Uncut (p.81) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[H]e lets his lazy Charlie Rich-reminiscent baritone flow over the piano rolls of 'Fort Worth'..."
Audio Remasterers: Elysian Masters; Dave Cooley.
Liner Note Author: Hunter Lea.
Recording information: United Recorders, Los Angeles, CA.
MGM Records expected Lee Hazlewood to duplicate his success as a producer and songwriter when he stepped to the forefront as a solo artist, but his first two albums for the label -- 1966's The Very Special World of Lee Hazlewood and 1967's Lee Hazlewoodism: Its Cause and Cure -- were purposefully quirky efforts that had all but nothing to do with rock & roll and soon sank without a trace. Hazlewood's tenure with the label came to a close with 1968's Something Special, and despite the strength of the performances, this sounds like a contractual obligation album if there ever were such a thing. Billy Strange's elaborate orchestrations were gone (except on the opening track, "Shades," a leftover from the Lee Hazlewoodism sessions), and instead Hazlewood was backed by a small combo (dominated by pianist Don Randi and bassist Chuck Berghofer) playing late-night blues changes with a jazz undertow, while Hazlewood's easygoing vocals, half hipster recitation and half rootsy twang, hovered over the top. As always, Hazlewood seemed to be doing just what he felt like at the moment, and though the scale is smaller, the execution clearly reflects his laid-back, crushed-velvet-on-denim persona, and Don Randi's gravel-voiced scatting (which suggests Tom Waits time traveling into Los Angeles in the late '60s) is a creative line in the sand that will either engage or alienate listeners. Something Special is too expert to sound tossed off, but it certainly doesn't sound fussed over, and the fact it was knocked out in four evenings sounds about right, though the skill of Hazlewood's accompanists allows this to sound expert and spontaneous at once. MGM saw little commercial potential in Something Special and didn't give it an American release in 1968, making it available only in Germany and Scandinavia, but it received a belated U.S. debut in the 21st century, and it's a modest but fascinating piece of the puzzle of Hazlewood's career as a headliner. ~ Mark Deming
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