First things first. Where did he get the energy? Even by the standards of the day our moustachioed Oklahoma-born friend was known to be the pre-eminent swordsman of his generation, the notches on the bedposts of Ol’ Zeus informing the title for the second disc of this glorious 4CD package: I Was Born Running Wild/The Victim Of A Woman Child. To hammer home the point of Very Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s drawing power, there are photos within the lavish accompanying 172-page book that make the sleeve of Electric Ladyland look like the cover of Bunty.
Obviously the Lee Hazlewood Industries corporate message was far more than a joke, since this son of an oil-well geezer seldom stayed still. His pleasure was his business, and vice versa. Accent on the vice.
The music is staggering both in terms of output and variety. Starting with the classic prison song Pray Them Bars Away, sung in his customary gravel on the bottom of his boots monotone (but what a baritone!) you’re left in no doubt this guy is for real. Not for Hazlewood some cheap, DIY, off-the-peg arrangement. No sir. He demands and gets utter perfection, utilising the crème de la crème of LA session players. And then you’re down to the nitty gritty on the duet Leather & Lace, with the first of many bombshell babes, one Nina Lizell.
Often times characterised as a “guilty pleasure” the riposte is apparent: there’s no guilt here, but the pleasure principle abides, dude. Pristine, hand-tooled pop masterpieces are everywhere, as are muses such as Suzi Jane Hokom, sharing the love on the deconstructed hippy gem Califia (Stone Rider) whose loping acid guitars and punching horns equal sheer magic. When the pair swap bodily fluids during I’ll Never Fall In Love Again the listener is bound to catch enough germs to get more than pneumonia.
Given the sheer heft of this artefact, one can only offer a whistle-stop tour. Check out Ann-Margret’s contribution to Break My Mind for further salacious delight and marvel at their interpretation of No Regrets, which whips every other known recording into submission. The Industry kicks in once Lee offloads his production skills on Gram Parsons’ International Submarine Band, practically inventing alt.country during Luxury Liner. The roster of artists nuzzling ’neath Lee’s wing is astonishing: Arthur, Kitchen Cinq, Sanford Clark, Eve and the implausibly gorgeous Honey Ltd being among the many benefiting from Hazlewood’s benign touch. Easy And Me, Trouble Maker and the total folk weirdness of Nothing’s Gonna Blow My Mind, which outdoes The Lovin’ Spoonful at their own game, are the finest trips available. Too bad they couldn’t include anything from Lee’s work with Waylon Jennings (The Singer Of Sad Songs), but you do get Ann-Margret’s Only Mama That’ll Walk The Line in compensation.
To keep one further amused the box includes Lee’s movie, Cowboy In Sweden, plus facsimiles of a LHI airline ticket and gold business card. Truly, this is the gift that keeps on giving. Aural aphrodisia.