Peggy Lee

Blues Cross Country

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One of Peggy Lee's most intriguing concept LPs of the '50s and '60s, Blues Cross Country teams her with the Quincy Jones Orchestra on a set of swinging blues set all over America, almost like a continental version of Sinatra's "Come Fly with Me." She balances standards like "Basin Street Blues," "St. Louis Blues," "I Left My Sugar (In Salt Lake City)," and "Goin' to Chicago Blues" alongside collaborations with Jones on "Los Angeles Blues," "New York City Blues," and "The Train Blues." (She is also the lyricist of four other songs on the album.) Though Jones' arrangements are often a touch brassier than the blues standards can handle, Lee contributes just the right blend of vigor and feeling to the songs. Blues Cross Country also includes her first waxing of the Leiber & Stoller song "Kansas City," which looks forward to her successful performances of their "I'm a Woman," "Is That All There Is?," and the Mirrors album. At a little over half-an-hour, it is a brief LP, and the 1999 CD reissue has two additional tracks. From the same spring 1961 sessions that produced the album came Lee's single recording of Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh's "Hey! Look Me Over," the most popular song to emerge from the 1960 Broadway musical Wildcat, also arranged by Quincy Jones. Skipping ahead five years, there was another Lee single, "The Shining Sea," which she wrote with Johnny Mandel, who also arranged it. Neither song fits in with the album's concept, but they at least add more than four minutes to its running time.

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