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Music Review: Lee Hazlewood - The LHI Years

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Lee Hazlewood
The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes and Backsides (1968-71)
Available now on Light in the Attic Records (May 1, 2012)

When one is remembered for collaboration, as Lee Hazlewood often is, it can be easy to overlook the contributions he made all on his own. Light in the Attic Records is illuminating the work he did in his fertile late '60s era with The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes & Backsides (1968-71).

Late '60s glamour queen Nancy Sinatra and guitar virtuoso Duane Eddy, with whom Hazlewood scored numerous hits, are nowhere to be found. Instead his booming baritone and sparse, haunting arrangements take center stage. Collected from his solo output on LHI (Lee Hazlewood Industries) the anthology includes the previously unreleased “I Just Learned to Run” and yes, a few duets, featuring the likes of Ann-Margaret, Suzi Jane Hokom and Nina Lizell.

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Echo-laden yet understated, Hazlewood’s baritone fills the space like a charming, but dangerous party guest. He’ll put you at ease with stories of cowboys, grand ladies and dreams. In the next note, he’ll send chills down your spine with edgier tales of heartbroken cowboys, heartbreaking ladies and whiskey, and pill-induced nightmares.

That duality is evident with “Califia (Stone Rider)” a dark tune that sees Hazlewood’s sing-spoken drawl trade places with Suzi Jane Hokom in haunting fashion. “The Bed” has the narrator aching for a lost lover, telling her his side of the bed is now nothing but a cold-sweat soaked haven for bad dreams. Yet in the very next track he pairs with Ann-Margaret singing an eerily happy tune about finding a nice place to “Sleep in the Grass.”

Light in the Attic has put together a collection that’s part greatest hits collection, part deep cuts for the devoted fan. While it avoids his famous production and duets with Sinatra, it does include some of the best cuts from his studio albums. The result is a nice introduction to an influential late-60s hit maker that also rewards long time fans, all without taking the easy route to get there.