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Archive for August 12th, 2014

Try To Forget Him: Ace Continues “The Jack Nitzsche Story” With The Righteous Brothers, Jackie DeShannon, Darlene Love

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Jack Nitzsche 3The credit “Arranged and conducted by Jack Nitzsche” should be familiar to any collector of those little black vinyl platters we used to call 45s.  Such a credit – or a similar one – graced records by Frankie Laine and Doris Day, The Paris Sisters and The Righteous Brothers, The Tubes and The Crystals, Graham Parker and Bobby Vee.  Jack “Specs” Nitzsche (1973-2000) made his mark across multiple genres and many decades, the common factor being the quality of his work.  Nitzsche the orchestrator helped define Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound; Nitzsche the film composer picked up an Academy Award for writing “Up Where We Belong” for the film An Officer and a Gentleman; Nitzsche the producer played an integral role in the early days of Crazy Horse; Nitzsche the session sideman added keyboard textures to many of The Rolling Stones’ most memorable hits; Nitzsche the vocal arranger created the unforgettable choral sound of the latter band’s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”  Ace Records documented much of this musical renaissance man’s astounding (and astoundingly diverse) career on two volumes of The Jack Nitzsche Story in 2005 and 2006.  A most unexpected treat has just arrived from the label, however, in the form of a third installment in the series.  Night Walker: The Jack Nitzsche Story Volume 3 presents another 26 stunning examples of the man’s diverse art.

Of course, the style most closely associated with the name “Jack Nitzsche” is that of the thunderous, echo-laden, era-defining Wall of Sound.  Beginning with The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel,” Nitzsche arranged most of the recordings of Phil Spector’s golden age, including Darlene Love’s “A Long Way to Be Happy” (recorded in 1965 but unissued until 1976), The Crystals’ “Little Boy” and The Ronettes’ “Is This What I Get for Loving You?,” all of which are reprised here.  (Most of the Philles recordings were previously unavailable for licensing on the first two volumes of this series.)  All three songs are instantly recognizable from their first seconds, so distinctive was the sound created by Spector, Nitzsche and the hand-picked session men of the Los Angeles Wrecking Crew recording at Gold Star Studios.  (In a nice touch, the Ace CD label bears the logo and colors of Gold Star.)  Love, who had actually sung the lead on “Rebel” despite The Crystals’ credit, is commanding as she rides the urgent pulse of Nitzsche’s driving arrangement of the Carole King/Gerry Goffin “A Long Way to Be Happy.”  La La Brooks handles the lead on The Crystals’ 1964 “Little Boy” from the Spector/Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich team, with Sonny Bono on the exciting, Latin-style percussion.  Ronnie Spector was out front on the Goffin/King/Spector melodrama “Is This What I Get for Loving You,” another grandly moving production.

The Spector/Nitzsche magic doesn’t end there.  Steve Douglas’ saxophone cuts loose on another Philles track here, “Puddin’ n’ Tain,” with Bobby Sheen (whose career has already been anthologized by Ace) handling its memorable falsetto. One Philles hit that Nitzsche famously didn’t arrange, however, was The Righteous Brothers’ immortal “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”  (He did do the honors on its Top 10 follow-up, the stirring “Just Once in My Life.”)  Though Gene Page spelled Nitzsche on “Lovin’ Feelin’,” “Specs” was no stranger to the Righteous Brothers.  Ace has included a track arranged and conducted by Nitzsche from the duo’s pre-Philles Moonglow period.  “I Still Love You” was written by Spector pal Nino Tempo, and if its breezy Latin flavor and more restrained delivery doesn’t recall the heights that were soon to be scaled, it’s a fascinating inclusion nonetheless.

The title of Night Walker is derived from the 1965 Reprise single which makes its CD debut here.  The evocative Billy Strange tune might be the best proof of just how well Nitzsche knew the powers of the Wrecking Crew; the strengths of its busy, talented players are all evident on this sweeping two-minutes-and-change of musical electricity.  Wrecking Crew guitarist Jerry Cole (already the subject of one Ace CD) enlisted Nitzsche to arrange his own singles for Capitol including the dramatic “Every Window in the City” which was produced by that famously honking saxophonist, Steve Douglas, and written by the “Under the Boardwalk” team of Artie Resnick and Kenny Young.  The chiming track recalls Gene Pitney (think: “Looking Through the Eyes of Love”), but if Cole wasn’t as strong a vocalist as Pitney, the production and arrangement give his perfectly-good vocals a push into the realm of pop heaven.  Another CD debut is The Fleetwoods’ hypnotic “Come Softly to Me,” a 1965 Nitzsche-guided remake of their 1959 hit.

If Nitzsche’s makeover of “Come Softly to Me” was subtly contemporary, his take on Richard Berry’s oft-recorded “Louie, Louie” was something else altogether.  Nitzsche arranged the truly offbeat, murky treatment (“Louie, sock it to me!”) for Honey Ltd., a girl group recorded by producer Lee Hazlewood for his own LHI label.  Nitzsche and Hazlewood blended woozy brass and aggressive electric guitar with the girls’ harmonies, shifting moods and feels to give the familiar song a completely fresh feel.  Hazlewood was also the guiding force behind the earlier Eden Records label.  The company only released six singles, but all bore Nitzsche’s imprimatur – including the choice cut here, Ramona King’s sublimely soulful spin on a girl-group record, “What About You.”

Nitzsche’s association with Neil Young was a famous and long one, taking in recordings by Young solo (including both the smash 1972 Harvest and its 1992 sequel Harvest Moon), Crazy Horse and The Buffalo Springfield.  Night Walker features “Expecting to Fly” from the Springfield, on which Nitzsche fused a classical sensibility to psychedelia and folk-rock.  Nitzsche’s haunting production of Young’s song remains an undisputed high point of the band’s small but influential catalogue.

There’s plenty more, including the track listing with discography and order links, after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 12, 2014 at 13:26

From Polynesia To Belgium: Cherry Red Goes Exotic! Plus: The Singing Nun! George Melly’s Hedonistic Fifties!

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Exotica ClassicsNo slab of vintage vinyl is too obscure or too esoteric for the team at Cherry Red’s él label, as evidenced by a trio of its most recent offerings from Jeanine Deckers a.k.a. Sœur Sourire a.k.a. The Singing Nun, British critic and personality George Melly, and a whole host of masters of exotica.

The mini-box set Exotica Classics features five albums on two discs, each housed in its own paper sleeve within the slipcased set.  The first features two complete LPs (Miriam Burton’s African Lament and Bob Romeo, His Flute and The Jungle Sextet’s Aphrodisia) and the first half of a third, The Buddy Collette Septet’s Polynesia.   Miriam Burton’s African Lament (1961, Epic) featured the singer and actress (Porgy and Bess, Carmen Jones, House of Flowers) trading in Yma Sumac-style wordless vocal acrobatics over rhythmic, percussion-driven settings co-written, arranged and conducted by Patrick Williams.  If the music was far from authentic, it was certainly striking.  African Lament is joined by 1956’s Aphrodisia (subtitled Music for Delightfully Uninhibited Males and Females Only), with its stunning cover photo of Anita Ekberg – taken from a Martin and Lewis film, of all things.  Its “journey of romantic sensations” led by flautist Romeo (with aid of “the persuasive rhythm of timbales and bongos”) bore a warning label: “The primitive rhythms in this album are basic and explosive!  Those unaccustomed (or accustomed) to dealing with aroused emotions are urged to listen with care!”  Where to go from there?  Exotica Classics goes to Buddy Collette’s Polynesia, with screen dubbing legend Marni Nixon (My Fair Lady, West Side Story) providing the vocals, Robert Sorrels delivering a surreal monologue and bandleader Collette taking his cues from Paul Gauguin  for a journey to the exotic sounds of Polynesia.

The second disc of the set concludes the Collette album and features in full Frank Hunter and His Orchestra’s White Goddess (1959, Kapp) and Ahmad Jamal’s Macanudo (Argo, 1963).  Arranger-conductor Hunter’s exotica project featured largely his own compositions with evocative titles like “Ritual of the Torch” and “Mists of Gorongoza” along with covers including “Poinciana” and Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson’s “Lost in the Stars.”  Pianist Jamal’s Macanudo paired him with composer-arranger-conductor Richard Evans on an Afro-Latin instrumental travelogue with stops in “Montevideo,” “Bogota,” “Buenos Aires” and elsewhere.

This collection of these rare, offbeat Exotica Classics is packaged with a color booklet containing the original liner notes and credits from each release.  The paper sleeves replicate the cover art for all four titles.  After the jump: él gets even more surreal! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 12, 2014 at 10:34

Release Round-Up: Week of August 12

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Billy ThermalBilly Thermal, Billy Thermal (Omnivore)

Before Billy Steinberg co-wrote with Tom Kelly a host of pop classics (“Like a Virgin,” “True Colors,” “So Emotional,” “Eternal Flame”), he fronted a little-heard band on Richard Perry’s Planet Records: their original five-track EP is expanded to a 12-track compilation with demos and outtakes! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Power in the MusicThe Guess Who, Power in the Music: Expanded Edition (Iconoclassic)

The final Guess Who studio album for RCA (and last with Burton Cummings) is remastered with two bonus rehearsal tracks. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

DeesuEtta James, It Takes Love to Keep a Woman: The Allen Toussaint Sessions / Eldridge Holmes, Now That I’ve Lost You: The Allen Toussaint Sessions / The Deesu Records Story (Fuel 2000)

The Fuel 2000 label has three new titles celebrating New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint including a 2-CD overview of his Deesu label (sister label to Sansu), rare material from Eldridge Holmes and a retitled reissue of the 1980 LP he produced for Etta James, Changes! All titles feature new liner notes from Bill Dahl.

Etta: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Eldridge: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Deesu: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Down to Love TownThe Originals, Down to Love Town / Platinum Hook, Platinum Hook (Big Break Records)

Big Break Records has two more rare treats from the Motown vaults: The Originals’ Down to Love Town (1976) and Platinum Hook’s self-titled LP from 1977, all expanded with bonus tracks!

The Originals: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Platinum Hook: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Written by Mike Duquette

August 12, 2014 at 08:08