May 10, 2005
Pop/Rock, Surf, Contemporary Pop/Rock, Early Pop/Rock, Baroque Pop

Album Review

Jack Nitzsche was one of the true wildmen of American popular music. His reputation was made as arranger on Phil Spector's classic recordings and a pillar of his Wrecking Crew, but his reach is so much wider and deeper than that that's it's a wonder that Hearing Is Believing isn't a multi-disc box set instead of a 26-track, single-CD compilation. Indeed, his long association with figures like the Rolling Stones and Neil Young, his film scores (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest among them), his work as a conductor and producer with the likes of not only the legendary Judy Henske and Link Wray but also Mink Deville, as well as a recording artist in his own right -- his Lonely Surfer album from 1963 is widely regarded as a classic of the genre -- classify him as a true journeyman. And if all that weren't enough, he co-wrote Jackie DeShannon's monster smash "Needles and Pins" in 1963 with another Spector associate, Sonny Bono! Hearing Is Believing contains 26 cuts, nearly all of them prime. What is here is amazing: the aforementioned DeShannon single, Stevie Wonder's "Castles in the Sand," Lesley Gore's "No Matter What You Do," Link Wray's "Rumble," Graham Parker & the Rumour's "You Can't Be Too Strong," Henske's edgy "Road to Nowhere," Gene McDaniels' "Walk With a Winner," Bobby Darin's "Not for Me," the Righteous Brothers' "Hung on You," Lou Christie's "Wild Life's in Season," Tim Buckley's "It Happens Every Time," and Doris Day's "Move Over Darling!" How's that for diversity? The thread that runs trough it all: Nitzsche's genius as an arranger -- his ability to color a song just the shade it should be and give it exactly what it needed -- made him an artist in the studio, someone who could create masterpieces from chord changes and simple melodies. While the producer looked for a sound, Nitzsche made that sound live. It's true that licensing caused some problems in the contents table (perhaps that there's no box set?) but it's a small complaint overall. The Rolling Stones are not here in name, but Marianne Faithfull and "Sister Morphine" are, with the band playing behind her. Young isn't here in name, but Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Helpless" is a stellar addition anyway because Young's band, Crazy Horse, is backing her. The set is bookended and riddled with Nitzsche's own work -- the title track "The Lonely Surfer," his own version of "Rumble," and the theme song "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."." The CD package comes with a booklet chock-full of notes by Mick Patrick, and reminiscences by many of the artists and producers who worked with him. There are also some fine rare photographs. The music found here inspires, awes, and delights. Nitzsche deserves more than this of course, but it's a welcome first step thanks to Ace. Highly recommended.
Thom Jurek, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. The Lonely Surfer
  2. Don't Make My Baby Blue
  3. Needles and Pins
  4. Seein' Is Believin'
  5. Not for Me
  6. Move Over Darling
  7. Castles in the Sand
  8. Rumble
  9. Kick That Little Foot Sally Ann
  10. Always Waitin'
  11. Walk With a Winner
  12. No Matter What You Do
  13. Hung on You
  14. Cheryl's Goin' Home
  15. I Could Be So Good to You
  16. Road to Nowhere
  17. The Heart of Juliet Jones
  18. Wild Life's in Season
  19. You Make Me Feel Like Someone
  20. It Happens Every Time
  21. Sister Morphine
  22. Ashes, The Rain & I
  23. Helpless
  24. Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl
  25. You Can't Be Too Strong
  26. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Closing Theme)