For nearly five decades, it simply hasn't been Christmas until the sweet and sultry, siren-like voice of Ronnie Spector rolls out of the speakers with her now-iconic versions of such Yuletide nuggets as "Sleigh Ride," "Frosty the Snowman," and "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." Ronnie's group, the Ronettes (2007 Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductees), recorded those holiday baubles with famed (now infamous) producer Phil Spector for his A Christmas Gift for You album in 1963, when his trademark Wall of Sound was in full flower. Aside from Christmas, the Ronettes were and remain profoundly influential, just beginning with the likes of Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, the Ramones, Amy Winehouse, and Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Their hits included "Baby I Love You" and "Walking in the Rain," both produced by Phil Spector, along with "Be My Baby," the still-thrilling 1963 single that's near perfection. Meanwhile, the bee-hived erstwhile Veronica Bennett practically secreted attitude, earning her latter-day citations as rock's original bad girl. Her short marriage to Phil Spector was unfortunate at best, but she retains the Spector name and has periodically resurfaced over the years, always at Christmas. This year she has a new EP out, Ronnie Spector's Best Christmas Ever. Which it isn't, if only in comparison to her grand legacy, but it is sufficiently delightful to shake your tinsel, her voice wonderfully undiminished, and the title track in particular approaching the magic of those '60s sessions. A few days after appearing on Letterman, Ronnie and her band pull into the Dakota for a pair of Christmastime shows that should be considered cherished gifts of the season.
Mondays, Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Dec. 19. Continues through Dec. 20, 2010