Various Artists

Total Lee! The Songs of Lee Hazlewood

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Many have been called, but few have deserved to be chosen as the subject of a tribute more than the uncompromising Lee Hazlewood. It isn't just that he's written and recorded so many timeless compositions over the years, but that there are so many potential fans -- particularly those born after his heyday in the 1960s -- yet to discover them (or who may know him only as the mustachioed hipster who once sang a few numbers with go-go boot-era Nancy Sinatra). Fortunately, some of his younger followers have been helping to get the word out, like Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley, who has released/reissued a number of recordings (including 1999's bizarrely titled Farmisht, Flatulence, Origami, ARF!!! and me...) on his Smells Like label. Now Astralwerks, best known for such forward-thinking electronic musicians as the Chemical Brothers, have done their part, in association with City Slang, in burnishing Hazlewood's burgeoning reputation with this decidedly un-digital disc (which is to say that the emphasis is more on twangy guitars and sorrowful strings than samplers and synthesizers). One of the finest renderings happens to be of one of Hazlewood's finest songs, "Some Velvet Morning," performed by the Webb Brothers with just the right degree of dreamlike majesty. Of course, it's easy to nitpick a project of this nature. While the inclusion of the spooky, cinematic Tindersticks couldn't possibly make more sense, where's Nick Cave -- or Giant Sand for that matter? Fortunately, Calexico (essentially Giant Sand sans Howe Gelb) represents the Arizona contingent of the Hazlewood fan club with "Sundown, Sundown." As a special bonus, the CD booklet is a deluxe affair featuring numerous photographs of a groovy young Hazlewood along with copious liner notes about each interpretation by the man himself.

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