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Brenda Lee: Anthology, 1956-1980

Brenda Lee

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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.

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...
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Brenda Lee: Anthology, 1956-1980, Brenda Lee
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