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Jack Nitzsche

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In 2005, Ace Records assembled The Jack Nitzsche Story - Hearing is Believing: 1962 -- 1979 containing many of Nitzsche's key productions and arrangements -- tracks by the Righteous Brothers, Jackie DeShannon, Tim Buckley, Marianne Faithfull, the James Gang, etc. Now comes Volume 2, subtitled Hard Workin' Man (Ace), diligently annotated across a 24-page booklet and further evidence of how Nitzsche struck a Zelig-like presence in the music world up until his death in 2000.

The title track is the legendary Captain Beefheart number Nitzsche wrote and arranged for the 1978 Paul Schrader film Blue Collar; an unapologetic Muddy Waters/Bo Diddley ripoff, it features a visceral yet curiously minimal vocal from Beef and some sizzling Ry Cooder slide guitar. Also on the rock/blues end of the spectrum: CC Adcock's twang-stomper "Stealin' All Day," from '99, one of Nitzsche's final productions; a boogie summit between John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal and Miles Davis called "Bank Robbery," from Dennis Hopper's 1990 noir film The Hot Spot; and tracks by the Monkees, Turtles, Tubes and Crazy Horse. (None of Nitzsche's Rolling Stones or Neil Young work could be licensed for either anthology.)

But it's the over-the-top, Phil Spector-inspired pop that really grabs you by the ears. You may cringe as schmaltz merchant Frankie Laine attempts to channel the Righteous Brothers on "I'm Gonna Be Strong" or when Tammy Grimes morphs into Scott Walker during "Nobody Needs Your Love More Than I Do." The payoff, however, comes with the actual Righteous Brothers themselves on "Just Once In My Life," Nitzsche-arranged and Spector-produced, as well as with a young, pre-"Gimme Shelter" Merry Clayton shoop-shooping her distinctive wail across the girl group-styled "It's In His Kiss."

Hard Workin' Man is somewhat spottier than Hearing is Believing, but in its eccentricity and offbeat charm it's no less fascinating -- just like the notoriously eccentric Nitzsche was himself.

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