. The Paris Sisters – has always been inextricably intertwined with that of Phil Spector. After all, the producer had one of his earliest hits in 1961 with “I Love How You Love Me,” written by Barry Mann and Larry Kolber and sung in soft, demure fashion by Priscilla with her sisters on sweet backgrounds. But The Paris Sisters’ career encompassed far more than just that Top 5 hit. Their story is filled with other names as illustrious as Spector’s, most notably Jack Nitzsche and Terry Melcher. Ace has recently told that story on the compilation that lives up to its name of Always Heavenly – The Paris Sisters Anthology. The 25-track compendium features five previously unreleased recordings and draws on the Sisters’ recordings at Columbia, Reprise, Mercury, Capitol and elsewhere to fully reveal the girl group’s dreamy and distinctive sounds.
The Paris Sisters actually began their recording career in the 1950s at the local Cavalier label and then at Decca and Imperial, but the (otherwise non-chronologically-sequenced) Anthology begins with “I Love How You Love Me.” Phil Spector recognized how to best arrange for the girls’ voices. As Sherrell recalled in Alec Palao’s comprehensive liner notes, “He definitely had a vision. He would pull one voice out, and another voice for the low note.” She added, “He wanted to go for a white group. We thought he was a genius.” Recording at his preferred stomping ground of Gold Star Studios, Spector worked his sonic wizardry with each sister at her own microphone (“Phil spent so much time doing this,” Sherrell commented about Spector’s in-studio set-up). Five of Spector’s productions appear on Always Heavenly, including his slow, Teddy Bears-esque ballad “Be My Boy,” the Spector/Doc Pomus-written “What Am I to Do,” Goffin and King’s weepy ode to devotion “He Knows I Love Him Too Much” and a rare song written by all three sisters, the swooning “Once Upon a While Ago.”
Terry Melcher produced a solitary “lost” single at Columbia for The Paris Sisters in 1963. At long last, both sides of the intended 45 premiere here. Melcher took a cue from Spector’s post-Paris Sisters productions for the big, thick sound of “Baby It’s Me,” co-written by Jackie DeShannon and Jack Nitzsche. The latter would go on to play an important role in the Sisters’ recordings. With its lightly Latin percussion, the L.A.-recorded cut even took on a bit of a New York girl group sound. The intended B-side, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s “Play It One More Time,” was bubbly, driving pop that emphasize the Sisters’ youth.
Producer Nick Venet concentrated on The Sisters’ sweet and breathy three-part harmonies for his 1964 recordings with them at Mercury; Venet also aimed their recordings more clearly towards the supper-club circuit. Hence the bright pop makeover of Charles Strouse and Lee Adams’ now-standard showtune “Once Upon a Time,” from the team’s short-lived musical All-American. The Mike Curb-written and produced 1965 recording of the romantic “Always Waitin'” featured a big, bold arrangement by the uncredited Jack Nitzsche. When Jimmy Bowen signed the Sisters to Reprise later in the year, Nitzsche would be brought on board as producer. Also from this period is a shimmering, slowed-down revival of Bobby Darin’s fizzy hit “Dream Lover” (1964) with prominent harpsichord and booming drums and Curb’s production of Priscilla’s heartbreaker, “Why Do I Take It from You” (1965).
At Reprise, Nitzsche pulled out the Wall of Sound stops on Priscilla’s own “My Good Friend.” Priscilla took on a smokier sound on her lead vocal, with the girls providing irresistible “Shoo-bee-doo-wop” harmonies on the string-drenched, rhythmically pulsating cut comparable to Nitzsche’s best work with Spector. Just as good is his majestic, echo-laden production of Mann and Weil’s “See That Boy,” recorded by The Righteous Brothers as “See That Girl.” Quite far-removed was another cut which showed the lead singer coming into her own as a songwriter as well. “I’m Me” and “You,” both from a 1966 single, are beautiful yet despairing. Nitzsche’s 1967 arrangement of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Long After Tonight Is All Over,” is impressive – and The Paris Sisters’ interpretation compares favorably to those by originator Jimmy Radcliffe as well as all-time greats Dusty Springfield and Irma Thomas.
Among the sparkling discoveries here is a previously unreleased 1966 Reprise recording, “When I’m Alone with You.” The P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri composition featured a typically immaculate Nitzsche arrangement (of both background vocals and the band) that hints at folk-rock, with a lead guitar possibly played by Sherrell.
The Paris Sisters reunited with Mike Curb following the conclusion of their Reprise contract in November 1967. Guitarist Don Peake, living with Priscilla at the time, helmed the lean but urgent and effective 1968 Capitol/Sidewalk recording of David Gates’ “Greener Days.” The Sidewalk material was recorded, per producer (and Albeth’s husband) Clancy Grass, with a smaller budget at Curb’s studio and included a fair amount of re-recordings which are not featured here. But tracks like Priscilla’s dark, haunting “A Long Way to Nowhere,” “Greener Days” and the rocking “Won’t You Help Me” show that the Sisters’ talents could thrive in any setting. Grass and Peake also oversaw the Sisters’ final recordings in 1968 for GNP Crescendo including “Stand Naked Clown,” the kind of stark drama to which Priscilla was increasingly attracted. The bright outtake “Then Came Love,” produced by Grass and Curb from the Sidewalk period (1967) has been unearthed for inclusion here, as has a fun and lively commercial jingle for Diet Rite soda (“Stay thin with the best-tasting cola of all!”).
Always Heavenly: The Paris Sisters Anthology proves an Ideal companion to another recent Ace girl-group release, The Murmaids’ A Few of the Things We Love. Always Heavenly boasts a beautiful 24-page booklet featuring copious photographs and memorabilia images as well as compilation producer Alec Palao’s notes which draw on new interviews with Sherrell, Albeth (who died during the production of the CD, in late 2014) and Clancy Grass. Nick Robbins has remastered its 25 tracks to the highest standard. The Paris Sisters’ career wasn’t a long one, relatively speaking, but the near-decade’s worth of recordings here reveal some of the most heartfelt girl-group pop ever recorded. You’ll love how you love them!
- I Love How You Love Me (Gregmark 6, 1961)
- When I’m Alone with You (rec. 1966 for Reprise, previously unreleased)
- Lonely Girl (MGM 13236, 1964)
- Be My Boy (Gregmark 2, 1961)
- My Good Friend (Reprise 0511, 1966)
- Baby That’s Me (rec. 1963 for Columbia, previously unreleased)
- Once Upon a Time (Mercury 72370, 1964)
- I Came a Long Way to Nowhere (Sidewalk LP T-5906, 1967)
- What Am I to Do (Gregmark 12, 1962)
- Play It One More Time (rec. 1963 for Columbia, previously unreleased)
- Always Waitin’ (Mercury 72468, 1965)
- He Knows I Love Him Too Much (Gregmark 10, 1962)
- I’m Me (Reprise 0472, 1966)
- Together (Sidewalk LP T-5906, 1967)
- See That Boy (Reprise LP 6259, 1967)
- Greener Days (Capitol 2081, 1968)
- Dream Lover (MGM 13236, 1964)
- Why Do I Take It From You (Mercury 72468, 1965)
- Won’t You Help Me (Sidewalk LP T-5906, 1967)
- Long After Tonight Is All Over (Reprise 0548, 1966)
- Stand Naked Clown (GNP Crescendo 410, 1968)
- Then Came Love (rec. 1967 for Sidewalk, previously unreleased)
- You (Reprise 0472, 1966)
- Once Upon a While Ago (Gregmark 13, 1962)
- Diet Rite Commercial (previously unreleased)
All tracks mono.