A Jack Nitzsche collection has been a long time coming, it's just a shame that it happened 5 years after he passed away in 2000. Considering how extensive his body of work was, it's a wonder a compilation like The Jack Nitzsche Story: Hearing Is Believing 1962-1979 was even possible to put together, so it's great that the Ace label out of the UK were able to do it. And it's a fine job, with a hope that more compilations will follow.
Jack Nitzsche was best known for his work with Phil Spector, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, and his soundtrack work. For 60s music lovers, he's also known for his work on a myriad of lesser known but no less exciting work. Hearing Is Believing does a great job of covering all of these bases with what licensing was available.
There are 3 Jack Nitzsche solo tracks featured here. The first is The Lonely Surfer from the album of the same name, a surf meets western theme which Nitzsche recorded in 1963, early in his career when given the chance to stretch out for an album of his own work. It does a good job of presenting Nitzsche's Spectorian influenced, fuzzed out approach as well as his more cinematic side. He also recorded a cover of Link Wray's Rumble, which is another more cinematic approach compared to the raw sound of the original. And finally the set closes with the Closing Theme to Nitzsche's award winning soundtrack from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. A beautiful work unto itself, thanks to the unique instrumentation like the use of wine glasses to create the eery theme melody, it's a fitting ending.
It's a shame that nothing was included from Nitzsche's St Giles Cripplegate, which was the album that set the pace for all of his soundtrack work (and which was included on the Rhino Handmade compilation Three Piece Suite: The Reprise Recordings 1971-1973).
Due to licensing, the tracks included on this compilation covering his most well known work are Hung on You by The Righteous Brothers (produced by Phil Spector), Sister Morphine by Marianne Faithfull (produced by Mick Jagger and featuring members of The Rolling Stones with Ry Cooder), and Helpless by Buffy Sainte-Marie (the Neil Young song). This ends up being the least representative of Nitzsche's most famous work, but seeing as how you can find Phil Spector, Rolling Stones, or Neil Young recordings elsewhere quite easily makes these replacements ok.
Beyond people like Phil Spector or Mick Jagger, Nitzsche also worked with:
- Sonny Bono - who helped Nitzsche get started in the biz - Bob Lind is heard here singing a Dylanesque tune called Cheryl's Goin' Home which Sonny Bono covered on his Inner Views album (recently reissued on Rhino Handmade), as well as on the Sonny & Cher album In Case You're in Love.
- Terry Melcher - Doris Day's son - Terry got Nitzsche to work some girl group magic on some Doris Day recordings, and Move Over Darling is a sublime result.
- Mike Curb - king of the exploitation soundtrack - Curb produced the meltingly sweet Always Waitin' by The Paris Sisters with Nitzsche working that Spectorian magic.
- Dick Glasser - a sampling of Glasser's work can be found on Come To The Sunshine: Soft Pop Nuggets from the WEA Vaults - here we hear Glasser's production of the Nitzsche co-penned (with Sonny Bono) Jackie DeShannon tune Needles and Pins which was one of the first tunes to combine folk rock guitars with pop songwriting and was later covered by The Searchers on their It's The Searchers album.
- Quincy Jones - Jones discovered Lesley Gore and with Nitzsche's help they worked some incredible magic on some of Gore's best tunes - here we hear her letting loose the rocker in her soul on No Matter What You Do (a tune co-written by Dick St John, one half of Dick & Dee Dee) - Nitzsche worked some magic on another Lesley Gore tune called Baby That's Me (not included here), a song the phenomenal folk inspired girl group The Cake also recorded (without Nitzsche's involvement, though it sounds incredibly like his work and he did co-write the song with Jackie DeShannon) which is the most missed track opportunity from this collection - both albums by The Cake must be reissued soon (but probably won't be).
- Hal Davis - the producer for Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 is heard here working with Nitzsche on an early Stevie Wonder tune called Castles in the Sand.
- Bobby Darin - Nitzsche worked on the best tracks from Darin's 18 Yellow Roses - the title track which was a hit, and the B-side, Not for Me which is included here and has a Drifters sound to it - in fact Nitzsche often gave the male singers he worked with at this time a Drifters sound, like with Frankie Laine's Don't Make My Baby Blue which has a fuzzed out Save The Last Dance For Me sound to it, or Walk With a Winner by Gene McDaniels which is a Bacharachian type tune - this sound led up to Nitzsche's work with The Walker Brothers (sadly, not included here) who indeed even recorded Another Tear Falls, a tune Gene McDaniels also recorded.
- Paul Rothchild - the producer for The Doors at Elektra Records, Rothchild and Nitzsche worked together on the haunting sounds of Tim Buckley's It Happens Every Time from his 1966 debut - listen for Van Dyke Parks' keyboards and the lovely Nitzsche string arrangement.
A lot of these tracks feature the girl group The Blossoms (one of which was married to Nitzsche) which is an added bonus for those of us who like the girl group vocals. It's too bad more girl group tracks like The Satisfactions' Daddy You Just Gotta Let Him In couldn't also be included (though that track has been reissued recently on the RPM compilation Girls Go Zonk).
Also, the Chubby Checker sound-a-like of Kick That Little Foot Sally Ann by Round Robin and the fuzzy teen pop of Seein' Is Believin' by Eddie Hodges both buzz with early 60s pop as well as some great girl group backing vocals.
Nitzsche worked a bunch in the mid to late 1960s on a handful of gummy pop, novelty tunes and some obscure psych sounding recordings. I Could Be So Good to You by Don & the Goodtimes is Nitzsche's Beach Boys inspired pop classic from 1967 which showed the band working with a more sophisticated sound at the same time that they were shown selling ice cream on the front cover of the album So Good. It was an interesting and under appreciated stop gap for Don Gallucci before he went on to produce The Stooges' Fun House.
Nitzsche did some work with both The Turtles and Petula Clark (un-credited), as well as with Garry Bonner, part of the songwriting team Bonner/Gordon, who wrote a ton of songs for both The Turtles and Petula Clark, amongst other acts. We don't get to hear anything from The Turtles and Petula Clark, but we do get the ultra rare Garry Bonner single called Heart of Juliet Jones which is a soulful gem great to finally hear on cd. P.J. Proby's You Make Me Feel Like Someone mines a similar soulful sound, that Nitzsche would work also on The Walker Brothers' Love Her (not included here).
The Gerry Goffin/Carole King song Road to Nowhere was covered by a myriad of artist in the late 60s including Hearts and Flowers and Beverly Williams on the Boy Trouble: Garpax Girls compilation (Beverly was a real gem on this compilation and really one of the few reasons to check it out). Here we get to hear Judy Henske's version of Road to Nowhere which echoes with a faraway sound and some Cher-like vocals from Henske.
Lou Christie's cultural clash called Wild Life's in Season is one of the stranger late 60s pop meets psychedelic melodies you will hear. This track shows the experiemental side of Nitzsche which he would later employ to full effect on his soundtracks.
There's a handful of more folk inspired sides from the 1970s including Ashes, The Rain & I by The James Gang (surely, directly inspired by Nitzsche's work with such lost 60s classics as The Gentle Soul, sadly not included here, where Nitzsche worked with Ry Cooder and Van Dyke Parks - their Tell Me Love would've been perfect to include), Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl by Mink DeVille (sounding like the Stones' in their 70s country inspired mode), and You Can't Be Too Strong by Graham Parker (a Bruce Springsteen type tune) which round out the compilation and show some of Nitzsche's work around the time that he also delved more fully into the soundtrack world.