Jack Nitzsche: The Lonely Surfer

Solo debut of legendary pop arranger

Producer, arranger, soundtrack composer and songwriter Jack Nitzsche had only brief chart fame under his own name, with the title track of this album having reached #39 on the singles chart in 1963. But it was under the names of the Crystals, Ronettes, Ike & Tina Turner, the Rolling Stones and dozens of others that his memorable arrangements, orchestrations, and in the case of the Seachers’ “Needles and Pins,” songs, had their most significant impact on the pop market. For his full album follow-up to the fluke hit single, Nitzsche penned a handful of original tunes and charted new orchestrations for pop standards and movie themes, including a swinging run at Elmer Bernstein’s theme from “The Magnificent Seven” and a dramatic rendering of “More,” the theme from Mondo Cane. He borrows his own hook from “Needles and Pins” for the Mexicali-tinged “Puerto Vallarta,” and the string line of “Theme for a Broken Heart” seems to be drawn from Jagger & Richards’ “Blue Turns to Grey.” There’s plenty of low twanging baritone guitar and tympani throughout, demonstrating Nitzsche’s mastery of weaving together pop and orchestral elements. Apart from the title track, a cover of Lee Hazlewood’s “Baja” (which was a contemporaneous hit for the Astronauts), and the bass-twanging “Beyond the Surf,” there’s nothing here that really even feints towards surf music. The album closes with a morose arrangement of “Da Doo Ron Ron” so deeply at odds with the joy of the Crystals’ hit single as to be virtually unrecognizable. This is a pleasant album of orchestral pop, but other than the title track, not nearly as memorable as Nitzsche’s arrangements for Spector and others. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

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