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The Lonely Surfer

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Album Review

Jack Nitzsche had one brush with greatness early in his career, apart from his job as Phil Spector's arranger — "The Lonely Surfer," a classic of the surf music genre. This album attempted to extend his solo career beyond that of a one-hit wonder, with mixed success. The best cuts are songs that are in the same surfer mold: "Puerto Vallarta," "Baja," and "Beyond the Surf." Nitzsche had a gift for melodramatic, ascending arrangements that rose to dramatic crescendos, underpinned by rumbling basslines and clanging percussion. Less successful are a super-slow take on "Da Doo Ron Ron" and remakes of easy listening and soundtrack hits such as "Ebb Tide" and "More," which are given a precious sheen of strings. The one exception is a rather rocking version of Elmer Bernstein's "Magnificent Seven," which sounds like it was made for dancing. This is a pleasant, if not exceptional, set of music for fans of surf instrumentals.

Customer Reviews

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. 3-1/2 stars, if allowed fractional ratings. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]


One of the finest albums ever created. Theme for a Broken Heart is magnificent.


Born: April 22, 1937 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

An important behind-the-scenes figure in popular music for 40 years, composer/songwriter/producer/arranger/studio musician Jack Nitzsche served a crucial function in 1960s rock & roll, bringing a trained musician's know-how to bear on the work of more instinctive rockers in a way that complemented and deepened their work. The Rolling Stones and Neil Young in particular benefited from his talents. Nitzsche was also a capable writer who penned a couple of major hits and developed a career as a film...
Full Bio
The Lonely Surfer, Jack Nitzsche
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Rock, Music, Pop, Pop/Rock, Surf
  • Released: 1963

Customer Ratings