David Crosby & Graham Nash, Lee Hazlewood, Studio One Classics 2004 David Bennun
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David Crosby
& Graham Nash/
Lee Hazlewood/
Studio One Classics

[The Mail On Sunday, 2004]



Royal Festival Hall, London

Soul Jazz Records

THEY MAY HAVE rescued a parochial, mildewed Britain from cultural entropy, but bashing the Sixties is back in vogue. Tony Blair was at it the other week. I wrote it off as a cheap diversionary tactic. Now David Crosby & Graham Nash release a new album and I start to wonder if he had a point.
 We assuredly can blame the Sixties for folkies who, despite having nothing new to say and no new way of saying it, persist in blithering on at length. What a bloated monument to sanctimonious indulgence this record is: 75 minutes of drippy harmonising to the effect that good things are good, bad things are bad, and isn't it all too awful? Evidently, the many years since the pair joined forces have dimmed neither man's passionate commitment to the cause of himself.
 Fans of Crosby, Stills & Nash will no doubt enjoy it, as it's perfectly proficient and sounds much the same as ever. I wouldn't take it in trade for a single note of Crosby's work with The Byrds - or even Bus Stop by Nash's old band, The Hollies. If bringing back the draft could prevent this kind of thing recurring, I'm all in favour.
 At 75, Lee Hazlewood is a rarity, a genuine maverick who survived the music business. He's best known for partnering Nancy Sinatra on a string of Sixties hits - Some Velvet Morning, Summer Wine, These Boots Are Made For Walkin' - which he describes tonight as “some of the worst songs in the world”, before running through a medley of them.
 Hazlewood needn't be so dismissive; he had no peer when it came to smuggling eerie psychedelic filth into the American pop mainstream. Then he disappeared from view as if vaporised. His reputation today rests on a series of obscure and swiftly deleted country-and-western albums, eventually reissued to justified delight, from which he draws the bulk of a low-key yet captivating show.
 Should Hazlewood live to be a hundred, he won't be as old as his voice - a weary, sleazy, sardonic Texas drawl with the edge of a rusty adze. It's perfect for such dark vignettes, nourished by his own memories of the Great Depression and America's underbelly; and featuring, in his own words, “pimps, whores, dopers and bottom of the human chain shit-heels.”
 He also favours us with a remarkable version of The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan, written by one of his few kindred spirits, the polymath humourist Shel Silverstein; and with a heavy-lidded, bump'n'grind take on Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On so lascivious it would make Jerry Lee Lewis blush like a schoolgirl bride. If Hazlewood's lifetime mission has been to turn scuzz into art, with a true romantic's disregard for any opinion beside his own, then it's been a roaring success from the word go.
 Does old-school dub reggae float your boat? Studio One Classics provides an excellent taster of late producer Clement “Sir Coxsone” Dodd's work for the renowned label, spanning 17 years and including Horace Andy, The Wailers, Burning Spear and the wonderfully named Carlton And The Shoes. Lovely stuff.

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