Arrangers are truly the unsung heroes of rock'n'roll. Stanley Applebaum, Riley C Hampton, III, Robert Mersey, Paul Riser, Perry Botkin, Jr, Nick De Caro, Garry Sherman, Harold Battiste, Alan Lorber, Herb Bernstein, Jimmie Haskell, Gene Page, Claus Ogerman, Charles Callelo, Bert Keyes, Belford C Hendricks these consummate orchestrators (and many others like them) deserve anthologising. Peers, musos and aficionados laud them, yet they remain virtually anonymous to the public at large. One of the most illustrious of their number, the late Jack Nitzsche, is the subject of HEARING IS BELIEVING - one of this month's key releases from Ace, and an oeuvre-defining compendium that will hopefully open the door for other similar sets from his contemporaries in the future.
Jack Nitzsche's legend rests on four key career phases: as the arranger of a string of classic recordings that were produced by Phil Spector, exemplified here by the Righteous Brothers' Hung On You; his long association with the Rolling Stones, illustrated with Marianne Faithfull's Sister Morphine, a Stones record in all but name; a lengthy on-off working relationship (and friendship) with Neil Young, instanced via Buffy Sainte-Marie's recording of Young's composition, Helpless, backed by his musical cohorts Crazy Horse; and the decades Jack spent scoring motion pictures, symbolised by One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, from his Academy Award-nominated soundtrack to the Milos Forman movie.
However, there are many additional elements to the Jack Nitzsche story. This set serves to illustrate them all: from Nitzsche's 60s work as a recording artist in his own right (check out both The Lonely Surfer, and his big band bash at Link Wray's Rumble, which actually manages to out-menace Link); to the composer of hit songs (no, we're afraid the Searchers did not write Needles And Pins); his wholly-successful attempts to update the sound of vintage 50s hitmakers Doris Day and Frankie Laine; his inventive charts for mid- 60s folk rockers Judy Henske, Bob Lind and the young Tim Buckley.
The high regard in which Jack was held by his fellow songwriters, and by those whose records he produced, can be seen in the specially-written testimonials inside our CD booklet from Jackie De Shannon, Lou Christie, Andrew Loog Oldham, Judy Henske and Bob Lind. A personal memoir of Jack by his friend of over 25 years, the artist Hudson Marquez, is also included, as well as a family memoir by Jack's son Jack Jr, who has been so helpful to us throughout every stage of this project's realisation, and who provided most of the CD booklet's stunning, never before seen photos and ephemera from his dad's own archive.
Jack Nitzsche's multi-faceted skills and the sheer range of his work makes it very hard to sum up his career in the finite running time of just one CD, but as co-compilers we hope that our selection will be considered as a representative cross section of what the man was all about.
We have endeavoured to include a diversity of material, and one that shows off every facet of Jack's talents. If we show a bias towards any one aspect of Jack, we cheerfully admit that it's towards his amazing string arrangements which just seem to get better and better down the years, and which are heard at their early best on "Little" Stevie Wonder's Castles In The Sand, where the violins will break your heart, and latterly on the James Gang's Ashes, The Rain And I where they will take your breath away as they hijack the track from Joe Walsh and his confreres. But there was nothing musical that this amazing man could not do infinitely better than almost everyone else, as the listener will have plenty of opportunity to see hear for themselves.
For once, here's a title that really tells it like it is where Bernard Alfred "Jack" Nitzsche is concerned, hearing absolutely IS "believing".
By TONY ROUNCE and MICK PATRICK