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Movin' On, CD (£7.43)
As the album’s original sleeve notes suggest “whatever your listening pleasure, you’ll find something on this album you like”. Several songs are straightforward country tunes recalling the music Lee made when first starting out while others are slick, orchestrated lounge ballads. Lee re-recorded four songs from his 1969 album “Forty” (Randy Newman’s ‘Let’s Burn Down The Cornfield’ and ‘Wait Till Next Year’; ubiquitous crooner standards ‘It Was A Very Good Year’ and ‘Paris Bells’) – while both Hazlewood originals ‘Come On Home To Me’ and ‘LA Lady’ appeared previously on 1971’s “Requiem To An Almost Lady”. Two songs (the straightforward ‘Mother Country Music’ and the comedy country of ‘Kung Fu You’) were written by Joe Nixon, an aspiring country singer-songwriter Hazlewood met in Los Angeles at the beginning of the 1970s. Lee helped produce an album of Joe’s that is amongst the Holy Grail of Hazlewood collectables as only 100 copies were pressed.
“Lee was a good guy,” says Janne Schaffer, one of the guitarists who appeared on the record. “I’d previously played on another session for him [possibly 1976’s “20th Century Lee”] and admired him a lot because of his work with Duane Eddy. He was a very cool guy, very sophisticated. He didn’t speak Swedish so everything was done in English but I don’t recall him saying a lot. He had a special kind of charisma – let’s say an authority – and that’s my abiding memory of working with him.”
Janne and several of the other musicians who worked on “Movin’ On” were also employed to play on Abba sessions and this has lent them their own cult status.
A British connection with “Movin’ On” comes via Charles Davis, Lee’s manager at the time. Davis, now retired in Folkestone, recalls his time managing Hazlewood with great affection. “I was married to a Swedish woman so living in Stockholm and running my own business. There was one English pub in Stockholm and I used to drink there and that’s how I got to meet this gravel-voiced American. I had no idea that he was an entertainer initially, he was just very good company. One day he told me that he wanted to perform some live shows in Stockholm and I told him that was a good idea. He said he needed a manager to organize things and would I manage him? I said that I wouldn’t be any good as I had no experience of managing anyone, but he insisted I could do it and that he would help me." When Lee was first living in Hollywood he had booked rhythm and blues entertainers, including the Platters, so he knew what to expect.
Davis recalls “Movin’ On” being well received in Sweden yet both he and Lee were getting restless. Lee would soon move on, living in Germany, Spain and Ireland before returning to the US – while Charles wanted to return to the UK. They lost touch and did not meet again until Lee’s triumphant concert at the Royal Festival Hall in 2004. Charles Davis has been enormously helpful, finding rare pictures of Lee for the booklet and a poster. He also provided the master tapes which Ace's transfer specialist, Graham Sharpe, confirmed had never been played since the orginal LP had been cut. These pristine reels have been beautifully EQ'd and the sound sparkles.
By Garth Cartwright