Hot on the heels of the critically acclaimed first-ever career retrospective highlighting the achievements of the prolific arranger/conductor/producer/composer comes this second volume of THE JACK NITZSCHE STORY. Incredibly, compilers Mick Patrick (who also penned the liner notes) and Tony Rounce have taken the original concept and made it even longer, wider, and deeper with this release.
Okay, it’s only five seconds longer. But where the first disc covered 1962-1979, this one examines the full expanse of Nitzsche’s output, from what is thought to be his first recorded composition in 1960 all the way to his final work a year before his death in 2000. And while the sequel carries on the collector-friendly tradition of its predecessor by boasting tons of rare tracks, it goes a step further through its inclusion of no fewer than five previously unreleased masterpieces. Among these is one by The Man himself, the instrumental Surf Finger, very much in the vein of his hit The Lonely Surfer.
The other first-time finds are equally exhilarating: there’s Donna Loren’s version of Mann/Weil/Spector’s Woman in Love (With You) and Bobby Vee’s 1965 recording of Like Someone in Love, for starters. Add to that a hot 1966 track by “the King of Northern Soul”, Nooney Rickett, and another by the Satisfactions, whose lead singer just happens to be Nitzsche’s then-wife Gracia, and you’ve already more than justified the cost of the disc.
Jack’s core constituency of girl-group and wall-of-sound enthusiasts is exceptionally well served here. Each of the unissued cuts described above satisfies on those levels; in addition, Merry Clayton’s It’s In His Kiss (the first recording of the song) makes its CD debut, as does Tammy Grimes’s towering and highly coveted single Nobody Needs Your Love More Than I Do. (In fact, out of all the cuts, fully half appear here in digital form for the first time.) Timi Yuro’s Teardrops ’Till Dawn ranks among her finest moments, and Ral Donner’s Don’t Put Your Heart In His Hand thrills with its palpable sensuality. Two better-known tunes, the Tubes’ Don’t Touch Me There and the Righteous Brothers’ Just Once in My Life, further showcase the talents of the co-architect of Phil Spector’s signature sound.
Regardless of one’s preferred musical style, though, no one leaves this musical banquet hungry. Blues fans will eat up the title track featuring Captain Beefheart, as well as the historic collaboration of John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal, and Miles Davis on Bank Robbery. Collectors of obscure original versions as well as cover-version fans will be rewarded with the Frankie Laine and Emil O’Connor tracks, respectively. Folk-rock aficionados will flip for the Gas Co, Everly Brothers, and Crazy Horse offerings. And for pure, exuberant sunshine pop, it’s hard to beat Zalman Yanovsky’s As Long As You’re Here or the Turtles’ You Know What I Mean. There’s even a detour to rootsy swamp-rock courtesy of the Neville Brothers and C.C. Adcock. In all cases, the singers deliver unusually strong, soulful performances no doubt inspired by Nitzsche’s involvement.
Wrap all this up in a painstakingly researched, extravagantly comprehensive, and beautifully designed package, and you have a fitting tribute to an immortal studio titan. For any artist to have achieved the level of quality of any of these recordings would be extraordinary. That Jack Nitzsche achieved all the successes (commercial or not) represented in the two volumes of this series, let alone the hundreds of others not yet compiled, is awe-inspiring. Essential stuff.
By David A Young