Lee Hazlewood: 13

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Various Artists

Album: 13 (smells)
Label: Smells Like

The continuing re-release of Lee Hazlewood's back catalog once again proves to be an absolute good with the resurfacing of 13, a barely heard album from 1972. An eccentric songwriter and singer best known for his collaborations with Duane Eddy and Nancy Sinatra, Hazlewood used his '60s earnings to turn himself into a professional recluse in the '70s, moving to Sweden, jumpstarting his solo career, and releasing album upon album to a largely indifferent public. All eventually fell into obscurity, ultimately becoming objects of desire for Hazlewood's expanding cult following. Even among his eccentric output, 13 stands out. The distinctively gravelly, off-key vocals return, as do the hard-luck tales of losers and outcasts (first heard on Hazlewood's masterful 1963 solo debut Trouble Is A Lonesome Town), but the non-stop horns and unrelenting drums provide assurance that 13 is something different. Working with arranger (and cartoon-theme composer) Larry Marks, the album bursts with the hyperkinetic production Hazlewood once brought to the work of others, providing a reminder of who helped inspire Phil Spector's famous Wall Of Sound. It has the bizarre effect of making 13 seem at once one of Hazlewood's most accessible albums and one of his strangest. "Ten Or 11 Towns Ago" contains a typical moment: To a propulsive beat and a jaunty horn arrangement, Hazlewood croons the words, "One week in San Francisco / existing on Nabisco / cookies and bad dreams / sad scenes and dodging paranoia." He has a specific way of looking at the world, heartbroken with a bellyful of bile, and that perspective finds one of its finest, and oddest, expressions in 13, a piece of poisoned Americana finally arriving from across the sea.