Published Jan 20, 2016Lee Hazlewood once referred to his three MGM albums ¾ 1966's The Very Special World of Lee Hazlewood, 1967's Lee Hazlewoodism: Its Cause and Cure and 1968's Something Special — as "expensive demos." The label signed the baritone iconoclast following Nancy Sinatra's success with the Hazlewood-penned and produced "These Boots Are Made For Walkin,'" and despite being given free reign and big label money, the trilogy (now re-issued by Light In The Attic) is anything but a self-indulgent affair.
The swirling strings on The Very Special World's downtempo opener "For One Moment" sets a melancholic vibe, and the ornate instrumentation (courtesy of the wrecking crew and Billy Strange's majestic arrangements) on cuts like the mariachi-tinged "When A Fool Loves A Fool" and the ethereal duet with Suzi Jane Hokum "Sand" makes this the most cohesive of the trilogy. When the gender's flipped on Hazlewood's own take on "These Boots Are Made For Walkin,'" the well-known classic is shaded with an entrancing, menacing undertone.
A more unconventional follow-up, Lee Hazlewoodism features spoken word tracks including the baroque, widescreen spoken-word western narratives "The Nights" and "Jose," the latter of which tells the tale of a matador over opulent instrumentation, while he derides "top 40 trash" on the buoyant closer "Dark In My Heart."
The most instrumentally spare of the three, originally released only in Germany, is Something Special, the least critically lauded of the three. Still, its stripped-down production, centered on bass, piano and drums, allows a fine showcase for Hazlewood's velvety baritone on "This Town" and the ruminative, late-night honky-tonk-jazz hybrid of "Fort Worth"
While not quite as essential as Light In The Attic's 2013 box set There's A Dream I've Been Saving, which chronicled Hazlewood's LHI Imprint, The MGM Trilogy is a lovingly packaged and extensively researched snapshot of an idiosyncratic cult artist during a compelling, unfairly maligned period of transition. (Light In The Attic)