September 8, 2005

Test Spin: Jack Nitzsche

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Jack Nitzsche, a producer who descended from the family of Friedrich Nietzsche, had the foresight and talent to work with everyone from Doris Day and Stevie Wonder to Marianne Faithfull and Buffy Sainte-Marie. The diversity and exhilaration of his work is consistently staggering. “The Lonely Surfer” and “Rumble” are rambling orchestral surf jams, channeling Lee Hazlewood and the Crystals simultaneously. Frankie Laine’s “Don’t Make My Baby Blue” flaunts a slurred glam-kitsch an entire decade before Bowie. And Lesley Gore sings “No Matter What You Do” with a sort of helium nihilism that verges on violence.

But more impressive is what Nitzsche does with some of the ’60s most tepid singers: Jackie DeShannon appears as a brassy altar girl with a tambourine and a bad case of chronic depression. Bobby Darin transforms into a chain-smoking, church-hating, leather-clad lothario. Even Judy Henske’s “Road to Nowhere” sounds like a space-age political anthem indebted to Zeppelin II.

Archived article by Alex Linhardt
Sun Senior Writer