November 12, 2007

Fuck The Hits!

Hipster music sites are posting about Amiina working with Lee Hazelwood yet nobody seems to talking about not one, not two, but three stellar Lee Hazlewood reissues out now!!!

I nearly fell off my seat when an Other Music new release email rolled in and it included three brand new Lee reissues. I am huge fan and have been waiting for decent CD reissues for what feels like forever. Sure I was excited when Smells Like Records released a series of them but I won’t lie – they aren’t my favorite Lee records – not even close.

The San Francisco label Water has delivered three reissues and two of them are some of the best LH there is to own. The sound quality of the tracks are spectacular and each CD comes with 6 pages of liner notes. The booklets leave a little to be desired - it isn't Sundazed Records quality- but they aren't terrible either. Clearly some effort was made to make them at least intetesting, and they have done just that.

*Lee Hazlewoodism – Its Cause and Cure – Water 202 (Top 10 favorite record of all time)

*The Very Special World of Lee Hazlewood – Water 201 (Worth it for “Sand” and his version of “These Boots” alone but my favorite is "I Move Around")

*Something Special – Water 2003 ( The audio opposite of a good old fashioned love in)

These reissues have me thinking back to my introduction to Lee Hazlewood. I was 16 in 1987 and working at a record store in NJ as the indie music buyer. My sales rep at Sub Pop was a fella by the name of Mark Pickerel and we did monthly orders together...that is when he wasn’t on tour as the drummer to the Screaming Trees. ( a not very well known band at the time. Inevitably we would get side tracked and he would school me as to what records I needed to own. He had recently turned me onto Beat Happening and from there he insisted that I NEEDED to know who Lee Hazlewood was. A week later an LP box showed up with a copy of Hazlewoodism along with a mixed tape of what Mark considered LH’s greatest hits.

I was an instant fan.

Baritone dark comedy with some of the best production known to man... it was unlike anything I had ever heard before. Calvin Johnson and others offer a circus mirror version of his style but there will only ever be one Lee.

And another thing Phil Spector owes this man big (Phil turned to Lee in 1960 to teach him everything he knew about recording) but I digress.

We all have friends who have turned us onto to music that has changed our lives forever and I can thank Mark for being one of those people early on in my life. In turn my associtation with the Screaming Trees is a unique one.

At the time Sub Pop was working on a tribute to Lee that was rumored to have featured bands like My Bloody Valentine but for some reason it never happened. I need to track down Mark to find out why it never happened. (Just emailed hinm to ask actually so more on that to come)Astralwerks did a pretty fine job of it more than a decade later but I can’t help but still wonder what a Sub Pop tribute in the late 90’s would have sounded like.

Fast forward to 1999. It was a massive honor to be invited to the record release party at Maxwells in Hoboken, NJ for the Smells Like reissues no less share the room with Lee, his wife, Steve Shelley, and every other rabid Lee fan known to man. I shyly waited in line for Lee to autograph my Morning Dew 7”. With one hand holding a rocks glass of Chivas, he signed my paper sleeve with the other hand and croaked out a crack about me being too young to own his original records with something that looked like a bewildered slightly sarcastic smile. If you have ever seen a picture of Lee before, you know the exact expression I am talking about.

There was an incredible week of Lee related tributes to follow in NYC including a film festival with Q and A, and a musical tribute to him put together by the Loser’s Lounge where the man himself sat at a big booth and heckled in a loving kind of way, himself and the music being celebrated. His deep voice cut through even the loudest of moments of the show (exclamations of both joy and horror) and the Loser’s Lounge site has a great clip of his comedic speech at the end of the night. If you listen the sound clip on the LL page my title header will make sense.

My fingers are crossed that some day there will be a Lee Hazlewood boxset because there are so many dang recordings of his out there to collect but these three fantastic Water reissues will do for now.

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