Somehow Light in the Attic Records has been given access to the vaults of LHI, the company that producer, songwriter, singer, mogul, and cowboy Lee Hazlewood helmed in the mid-'60s and early-'70s. Lee's career began with producing hits for Sanford Clark and Duane Eddy in Arizona, and soon he was off to Hollywood. This LHI box set covers "the other" material created in the same era that Lee was writing and producing hits for Nancy Sinatra ("These Boots Are Made for Walkin'") and collaborating on the epic Nancy & Lee album, one of my favorite record productions ever.
The box set includes: a 172-page, LP-sized hardcover book with over 150 photos, interviews, and artist profiles, a four CD anthology of the LHI label featuring 107 songs, 14 of them unreleased, a flexi disc of Lee's "studio chatter," as well as the never-before-released 60 minute film Cowboy in Sweden (1970) on DVD. It also includes the excellent soundtrack album of the same name, another of my favorite Hazlewood recordings.
All the music has been carefully transferred and remastered, with 95 percent of the material pulled from original analog master tapes at 24 bit/96 kHz while the other five percent were transferred from mint vinyl. We get a bunch of Hazlewood-sung pieces from his albums Forty and Requiem For an Almost Lady, plus the duets album he did with Ann-Margret The Cowboy and the Lady. We also get psyche rock from The Surprise Package, syrupy vocal pop from Honey Ltd., confused garage/folk rock from Hamilton Streetcar, soul/pop from actress and brief Motown signee Barbara Randolph, a keyboard workout from Wrecking Crew vet Don Randi, and many other oddball songs. Of the highlights are a couple of versions of Nancy & Lee tracks with Virgil Warner & Suzi Jane Hokom handling the vocals. Suzi Jane was also a LHI producer, overseeing the The Kitchen Cinq tracks in this set, and she discovered, signed, and produced Gram Parsons' International Submarine Band (though only one song is appears here). Ms. Hokom herself also sang on a good number of excellent solo pop songs included here.
One can't help but feel LHI was randomly trying to produce hit songs in varying pop genres, hoping that something would stick. A close career parallel would be the work of Snuff Garrett [Tape Op #73] who, during the same era, was on the constant hunt for hit songs and successes. Listening to all the tracks here does sound like some sort of radio of the era. And, after years of listening "oldies radio" turn into the same 15 songs over and over, maybe it's a welcome thing!
Oh, and for the obsessed out there, the Deluxe Edition ($180) features almost 200 more songs and extra goodies. Oh dear. ($80, lightintheattic.net)