The most casual fan of ’60s music could probably talk knowingly and enthusiastically about two key Lee Hazelwood tracks. The first is his most famous (and arguably one of the most famous pop songs of the last 50 years), Nancy Sinatra’s brassy FMB stomp, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin.” The other is one the best singles of the decade: Hazelwood’s duet with Sinatra, the spectral, lyrically impenetrable acid-country song, “Some Velvet Morning,” which simultaneously reveals and obscures itself with each listen. If those two songs were only things Hazlewood, who died in 2007, accomplished, there would be features about him in Mojo magazine from now until the moon gets wi-fi. But Hazlewood’s reach on popular music extends from his production on Duane Eddy`s twangy instrumentals in the 1950s to his run of inventive albums in the late ’60s and early ’70s, which have influenced iconoclasts from Jarvis Cocker to Primal Scream.
The LHI Years — named for his Lee Hazelwood Industries label — is a superb, 17-track introduction which will surely appeal to those intrigued, or indeed freaked out by “Some Velvet Morning.” The selected songs come from Hazlewood’s heady singles and albums released between 1969 and 1971. None of Hazlewood’s famous collaborations with Nancy, such as “Sugartown,” are included here, but they are not missed. You know those songs already. Instead, there are three stellar duets with Ann-Margret, best of which being the straightforward and gorgeous “Victims of the Night,” though “Chico” with its Jacques Brel-style brass blasts, is right behind.
Singer Nina Lizell, “a little Swedish girl,” joins Hazlewood for the breathy “Leather and Lace,” and the charmer “Hey Cowboy,” both taken from the classic Cowboy in Sweden LP. (Hazlewood lived in Stockholm in the early ’70s.) And you’d have to be a stone jerk not to be won over by the shimmering beauty of “If It’s Monday Morning” and the sumptuous romance of “Won’t You Tell Your Dreams.”
Hardcore Hazlewood fans will no doubt ante up for the previously unreleased soul-country mood piece, “I Just Learned To Run,” which closes out the album. Additionally, The LHI Years includes in its liner notes an excellent, touching essay from Wyndam Wallace, an indie-label rep who befriended Hazlewood in his final years. In it, Wallace lovingly champions Hazlewood’s charm and humor but also urges listeners to soak in the “deceptive depth” of his songs and production. No argument here.
Jacques Brel – Infiniment
Scott Walker – Scott 4
Johnny Cash – Personal File