Hearing Is Believing - The Jack Nitzsche Story CD - Paper Reviews

"Hearing Is Believing" a printed record
I'm keen to feature all reviews, in print and on the web that have something of interest to say about the release of, "Hearing Is Believing". Lazy re-writes of the reviews of others which tend to litter the web are of no interest but favourable, or otherwise opinions are very welcome.
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The Independent 1 April 2005
Nitzsche was one of the backroom geniuses of pop, his contributions as arranger and pianist helping to define the golden age, his grandiose confections of big piano chords, tubular bells, sweeping strings, massive drums and harpsichords a natural fit for melodramatic balladeers such as PJ Proby and The Walker Brothers. He's best known as Phil Spector's arranger, but he also played piano on nearly all the Stones' sixties hits, and helped to launch singer-songwriters such as Neil Young, Tim Buckley and Buffy Sainte-Marie and new-wavers such as Mink DeVille and Graham Parker, before settling into the role of film composer, starting with Performance. This 26-track album avoids the Young, Spector and Stones material in favour of lesser-known but equally stylish creations such as Stevie Wonder's "Castles in the Sand" (complete with wave noises), Buckley's "It Happens Every Time", Buffy's version of Young's "Helpless", Doris Day's "Move Over Darling", Judy Henske's baroque-folk oddity "Road to Nowhere" and Jackie DeShannon's original "Needles and Pins". This last is especially illustrative of Nitzsche's innovative attitude to sound, featuring a "ghost" drum track alongside the main drum track, retained from a poorly erased earlier take. An outstanding account of an extraordinary talent.
Andy Gill

Q 4 Music May 2005 (pub. 02.04.2005)
Uneven selection from Stones/Spector collaborator
* * *
A Chicago native who started out as a music journalist, renaissance man Nitzsche did everything from arranging for Neil Young to co-writing the Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes power-ballad Up Where We Belong, before he died from a heart attack in 2000. Nevertheless, there's some aesthetic distance between creating the orchestral tornado of the Phil Spector produced River Deep Mountain High by Ike & Tina Turner (not included here) and being the proud father of Round Robin's Kick That Little Foot Sally Ann, a ludicrous '60s novelty song. Despite superb tracks from Doris Day, Gene McDaniels, Marianne Faithfull and Nitzsche's former wife Buffy Sainte Marie, the schmaltz that dominates suggests Nitzsche was only great when working with a true visionary such as Spector.
Garry Mulholland

First review of the CD I'd read and hardly a ringing endorsement. Pleased to note that Garry Mulholland's opinion seems to be a minority one.

Fact Sheet

Born in Chicago as Bernard Alfred Nitzsche in April 1937; died in Hollywood in Aug 2000 following a heart attack.
Phil Spector, according to Nitzsche, paid him a flat fee of $50 for his early arrangements.
Was behind the scores for several big Hollywood movies including An Officer And A Gentleman and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

Key Tracks
The Lonely Surfer, Jack Nitzsche, 1963
Mixed Up Shook Up Girl, Mink De Ville, 1977
Sister Morphine, Marianne Faithfull, 1969
Ashes The Rain & I, The James Gang, 1970
Hear them at mojo4music.com

Mojo 4 Music May 2005 (pub. 06.04.2005)
Man or superman?
* * * *

Twenty six songs from girl groups to art-house soundtracks from the man who helped to build the Wall Of Sound. By Sylvie Simmons.

HAVE YOU seen Nitzsche's discography? Go take a look. It's on his official website, www.spectropop.com, gratifyingly still up and running five years after his death. As you can see, its length and breadth are positively Serge Gainsbourgian. Nitzsche, during his 63 years on (and often at some considerable distance from) planet Earth, worked with pop artists, rock bands, singer-songwriters, symphony orchestras and movie stars, as a producer, arranger, keyboard player, song writer, soundtrack and classical music composer - even on occasion, an actor, assuming his role as a Hollywood Hills-dwelling coke-head in that episode of US TV serial Cops wasn't documentary footage from some of his wilder years.

Having been Phil Spector's right hand man at the height of his pomp and infamy, Nitzsche wasn't unfamiliar with some of the more, shall we say, eccentric Hollywood behaviour; the book Neil Young's long-suffering biographer Jimmy McDonough was working on with Nitzsche right up to his fatal heart attack will no doubt supply the details when it surfaces. Suffice to say, Nitzsche's is one of popular music's more fascinating tales, and soundtracked by a mountain of music, from The Rolling Stones to Doris Day, The Exorcist to The T.A.M.I Show, Soupy Sales(comedian) to Roosevelt 'Rosey' Greer (defence star with the L.A Dodgers). Neil Young, once a regular client (Nitzsche was the orchestral arranger on Harvest and Young's keyboard player in the Stray Gators on the notorious 1973 tour that resulted in Time Fades Away) described Nitzsche as "a creator on a par with Mozart and the composers of the Renaissance." Nitzsche called his pal a "millionaire who doesn't give a shit about anybody but himself" and dated the mother of his first child.

Which is all a round-about way of saying that it's a bit presumptuous to call a single CD compilation of 26 tracks by 23 artists (three of them Nitzsche) dating from 1962-'79 The Jack Nitzsche Story. A short sentence from several of its chapters, perhaps. But it is an heroic effort at representing some of the familiar and less so, kitsch, classic, beautiful and bonkers material in the bulging Nitzsche catalogue.

There's no Neil Young, no Exorcist, no T.A.M.I , Soupy or Rosey, no Rolling Stones, nor for that matter, much of what you'd hoped to hear (She's A Rebel!) from the spectacular Spector Wall Of Sound sessions. Then anyone who has ever tried compiling an album for release can tell sob-stories about the minefield of licensing problems that surround music's Great and not-so Good.

Doris Day, heavens be praised, made it, kittenishly crooning Move Over Darling, her frisky, big-in-1963-Britain hit. Nitzsche worked well with female voices - yes he was happy to smother them in sweet strings like every other arranger, but he could also do darkness and drama; Shadow Morton wasn't the only one able to turn a pop song into a Cinerama masterpiece. A shame, then, that Doris aside, just six females acts are on this collection, with at least two of them chosen as stand-ins for unattainable male artists, Neil Young and the Stones. Buffy St Marie gets the full-on country rock treatment for her overwrought Helpless cover (picture Knocking On Heaven's Door with female choirs and steel), but even Nitzsche's magic can save it from being a dog. Marianne Faithfull's version of Sister Morphine also gets an Americana production, with Nitzsche on organ adding the perfect mix of clapboard church innocence and This Wheel's On Fire darkness the Faithfull-Jagger co-write calls for. Nevertheless, it would have been nice to have been able to get Nitzsche's orchestrations for A Man Needs A Maid and his choral arrangements for You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Tight bastards.

Of the other women, Lesley Gore's No Matter What You Do is all hormonal teenage intensity - tough girl reduced to begging - amplified by Nitzsche's passionate arrangement, jagged guitar and deep, dirty horn; Jackie De Shannon's rendition of her and Nitzsche's song Needles And Pins is a piece of pop perfection; and Judy Henske's overwrought Road To Nowhere is up there with Garry Bonner's histrionic The Heart Of Juliet Jones as an example of how no record should be allowed to sound. There are times here when you sense the Wall Of Sound formula being thrown at everyone and sticking with varying degrees of success or failure. The failures, in fact, seem few (Bobby Darin's Not For Me), and easily outweighed by interesting near-misses (Lou Christie's Wild Life's In Season, Jewish music meets Greek chorus, anyone?) and spectacular successes. Bob Lind's Cheryl's Goin' Home is attractively schizophrenic with its merry sleigh bells, dark strings and Western cowboy riff; The Righteous Brothers' Hung On You, with its in harmonies and crescendos, is one big climax; The James Gang become psychedelic folkies on the wonderfully evocative Ashes, The Rain And I. And the out-and-out brilliance of the sound of Mink De Ville's Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl will make all other pop production sound inadequate.

Nitszche's film work is represented by his closing theme to One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, which likewise closes this album. With its spooky Theremin, strings and sleigh bells, it sounds like the ghost of Spector, haunting an insane asylum; just the job then. Another Jack Nitzsche instrumental opens the album - The Lonely Surfer, his sole hit single (no. 39 in the US charts in 1963), all sand-dry percussion, bleach-boned clunk and Spaghetti Western twang guitar. And a third instrumental, the aptly-titled Rumble, sits in the middle, playing chaperone to the cheesy Tropicalia of Round Robin's Kick That Little Foot Sally Ann and Little Stevie Wonder's curious, sea-and-gulls SFX-stuffed Castles In The Sand.

Comments Andrew Loog Oldham in the liner-notes (which also includes quotes from the likes of De Shannon, Henske, Lind, Christie and an old interview with Nitzsche himself) "It’s more than just the famed Nitzsche string lines - which we all know have given him legend status - it's the way he got the most out of (the song). No-one with ears needs to tell me Jack Nitzsche was brilliant." As the first half of the album's title says - accurately this time - Hearing Is Believing.


Jack Nitzsche spoke to Sylvie Simmons (in 1981)

How did you come to work with Doris Day?
I was friends with her son Terry Melcher, I did a lot of arrangements for him and one just happened to be his mother. Move Over Darling was the one that sold in London. Most of the stuff was never released. Let The Little Girl Limbo was one of them. Her husband was still alive at the time and he thought we were ruining her image.

How did you meet Phil Spector?
Lee Hazelwood split up with his partner and I did arrangements for him for free for office space. His ex partner Lester Sill came in one day and said Phil Spector was in LA and needed someone to do arrangements. someone that he could relate to.

What were the criteria?
We shouldn't get into that! We were able to understand each other real well. Have you met Phil? He was, uh, marching to a different drum. You've heard stories.There was the one where they hired this hooker and got that hotel down on 3rd near Fairfax - oh such terrible things - and Neil Temple and Tommy Tedesco nude in the hallway because Phil had locked them out of the room because they had offended the hooker It seems real childish now doesn't it?

You and Spector had 26 chart records in a row one year. Did you assume everything would be a hit?
It seemed that way. The record business was still finding its way and we were just kind of leading '63,'64. Everybody it seemed was trying to make Spector records It was a formula. The ones that came closest to the Spector sound that weren't as successful as I thought they should be: Jackie DeShannon, I really put my heart into those records with her.

Then you hooked up with Neil Young?
I had done some work for Charlie Green and Brian Stone (who) managed Sonny and Cher, Buffalo Springfield and Bob Lind - who I'd done records with too, Elusive Butterfly. I met Neil, we got along well and made records with the Buffalo Springfield without the Buffalo Springfield there. I encouraged Neil to go solo.

So you're the Yoko of Springfield?
That's what Jeannie LeTaylor said. Know who Jeannie was? Probably the first groupie - made clothes for all the rock stars. When I encouraged Neil to go solo she said I was the Devil.
Sylvie Simmons

The lead review in MOJO's 'Filter Reissues', Jack's work gets the attention it deserves. The piece covers 2 1/2 pages, a review of the new CD, a full-page picture and quotes from Sylvie's interview with Jack. (The complete interview is to be found at, Magazines...Nitzsche On the Rack.) The CD receives a positive four-stars from Sylvie but it is clear that many of her favourites are missing. Let's hope there are more volumes in "The Jack Nitzsche Story" to follow.

Q&A with Judy Henske

Singer Judy Henske - Nitzsche's friend and collaborator, the 'Legendary Queen of the Beatnicks' - recalls the methods in Jack's madness.

Was Jack a hard taskmaster in the studio?
Not at all. Nobody was more congenial in the studio than Jack. When we did "Road To Nowhere", he told me, "go and sing as if there's this huge orchestra coming towards you about to run you over. Sing like you're afraid and screaming!" Insane, yes but fun...

Jack died in 2000. When did you last see him?
I was watching TV with a friend. We were talking about Jack and the trouble he was in because we knew he was doing heavy drugs. He wasn't himself. Suddenly there he was on TV. It was that live police show, Cops. He was hog-tied in the middle of the road. They'd picked him up for waving a gun at someone. So the last time I saw him, in was in police custody on TV!

How would you sum up his legacy?
There was never, ever, in popular music a grander, more talented arranger than Jack and he literally gave his life for popular music. He loved it so much it became a madness. He went insane over music and he did all the drugs to maintain his intensity. He really was a music martyr.

Uncut Music May 2005 (pub. 07.04.2005)
Divine Madness
* * * * *
Long-overdue celebration of the Phil Spector collaborator, arranger, producer and composer who was a musical visionary in his own right

IT WAS PHIL SPECTOR'S WALL OF SOUND but it took the bricks and mortar of arranger Jack Nitzsche to holds it upright. Nor was it coincidence that Spector's glory years from '62 to '66 were those in which Nitzsche was at his side, not so much a willing apprentice as a vital accomplice. Together, they'd orchestrate such imortal sensory assaults as The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and Ike & Tina Turner's "River Deep Mountain High". Yet while the producer's heyday effectively ended with the latter (their final collaboration in March '66), that of his arranger had only just begun. Just compare their diverse fortunes four years down the line - Spector pessimistically putting paid to the '60s on The Beatles' already fated Let It Be, while Nitzsche looked towards to challenge of the new decade on The Rolling Stones Let It Bleed before embarking on a partnership with Neil Young.

Perhaps what's most impressive about this flabbergasting 26-track testament to Nitzsche's genius, both as a technician and a composer, is that it makes such an effortless claim for his place in the pantheon of all-time greats even in the absence of his biggest triumphs with Young and the Stones. In their place, Buffy Sainte-Marie's stirring version of CSN&Y's "Helpless" and Marianne Faithfull's 1969 "Sister Morphine" more than suffice as surrogates. Stevie Wonder, Mink DeVille, The Righteous Brothers, Lou Christie and The James Gang also provide a touch of familiarity amid such unknown pleasures as Judy Henske's "Road To Nowhere" and Nitzsche's own magnificent big-band explosion of Link Wray's "Rumble".

Closing on his Oscar-nominated theme to 1975's "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest", it's hard to imagine anyone other than a visionary with Nitzsche's Midas touch settling on a theremin trill against a tribal waltz for the soundtrack to a Native American hurling masonry through a window. Music this glorious is enough to drive anyone to do the same.
Simon Goddard

Uncut's half page review awards the CD five stars and features a cool 80s picture, a bearded Jack with Willy DeVille, and a Q&A session with Judy Henske.

The Daily Telegraph 9 April 2005

Jack Nitzsche is the unsung hero of 1960s pop. As Phil Spector's long-time arranger, he was the architect behind the Wall Of Sound, contributed to many of the Stones' late 1960's album's and played with Neil Young. But he was also an accomplished producer and songwriter, as this largely chronological collection of his brilliant career between 1962 and 1979 sets out to show.

A long-term drug user, Nitzsche died of a heart attack in 2000. But listening to Hearing Is Believing, it's clear his addiction to music held a much stronger spell over him. In the sleeve notes, Nitzsche's son says the house was always filled with music - everything from Delta blues to Balinese gamelan. And this overarching obsession with sound is evident in every cut he worked on.

This compilation manages to join the dots between Doris Day, Tim Buckley and Marianne Faithfull. But it's the yearning teen anthems - like the Paris Sister's Always Waitin and Bobby Darin's Not For Me - that bear the full force of Nitzsche's passion, with epic orchestrations that make a virtue out of melancholy.
Chris Campion

Record Collector May 2005 (pub. 12.04.2005)
Record Collector* * *
Career overview of master arranger

Often overshadowed by his mentor Phil Spector, Jack Nitzsche enjoyed a 40-year career as a writer, arranger, producer, artist and inspiration. This collection spans but 17 of those yet barely scratches the surface.
By the time he was 26, Nitzsche had already created the wall of sound with Spector, rejuvenated the careers of 50s crooners Frankie Laine and Doris Day and invented folk-rock with Jackie DeShannon. His solo debut The Lonely Surfer was like Ennio Morricone scoring a teen flick and the follow-up, a cover of Link Wray's Rumble, caused its writer to reinvent the song in Nitzsche's image. During the 60s the hits kept coming with Bobby Darin, 'Little' Stevie Wonder. The Righteous Brothers and P.J. Proby. By 1966, Nitzsche and Spector were history. However the haunting string arrangements and cathedral-sized productions that had fast become Nitzsche's trademark reached something of a pinnacle with Judy Henske's doom-laden Road To Nowhee, a record so intense that it got Henske thrown off Reprise. Eschewing psychedelia, Nitzsche nonetheless became embrolied in the counter culture through his work on Tim Buckley's It Happens Every Time, Marianne Faithfull's Sister Morphine and Buffalo Springfield's Expecting To Fly. It was here that he met Neil Young and began an enduring relationship that saw Nitzsche work on Young's world-beating Harvest album and sign up as a member of Crazy Horse during their craziest months. However possibly the greatest example of 'Nitzschean' on offer can be found on The James Gang's Ashes, The Rain & I where a so-so acoustic doodle is sabotaged by Nitzsche and transformed into a five minute epic of towering gothic beauty.
Andy Morten

Review from The Eye # 15 free with The Times 16 April 2005
* * * *

A reclusive but talented producer, Jack Nitzsche worked with almost everyone in the rock world, from the Rolling Stones (he plays keyboards on Paint It Black to Neil Young. This tribute is an entertaining cross-section of his work from his early 1960s instrumental hit The Lonely Surfer, through the Jackie DeShannon classic Needles And Pins, to later work such as You Can't Be Too Strong by Graham Parker, and Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl by Mink DeVille.

Like his mentor, Phil Spector, Nitzsche was a perfectionist who was able to inspire bravura performences from all his artists - whether it was Doris Day singing Move Over Darling or Marianne Faithful on Sister Morphine.
John Clarke

Los Angeles Times 17 April 2005

Meet an unlikely bad boy
So what did Jack Nitzsche do to get himself a career retrospective CD, most of whose 26 tracks feature his work as an arranger?

For one thing, Nitzsche, who died in 2000 of cardiac arrest at age 63, lived like a singer or a lead guitarist. He indulged in the excesses of the rock lifestyle, took up with actresses (Carrie Snodgress) and singers (Buffy Sainte-Marie, his wife for a time), got arrested here and there, and generally assumed an aura of eccentric hipster cool. He also was in the right place at the right time, hooking up with such upward-bound engines as Phil Spector, the Rolling Stones and Neil Young. And he ultimately transcended the role of arranger, becoming a producer, songwriter, recording artist and, finally, an Academy Award-winning film composer.

"The Jack Nitzsche Story: Hearing Is Believing," out this month on London-based Ace Records, isn't the definitive overview of this broad career. Because of licensing expenses and restrictions, some of Nitzsche's most notable work is absent - his landmark "Performance" film score, the Stones songs featuring his piano playing ("Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing in the Shadows") and choral arrangements ("You Can't Always Get What You Want"), such Spector classics as Ike & Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High," and Young's Buffalo Springfield track "Expecting to Fly." In relying on lesser-known work, though, the collection gains the element of surprise, and still demonstrates Nitzsche's distinctive touch. Classically trained and rock-'n'-roll inclined, he was an admirer of Stan Applebaum's arrangements on records by the Drifters and other Leiber & Stoller R&B acts, and he would call on that sensibility in his role as a key architect of Spector's "wall of sound" - represented on "Hearing" by the Righteous Brothers' typically majestic "Hung on You."

Even in his earlier, more anonymous assignments in the early 1960s, Nitzsche often managed to assert his individuality. In Bobby Darin's "Not for Me," a crazed piano solo drops in from nowhere. He similarly shook up conventional proceedings behind Frankie Laine and Eddie Hodges with incongruently aggressive guitar leads. And Jackie DeShannon's "Needles and Pins," which Nitzsche co-wrote with Sonny Bono and also arranged, formed an early blueprint for the folk-rock genre. The artists represented on the CD form a remarkably diverse roster - Doris Day and Stevie Wonder, Tim Buckley and Graham Parker, Marianne Faithfull and the James Gang. But when it comes to a Nitzsche oeuvre, the key name is Jack Nitzsche. The album opens with his instrumental "The Lonely Surfer," which made the Top 40 in 1963, and ends with his closing theme from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

In his own music (film scores and instrumental albums such as "St. Giles Cripplegate"), Nitzsche conjured an atmosphere and mystique entirely his own. It's a musical world that all but demands a second Nitzsche retrospective.
Richard Cromelin

The Phoenix New Times21 April 2005

With the exception of Phil Spector, Jack Nitzsche was the greatest arranger, musician and producer of the early rock era. Unlike Spector, Nitzsche didn't allow himself to get stuck in a musical rut. He kept producing vital work, including soundtrack scores for films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, until his death in 2000. He even won an Oscar in 1983 for "Up Where We Belong," from An Officer and a Gentleman, co-written with his soon-to-be-wife Buffy Sainte-Marie. This British compilation (Nitzsche was born in England) crams 26 gems from Nitzsche's career onto one CD. Tracks range from the symphonic sweep of "The Lonely Surfer," Nitzsche's first hit under his own name, to "Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl" by New Wave soul crooner Mink DeVille. The set includes work by talents as diverse as Stevie Wonder, Marianne Faithfull and Bobby Darin and shows off a restless musical spirit whose good taste brought out the best in every artist he worked with.
J. Poet

Billboard magazine(dated) 30 April 2005

Nitzsche is best-known as the arranger/ conductor on most of Phil Spector's greatest hits, piano player for the early Rolling Stones and a studio foil for Neil Young. Nitzsche, who died in 2000, was a pervasive presence in Los Angeles pop music. This 26-song compilation foresakes his many hits for obscure gems and fabulous no-hit wonders. It is music of bipolar extremes: The cocky confidence of Gene McDaniels' "Walk With a Winner" is countered by the suicidal wail of "But Not for Me," which you wouldn't guess is Bobby Darin. Among other surprises: Lou Christie goes psychedelic, Frankie Laine is nearly hip, and Round Robin offers one of the catchiest novelty songs ever ("Kick That Little Foot Sally Ann"). Distributed in the United States by DNA and City Hall, this is music from a phantom jukebox that sounds collectively like a parallel secret history of pop.
Wayne Robins

Tampa Tribune 27 May 2005

Jack Nitzsche was an amazing guy who cooked up arrangements for the best Phil Spector productions, played keyboards on the best early Stones records, and produced the most "out-there" recordings for Neil Young (both with Buffalo Springfield and early solo stuff). None of that work is on this 26-song collection.
Well, there's one Spector production of the Righteous Brothers, but "Hearing Is Believing" is the other side of the Jack Nitzsche story.
Instead, there's Nitzsche's own orchestral takes on "Rumble" and "The Lonely Surfer," tympani-heavy arrangements for Jackie DeShannon, P.J. Proby, Bobby Darin (!) and other '60s artists, and a handful of his '70s productions and film scores (capped by his Academy Award-nominated closing theme for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"). A solid sampler 'til the box set comes out.
Mike O'Neill

Rolling Stone17 May 2005

Jack Nitzsche (1937 - 2000) did not see much daylight in the Sixties and early Seventies. He was on so many of the era's important, successful records as a producer, arranger, songwriter and pianist that he never seemed to leave the studio. Most of Nitzsche's greatest triumphs are absent here due to licensing issues: his session work for Neil Young and the Rolling Stones; hit scores for the Crystals and the Ronettes, among others; as Phil Spector's in-house arranger in the early Sixties; hot tracks by Ringo Starr, the Turtles and Captain Beefheart. What is here is a colorful memorial to Nitzsche's sweeping genius: the big sugar of Frankie Laine's "Don’t Make My Baby Blue" (1963); the titanic agony of "Hung on You," by the Righteous Brothers (1965); the dark rapture of Marianne Faithfull's original ’69 reading of the Stones’ "Sister Morphine"; the street-wise soul of Nitzsche’s productions for Mink DeVille and Graham Parker. Nitzsche also recorded on his own with deliciously eccentric results, like this set’s ’63 cover of Link Wray’s distorted-guitar classic "Rumble" - rearranged for big band, a wall of brass blowing Wray’s riffs with natural fuzz.
David Fricke

Rock & Rap ConfidentialJune 2005

A beautiful survey of what was best about rock and soul music in the '60s and the '70s: "Needles and Pins," "The Lonely Surfer," "Castles in the Sand," "Sister Morphine," all the way up to "You Can't Be Too Strong," and that's without anything Nitzsche produced for Neil Young. Instead, we get tracks by Frankie Laine, Jackie DeShannon, Bobby Darin, Stevie Wonder, Tim Buckley, the James Gang, and Mink Deville. and that's without mentioning Phil Spector, whose every hit Nitzsche arranged. Nitzsche wrote, arranged, conducted and produced the 26 brilliant tracks here. You can't really understand the period unless you understand his influence on it.
edited by Dave Marsh

HARPJune 2005

Unless his 1963 Top 40 hit "The Lonely Surfer" is somewhere in your collection, you can probably be forgiven if you’ve never heard of the late Jack Nitzsche: You’d have to have been one of those obsessives who reads the fine print on record/CD sleeves to have noticed his name. If you were, then you would know that Nitzsche was once ubiquitous, having arranged many of Phil Spector’s greatest productions, co-written (with Sonny Bono!) the Searchers’ "Needles And Pins", and either produced, arranged, written for or performed with a laundry list of giants that includes Neil Young and the Stones. This single-disc, U.K.-import retrospective only scratches the surface of Nitzsche’s work, but what a rich surface it is: sundry recordings from the likes of Bobby Darin, Tim Buckley, Stevie Wonder, Marianne Faithfull and Doris Day (yep, really) amply showcase the value of having Nitzsche involved with a session. Even new wavers Graham Parker and Mink DeVille called on Nitzsche’s expertise. Only his considerable film score work is short-changed here - the closing theme from the Oscar-nominated One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest wraps up the set - but surely some enterprising compiler will tackle that bounty before long.
Jeff Tamarkin

Mix on Line 1 July 2005

One of the more colorful and eccentric characters the music biz has produced, Jack Nitzsche (1937-2000) was an extraordinary producer, arranger, composer and musician; both brilliant and impossible to pigeon-hole. This retrospective doesn't tell the whole story but hits numerous highlights - from his instrumental classic "The Lonely Surfer" through tunes he cut with various pop icons such as Frankie Lane, Bobby Darin, the Righteous Brothers and Jackie DeShannon (his own "Needles and Pins"), and, even better, rock artists such as Marianne Faithfull, the James Gang, Mink DeVille and Graham Parker. Conspicuously missing, however, is Buffalo Springfield's "Expecting to Fly" or anything from Neil Young's eponymous debut album. However, closing with Nitzsche's haunting theme from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" was a very cool touch.
Recorded at a whole mess of different studios by different people.
Blair Jackson

LA Weekly 22 July 2005

You Won’t Forget Him
Supercool dead producer finally gets his own disc

Neil Young said of iconoclastic ’60s producer-arranger Jack Nitzsche: Jack was pretty steady... He was just fucked up all the time.

Jack Nitzsche (1937-2000) was one of the greatest arrangers at the dawn of teenager music, yet it’s hard to fathom that the 26 songs collected on Hearing is Believing all have his thumbprint on them, so wide and adept is his reach. Extending far beyond Nitzsche’s bubblegum beginnings, this retrospective compilation is crammed with disparate sounds from clashing musical eras, from the Paris Sisters to the Righteous Brothers to the James Gang.

Nitzsche’s iconoclastic, experimental work as both arranger and producer bridged vast musical and pop-cultural gaps: He was the main mason of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound; he helped present the seminal T.A.M.I. Show concert and film (1965), which united a generation of pop icons including James Brown and the Beach Boys; he was also the key-banger for the Rolling Stones on their ABKCO records and singles. After he swathed the latter in choirs, congas and French horns for "You Can’t Always Get What You Want," and nearly drowned Neil Young in symphonic strings for "A Man Needs a Maid," film scoring was a natural next step.

Hearing Is Believing includes some of his destabilized film-score work (his love of wine and pills is renowned), from The Exorcist to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and these compositions blend comfortably with the rest of the collection’s deep cuts, singles and rarities. (This survey is hardly complete, but it does justice to its subject.)

A student of every conceivable form of music, from mariachi to Native American drumming, Nitzsche infused his compositions with woozy, drunken bravado: Opener "The Lonely Surfer" is a twangy surf instrumental that soars to the heavens; on "Not for Me," Bobby Darin fights it out with a greaser guitar and hop-head piano. Nitzsche’s version of Link Wray’s "Rumble" honks and lurches, a Frankenstein comprised of equal parts raucous ’50’s R&B and Richard Wagner (the familial dropping of 'e' from his name does not disguise his roots reaching back to philosopher Nietzsche).

By the end of the ’60s, Nitzsche’s sonic palette had evolved to encompass a paradox of lush wiriness: Dobro, harpsichord and pit orchestra converge on the James Gang as they go for baroque amid the sirocco winds on "Ashes, the Rain & I." The disc’s peak is Marianne Faithfull’s fraught mewls on "Sister Morphine"; under Nitzsche’s arrangement, the instruments - played by the Stones and Ry Cooder - nod in and out of consciousness.

It all winds down with the closing theme from his Academy-nominated Cuckoo’s Nest. A delirious mélange of rubbed wineglasses, singing saw, sleigh bells, tribal tom-toms and orchestra, what might be chaotic, in Nitzsche’s hands, feels laconic and laid-back, never losing its elegance no matter how wasted it is. Or as Neil Young once put it, "Jack was pretty steady . . . He was just fucked up all the time.
Andy Beta

Magnet real music alternatives July/August 2005

While most rock fans know Nitzsche through his work with the Stones and Neil Young, his hand in an earlier generation's music bordered on Zelig-like. As chronicled on this 26-song collection of key arranging/producing highlights, Nitzsche's presence was felt in everything from orchestral surf rock (solo hit "The Lonely Surfer") and femme pop (Jackie DeShannon's "Needles And Pins") to Motown (Stevie Wonder's Castle In The Sand") and Phil Spector (the Righteous Brothers' "Hung On You"). By the late '70s, soundtrack work beckoned, although the inclusion here of cuts Nitzsche produced for Mink DeVille and Graham Parker during the heyday of new wave is testimony to the man's far-reaching taste and influence.
Bonus Material: The booklet includes previously unseen photos of Nitzsche obtained from his son's archives.
Fred Mills

Reviews kindly supplied by Susan Clary, Mick Patrick and Harry Young.

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