Monday, May 9, 2011
LEE HAZLEWOODISM REVISITED
I love his stuff because, frankly, I’m a total sucker for soaring strings, brassy horns and ethereal backing vocals, and this guy was not only at the epicenter of the 1960s studio wizardry scene but was actively defining it. Obviously much 60s pop and country music featured these items as mere devices to draw out tears, help you crack a smile and whatnot. Hazlewood, he seems to want bring you in on some huge in-joke that’s totally cracking him up on at least 75% of his songs. He’s mirthfully entertaining himself, knowing that you’ll embrace it or flee, and he’ll never be something that everyone “gets”. I’ve never even bothered to try and convert others to the Hazlewood cause, outside of blog posts like this one. Many folks I know might love a weirdo who lived at the intersection of lounge music, cheeseball pop and country; had a voice like a weary, middle-aged lech (which he undoubtedly was); and wrote some of the more amazingly simple lyrical couplets of our time. But why take the chance that you’ll lose a friend forever if you’re wrong?
“Something Special”, from 1968, is actually incredibly forgettable and not special in the least. Outside of the great opening track “Shades”, it’s a blues album of sorts. It features some of the most regrettable “scat” singing ever, thankfully not by Hazlewood – though that would have been great to hear – but a rough-edged backing vocalist who barges in on instrumental breaks and ruins what were mediocre numbers to begin with. Certainly can see why this stayed out of print and unavailable for a while, but hey, I’m a completist. I even just ordered one I missed, the 55-track “Rhino Handmade” double disc “Strung Out On Something New”, just this week. We’ll get back to you on that one; meanwhile, this MGM stuff is certainly worth some exploration if you’re so inclined.