A gold mine for the devoted followers of Lee Hazlewood, and a good set compiling chart-minded pop of all stripes, Califia: The Songs of Lee Hazlewood spans the mid-'50s breakthrough of pop/rock that Hazlewood helped spark with his Duane Eddy productions all the way to the early '70s -- a mere dozen years in chronology, but an epoch in popular music. Hazlewood was one of the first and best producers of the rock age, a man whose innovative sounds on Eddy brought a young Phil Spector to Arizona in the late '50s to learn at his feet. Fans of Lee Hazlewood have ensured that nearly all of his solo recordings have been reissued at least once, but his flood of songwriting and production for various labels and artists between the mid-'50s and early '70s has never been surveyed like this. Although his only number one hit is not included here (Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'"), the material is uniformly good. Granted, since Hazlewood was usually aiming for the charts with these productions (as opposed to his solo material), it leans toward the pedestrian, but for those who've spent a lot of time listening to pop music of the '60s, it's easy to hear how the innovative productions elevate these songs and performances above the mediocre and to a higher level. The emphasis is on the range of artists he produced, so associated acts like Nancy Sinatra, Sanford Clark (who recorded the only big hit here, 1956's "The Fool"), Duane Eddy, Suzi Jane Hokom, and the Shacklefords are given only two tracks each at the most, with more time accorded for one-shots from artists both famous (Ann-Margret, Dusty Springfield, B.B. King) and not so much (the Darlenes, the Wildcats, Don Cole, and studio-drummer extraordinaire Hal Blaine).
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AllMusic Review by John Bush