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Brenda Lee: Anthology, 1956-1980

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Album Review

Brenda Lee hasn't been treated well by reissue culture — no remastered albums — and, excepting the Bear Family box set she deserved (and received), only a few compilations, like this two-disc set from MCA. Fortunately, Anthology, Vols. 1 & 2 (1956-1980) is all most fans will need to appreciate why Lee was one of the most intense performing personalities recording in Nashville, just behind Elvis Presley. But Lee had more power than Presley, and more control as well, and the two ranked nearly even in delivery. (Of course, Elvis received song material of a much higher quality than she did.) Her first hit, "Dynamite," along with "Sweet Nothin's," and "Bill Bailey Won't You Please Come Home" rank with the best country/pop/rockabilly performances of the era. Lee could pull off bright novelties such as "Let's Jump the Broomstick" or "Dum Dum" with no problem, and add something new to a well-worn standard, like her bluesy, swinging version of Leiber & Stoller's "Kansas City," or the vocal jazz chestnut "You Can Depend on Me." As the later material here proves, Lee also excelled in the melodramatic countrypolitan mode; moving from teenaged exuberance to middle-aged reflection and resignation — in character, of course; she only turned 30 in 1974 — to bring across moving country heartbreakers "Johnny One Time," "As Usual," and "Emotions." The track selection is excellent, touching on every major performance of her career, as well as those she's best known for in rock circles: "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "Is It True?," the latter a 1964 rock & roll hit recorded in London with Jimmy Page on guitar.

Customer Reviews

Brenda Lee gold dust!

Finding a good Brenda Lee greatest hits compilation on CD is something of an achievement, and an exhaustive collection just doesn't exist. The strength of this double CD is that it attempts to cover the span of Lee's career, including stuff before she became a big star in 1960 and stuff from the years after she fell from chart success (post-1966), as well as the glory years ('60-'64) and it does include a great many of her best recordings. The down sides to this collection? Well, for one, none of these tracks has been digitally remastered, but you won't find such a collection anywhere else either. Another bug bear is that 'Speak to Me Pretty', Lee's biggest-ever chart success in the UK, does not appear on this US collection because it was never released as an A-side in the US. Sadly this track seems to remain unavailable on CD.

brenda lee .

stars are more bright when brenda lee comes up exelent albums! by ellen jennings

Brilliant

I have purchased I wonder and Break it to me gently which are simply brilliant. I would probably purchase the whole album if iTunes put a price on it.

Biography

Born: 11 December 1944 in Lithonia, GA

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the biggest pop stars of the early '60s, Brenda Lee hasn't attracted as much critical respect as she deserves. She is sometimes inaccurately characterized as one of the few female teen idols. More crucially, the credit for achieving success with pop-country crossovers usually goes to Patsy Cline, although Lee's efforts in this era were arguably of equal importance. While she made few recordings of note after the mid-'60s, the best of her first decade is fine indeed, encompassing not just the...
Full bio