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Cowboy in Sweden: Light in the Attic Preps Lee Hazlewood Retrospective, Plus Rare Stax Recordings of Wendy Rene Collected

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Though he had many chapters in his career, there was only one Barton Lee Hazlewood.  The man who famously taught Nancy Sinatra to “sing like a 16-year old who goes out with 45-year old truckers” also played a pivotal role in the career of Duane Eddy and produced hits by Dean Martin, Dino (Martin), Desi (Arnaz, Jr.) and Billy (Hinsche), and the Chairman of the Board himself.  But Hazlewood continued to create works of both eccentricity and beauty long after he departed Reprise Records in the 1960s.  The Ace label has compiled collections dedicated to Hazlewood’s songs and outside productions as well as his complete 1965-1967 recordings for MGM Records (made in between stints at Reprise) while Rhino Handmade has surveyed his solo years at Reprise.  Now, the dedicated musical archaeologists at Light in the Attic are launching a series dedicated to Hazlewood’s own LHI label, and the time couldn’t be more right.  Between 1968 and 1971, Hazlewood not only recorded his singular, often psychedelic brand of country/folk/pop/rock but recorded numerous other artists for both singles and albums.  Light in the Attic promises that this exciting new series “will include material from LHI (remastered for the first time from the original analog tapes), along with Lee’s output for other labels, rarities, unreleased gems, and the films of Torbjörn Axelman.”  Well, we’re sold!

The campaign kicks off with the release of The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes and Backsides 1968-1971 on CD on May 1.  (A special vinyl edition will precede the CD release on April 21 to coincide with Record Store Day.)  Ann-Margret, Suzi Jane Hokom and Nina Lizell are among the female artists who provide counterpoint to Hazlewood’s gruff tones, following in Nancy Sinatra’s bootsteps.  One unreleased track has even been included, an outtake entitled “I Just Learned to Run.”  Wyndham Wallace contributes all-new liner notes to the set.  A personal friend of the late artist, Wallace writes that his friend was “a curmudgeonly, unpredictable sort at the best of times, as impatient with his own talent as he is with other people.”  Indeed, it’s hard to pigeonhole the versatile composer, lyricist, singer and producer.

Hit the jump for much more on the Cowboy in Sweden, plus the scoop on Ms. Wendy Rene, early Stax/Volt heroine!

Born in Oklahoma, Hazlewood found initial success as a disk jockey in Arizona, which may account for his having developed a clear sensibility early on as to how his music should sound.  Though he connected with Duane Eddy in Phoenix, Hazlewood knew that even greater things beckoned for him in Los Angeles, California.  Before long, he was acting as a house producer for the biggest little label in La-La Land, Frank Sinatra’s Reprise Records.  He pushed the envelope of pop on both veteran artists and young signings, influencing the likes of The Jesus and Mary Chain, Thurston Moore, Jarvis Cocker, Nick Cave and many others along the way.  Even after moving to Sweden, Hazlewood intermittently recorded and performed, right up through his final album in 2006, the mordant Cake or Death.  (Hazlewood always had a knack for album titles, and so Singles, Nudes and Backsides follows in the fine tradition of Farmisht, flatulence, origami, ARF!!! and me…, just to name one!

The LHI Years offers seventeen slices of prime Hazlewood soundscapes, including two duets each with Ann-Margret, Suzi Jane Hokom and Nina Lizell.  Every track has been newly remastered from the original tapes.  For the vinyl pressing, 50 random copies will include an LHI Records patch!  The booklet also promises to include numerous photographs, although it will be hard to top that cover…

On the other side of the spectrum comes After Laughter Comes Tears: Complete Stax and Volt Singles and Rarities 1964-1965, the first-ever anthology dedicated to the Stax/Volt artist.  The 22-track collection brings together all of Rene’s recorded output, licensed directly from Concord/Stax and Atlantic Records, including two previously unissued songs.  Though Rene’s name isn’t as well-known as many of those with whom she shared the Stax logo, her work continues to resonate.  “After Laughter,” featuring Booker T. Jones, was sampled on Wu-Tang Clan’s 36 Chambers, while Steve Cropper appears on “Bar-B-Q.”  Andria Lisle, responsible for the in-depth liner notes for Light in the Attic’s related release by Charles “Packy” Axton, interviewed Wendy Rene for the lengthy notes in this new set.  In the notes, Rene told Lisle, “Mama said I could sing.  I think all mothers tell their children they can sing, they can act.  I believed her.”  Stax’s Jim Stewart believed her, too.  Wendy and The Drapels were signed by Stax, still a small recording concern, to the Volt label.  The Drapels didn’t last long; both sides of their two singles on Volt are included here.  (The booklet is generously illustrated with label artwork.)

Wendy (real name: Mary Frierson] continued to record until she retired from the music business in 1967 to concentrate on her family.  She still remembers her Stax family to this day, though: “I had Jim Stewart, I had Steve Cropper, I had Booker Jones, I had Packy [Axton], I had my brother [Johnnie Frierson, also a recording artist/session player for Stax]. All of these people created a family, and they drew talent out of me that I didn’t know I had.”

Produced by Matt Sullivan, After Laughter Comes Tears will appeal to any fan of the classic Stax sound, and is a fitting tribute to a lost soul heroine.  It’s available now from Light in the Attic on CD and vinyl, and via digital providers.  Track listings for both Wendy Rene and Lee Hazlewood’s releases follow with discography, as well as order links!

Lee Hazlewood, The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes and Backsides 1968-1971 (Light in the Attic LITA 084, 2012)

  1. Califia (Stone Rider) – featuring Suzi Jane Hokom
  2. The Bed
  3. Sleep in the Grass – featuring Ann-Margret
  4. Leather and Lace – featuring Nina Lizell
  5. If It’s Monday Morning
  6. The Night Before
  7. Bye Babe
  8. Victims of the Night – featuring Ann-Margret
  9. Chico – featuring Ann-Margret
  10. Hey Cowboy – featuring Nina Lizell
  11.  No Train to Stockholm
  12. Won’t You Tell Your Dreams
  13. Nobody Like You – featuring Suzi Jane Hokom
  14. Trouble Maker
  15. What’s More I Don’t Need Her
  16. Come on Home to Me
  17. I Just Learned to Run

Tracks 1 & 13 from single LHI-21, 1969
Tracks 2 & 7 from Forty, LHI S-12009, 1969
Tracks 3 & 9 from single LHI-02 (US), 1969
Tracks 4, 6, 10-11 & 15 from Cowboy In Sweden, LHI-3101, 1970
Tracks 5, 12 & 16 from Requiem For an Almost Lady, LHI SLHL 934430, 1971
Track 8 from The Cowboy and the Lady, LHI S-12007, 1971
Track 14 from single LHI-20, 1970
Track 17 previously unreleased

Wendy Rene, After Laughter Comes Tears: Complete Stax and Volt Singles and Rarities 1964-1965 (LITA 080, 2012)

  1. Bar B Q (Stax 159, 1964)
  2. Gone For Good
  3. Your Love Is All I Need – The Drapels (Volt 119, 1964)
  4. After Laughter Comes Tears (Stax 154, 1964)
  5. I Wish I Were That Girl (previously unreleased)
  6. What Will Tomorrow Bring (Stax 154, 1964)
  7. Wondering (When My Love is Coming Home) – The Drapels (Volt 114, 1964)
  8. Deep In My Heart (previously unreleased)
  9. Give You What I Got (Stax 171, 1965)
  10. Crying All By Myself
  11. Crowded Park
  12. Last Love
  13. Love At First Sight
  14. She’s Moving Away (Stax 154, 1964)
  15. He Hasn’t Failed Me Yet (previously unreleased)
  16. Please Don’t Leave Me – The Drapels (Volt 114, 1964)
  17. The Same Guy
  18. Young Man – The Drapels (Volt 119, 1964)
  19. Can’t Stay Away
  20. First Kiss (previously unreleased)
  21. Reap What You Sow (Stax 171, 1965)
  22. Young and Foolish (Stax 159, 1964)

Written by Joe Marchese

February 16, 2012 at 10:08

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