Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Lee Hazlewood

Although Lee Hazlewood had recorded as a solo performer prior to his brief stint with MGM, his first two MGM albums present his best '60s recordings as a solo vocalist. Issued in 1966, The Very Special World of Lee Hazlewood is the first of these. Hazlewood's limitations as a singer kept him, and this album, from being marketable as anything approaching a commercial proposition at the time (unless he was dueting with Nancy Sinatra). Yet with the passage of several decades, this one-of-a-kind blend of country, pop, lounge, nonchalant sub-Johnny Cash vocals, and off-kilter lyrics was recognized as worthy on its own terms and appreciated by a sizable cult audience. And as this album demonstrates, he really wasn't without his more conventionally pleasing pop attributes either, even if it would take other artists to put them onto the hit parade. It does include his own versions of songs far more famous as the versions he produced for Nancy Sinatra: "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" (done here in a far less effective, self-mocking satirical fashion), "Summer Wine" (done as a duet with Suzi Jane Hokum, though it's his slightly later subsequent duet of the song with Sinatra that's remembered), and "So Long Babe." There's also a bossa nova treatment of the hit he wrote and produced for Dino, Desi & Billy, "Not the Lovin' Kind." But there are a couple of delectable sad pop ballads with gorgeous strings and weepy backup choral vocals ("Your Sweet Love" and "For One Moment"); one of his greatest dark meditations, "My Autumn's Done Come"; and zippier, frivolous fun pop tunes ("I Move Around" and "When a Fool Loves a Fool"). Not everything here's on this level; there are occasional songs that verge on slipping from the humorous to dumb novelties. But it's a worthwhile record, and not solely on kitsch terms. The music's also now much easier to find than it used to be, all of the tracks having been included on the 2002 Big Beat CD reissue These Boots Are Made for Walkin': The Complete MGM Recordings.

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