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Nancy Sinatra / Lee Hazlewood - Nancy & Lee Music Album Reviews

Full of vivid detail and imagination, this defining 1968 album by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood gets its first official reissue, highlighting their peculiar alchemy and otherworldly sound.

Nancy & Lee is one of the quintessential artifacts of the 1960s, a document of how counterculture collided with the pop mainstream at the height of the psychedelic era. Neither Nancy Sinatra nor Lee Hazlewood could accurately be characterized as part of the counterculture. As the daughter of Frank Sinatra, Nancy was showbiz royalty, while Hazlewood was a Phoenix-based producer who made his reputation with a series of cinematic instrumentals he recorded with the rumbling guitarist Duane Eddy. Like several other hustlers of his time, Hazlewood had a gift for recognizing and exploiting fads, a talent that found its full fruition in his collaborations with Sinatra.

Nancy & Lee is now being commemorated with a deluxe package from Light in the Attic featuring two bonus tracks and a handsome book, marking its first official reissue since its release in 1968. If that seems like a long wait, that’s because Rhino’s 1989 compilation Fairy Tales & Fantasies: The Best of Nancy & Lee has served as a placeholder for Nancy & Lee, containing every one of the album’s songs in order, along with several highlights from 1972's Nancy & Lee Again. Such record company machinations suit Nancy & Lee, as it was a proper LP of its time, collecting previously released singles, covers, and album cuts designed to boost a songwriter’s publishing—in this case, Hazlewood himself.

Nancy & Lee picks up the Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood story at its midpoint. Nancy had been a recording artist on her father’s Reprise label since 1961, putting out single after single of effervescent, sticky-sweet pop that made no impact on the pop charts whatsoever. By 1965, Frank got fed up, so he tapped Hazlewood to kickstart Nancy’s career, which he did with “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” a sexy strut designed to sound right at home in the go-go clubs cluttering the Sunset Strip.

“These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” climbed to No. 1 early in 1966, so Nancy and Lee began churning out rapid sequels to their hit, reaching the Top 10 twice with “How Does That Grab You, Darlin’?” and “Sugar Time.” Somewhere during the course of 1966, the pair began duetting together in the studio. By that point, Hazlewood had several albums to his credit—including a pair of LPs released on Reprise—and had attempted to forge a duet partnership with Suzi Jane Hokom, a vocalist who ultimately decided she didn’t want a part in the spotlight. Nancy Sinatra already was comfortable on the center stage, and furthermore, she had a peculiar alchemy with Hazlewood. A singer so sweet she could seem curiously placid, she contrasted sharply with Hazlewood’s oily baritone, which recalled Johnny Cash retooled as a lounge lizard. Together, the chemistry was palpable: Nancy offered a hopeful tonic to Lee’s booming dread, Hazelwood pulling Sinatra back into the muck and grime whenever she threatened to drift away.

Sinatra and Hazlewood first discovered this dynamic tension on “Summer Wine,” a slice of western melodrama released as a B-side at the end of 1966, just about a year after “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.” Achieving altitude on the wings of swirling strings, “Summer Wind” contains every splashy studio trick Hazelwood could muster: fathomless echo on the voices, an orchestra of percussion and twang, all accentuated by stabs of brass. It’s as if a CinemaScope film has been funneled into a four-minute 45, a vivid representation of Hollywood in the mid 1960s. Fittingly, their next single roped in their other major influence, the glitz and schmaltz of Nashville. Nancy and Lee’s version of Johnny Cash and June Carter’s recent smash “Jackson” wrapped up country corn in a shiny package, the pair trading knowing jibes as steel guitars and harmonica dance around their shtick.

Hazelwood figured out how to channel his cowboy fascination into high lonesome psychedelia, casting himself as the wandering, wounded stranger to Sinatra’s redemptive angel. In “Sand,” his outlaw character comes upon an innocent woman who offers a warm home—a deliverance over a bed of harpsichords and a maze of backward guitars. “Sand” found a counterpart in “Some Velvet Morning,” where Hazlewood reckons with a heavy hangover and the memory of a departed love. The verses are Lee’s wrecked ruminations, sadly and insistently galloping into the sunset, while Nancy provides an ethereal release on the waltzing chorus.

“Some Velvet Morning,” “Sand,” and “Summer Wine” cut such an indelible impression that they can give the illusion the rest of Nancy & Lee is as trippy as this triptych. While the opening “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” unfolds at a lysergic crawl, most of the album pivots off “Jackson,” with snazzy, country-inflected pop that seems as if it was tailored to play on televised variety shows or perhaps a drive-in movie where the good girl gets seduced by a guy from the wrong side of the tracks. Hazelwood’s remaining originals—the dusty, doomed romance of “Sundown, Sundown,” the sprightly “Lady Bird,” and wryly self-deprecating “I’ve Been Down So Long (It Looks Like Up to Me)”—fall into the latter category, while the covers are pure Hollywood hokum. Nancy and Lee clown their way through “Greenwich Village Folk Song Salesman,” elbowing each other in the ribs as they deliver Tom T. Hall’s bon mots, then they wallow in the sticky sentiments of “Storybooky Children” and “My Elusive Dreams,” the latter a No. 1 country hit for David Houston and Tammy Wynette in 1967.

Far from diminishing the impact of Nancy & Lee, these moments of overblown silliness accentuate the genuine, layered weirdness of “Some Velvet Morning” and “Sand,” as they provide a baseline for what Southern Californian pop sounded like at the time. Also, Hazlewood’s vivid, widescreen arrangements on the schmaltizer material are evocative in their own right thanks to his masterly use of the studio. Such artistry isn’t necessarily evident on other Hazlewood-produced Sinatra albums of the period—he helmed nearly all of them from 1965 to 1967—nor is it on the pair of bonus tracks that round out the Light in the Attic reissue: a whispery cover of the Kinks’ “Tired of Waiting for You” and a go-go version of the Mickey & Sylvia oldie “Love is Strange.” Pleasant enough, they’re slight sketches, clearly relics from the late 1960s; Nancy even utters “sock it to me,” the catchphrase from Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In, the biggest TV show in the USA in 1968, during “Love is Strange.” Nancy & Lee may be redolent of its era but in its vivid detail and imagination, the album is so thoroughly of its time that it can sound otherworldly.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Nancy Sinatra / Lee Hazlewood - Nancy & Lee Music Album Reviews Nancy Sinatra / Lee Hazlewood - Nancy & Lee Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Thursday, June 09, 2022 Rating: 5

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