Lee Hazelwood – Poet Fool Or Bum And Back On The Street Again

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Album Review by EDF

With a surge of interest in Johnny Cash’s back catalogue, this timely release of forgotten country legend Lee Hazlewood is apt. Hazlewood recorded and produced music as far back as the early 1950’s and influenced the likes of Phil Spector with his use of echo on those early recordings. Hazlewood is perhaps more famous for writing and producing for other people such as Nancy Sinatra’s THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING being his most famous song. The two albums collected on this reissue were originally released in 1973 and 1977 respectively.

POET, FOOL OR BUM, at the time of its release was savaged by the likes of NME, giving it a one-word review. Hazlewood took it a bit hard at the time and did not release any more albums in the UK. The album itself is mostly full of stories and characters that are usually found in country music and is complimented by Hazlewood’s drawl like vocals. If I were to make comparisons to what the overall production is like, then I would say it is similar to what Elvis Presley was releasing around that time, mid-tempo songs complete with strings and female backing singers. Talking about Elvis, it would be difficult not to make comparisons between The King’s Las Vegas shows and the character sung about on THE PERFORMER, a tale of how soulless the endless shows have become for a performer.

BACK ON THE STREET AGAIN was originally released in Europe in 1977 but not in the UK. This album’s production sounds crispier and as before, it is hard to guess where the lyrics and production are going to take you. While some of the weaker tracks on POET were passable, a wave of nausea unexpectedly comes over on the Shari Garbo duet SAVE A PLACE FOR ME. On the other end of the scale is YOUR THUNDER AND YOUR LIGHTNING that comes crashing out with an almost funky bass line, making this track sound like nothing else on this reissue.

This level of unpredictability would not come as a surprise to Hazlewood’s fans as he was never one to bow down to the mainstream country music scene. Or could it be that these two albums were both recorded in Stockholm, away from the trappings of that familiar Nashville sound? Whatever it is, Hazlewood is certainly a fascinating character who should be rediscovered by country music fans.

4 stars