THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “The incongruous, yet glorious, creative partnership between Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood was well underway when the two singular artists reunited to record 1972’s Nancy & Lee Again, a followup to their bestselling debut Nancy & Lee. Nancy, the eldest daughter of Frank Sinatra, had been working with the Oklahoma-born songwriter since 1965, when she topped the pop charts with These Boots Are Made For Walkin’. Over the next five years, the two artists forged a prolific relationship in the studio, with Hazlewood writing and producing many of Nancy’s solo hits. Soon, the duo found success with a series of duets, including Sand, Summer Wine and Some Velvet Morning — all of which appeared on their highly influential 1968 debut.
Not long after the critical acclaim and chart success of Nancy & Lee died down, however, Hazlewood unexpectedly relocated to Sweden, leaving his musical partner in the proverbial dust. America, meanwhile, was in the midst of a cultural shift, as the Vietnam War waged on. By the turn of the decade, the musical landscape had changed significantly. “Trivial music and not profound music became unimportant,” recalls Nancy, speaking to Hunter Lea. “It was a tough time.” And yet, despite the circumstances, the stars somehow aligned for the duo to record some of their most magnificent music together.
Returning to Los Angeles for the project, Hazlewood — who reprised his role as producer — chose to take a new direction with the duo’s sophomore album. Nancy recalls, “It was more dramatic; it was more fun to do, more challenging to do… It was more grandiose.” For the lush, orchestral arrangements, they collaborated with Larry Muhoberac (an original member of Elvis Presley’s TCB band whose early ’70s credits also included Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond and Lalo Schifrin) and Clark Gassman, who had worked on Hazlewood’s 1970 LP, Cowboy in Sweden. Backing vocals from brothers John and Tom Bahler, who remain two of the most-recorded singers in history, added additional texture to several songs.
The big sound that Nancy describes above is exemplified in the album’s cinematic opener, Arkansas Coal (Suite). Clocking in at nearly six minutes long, the dynamic overture tells the tale of an ill-fated coal miner (sung by Hazlewood), while Nancy adjusts her vocals to sing as both the miner’s daughter and his wife. Hazlewood’s knack for vivid, nuanced storytelling shines throughout Nancy & Lee Again, particularly in Paris Summer, which details the conflict that a married woman faces, as she engages in a passionate affair. Another highlight is the country-inspired hit Did You Ever, which was released as the album’s lead single. After it landed at No. 2 on the U.K. pop charts, the song served as an alternate title track in several countries, including LP pressings in the U.K., Germany, and Canada.
One of the most emotionally charged moments on Nancy & Lee Again is a cover of Dolly Parton’s Down From Dover. The heartbreaking tune tells the tale of a pregnant teenager who has been abandoned by her lover and her family and ultimately gives birth to a stillborn baby. While Parton’s 1970 version was sung from the teenager’s point of view, Hazlewood and Sinatra transformed the country song into a duet. Hazlewood, who offers the man’s side of the story, sings in a notably deeper octave than his signature baritone.
Another poignant selection is Congratulations, which describes a soldier coming home from Vietnam. “His face has grown old and his eyes have grown cold / And they tell you of where he has been / Congratulations, you sure made a man out of him,” Hazlewood sings pointedly. Nancy, who performs as the vet’s wife, argues that the song had a deeper meaning for her duet partner. “Lee started out a hawk, he was an army guy, so he was all for the war in the beginning. We didn’t talk about it, but at some point, he changed radically. Congratulations was almost like an apology from him. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but it was as though he was saying ‘I’m really sorry.’ ”
The song Friendship Train could also be interpreted as an apology of sorts — this time to Nancy. “You’ve been hurt and I’ve been hurt / Now we’re living pain,” the tune opens. When Hazlewood moved to Sweden without telling his longtime musical partner, Sinatra was understandably upset. “I felt pretty betrayed. I mean, who does that? Who just up and disappears like that? I’ll never understand it,” she reveals. But the uplifting duet — a slice of ’70s pop perfection — offers reaffirming words of love between friends. “(Lee) felt things very deeply and tended to express his feelings in song instead of in real life,” explains Nancy.
The 10-track album closes with the stripped-down Got It Together. Backed by an acoustic guitar, the song is equal parts playful and candid, as the duo has an impromptu, spoken-word conversation about their lives. “I wish that we’d quit getting so old,” laments Nancy, who later shares her wish to have children (she would do so in the next few years). Hazlewood, meanwhile, attempts to remedy his past wrongdoings — this time asking his partner, “Can I go back to Sweden?” With that, Nancy gives her blessing.
This definitive reissue of Nancy & Lee Again also includes two bonus tracks. Both are stylistic departures for the duo — but fit right in with the psychedelic pop of the era. The first one, Think I’m Coming Down, is a harmony-filled reflection on a toxic relationship. “I think that was one of (Lee’s) drug things. I don’t mean that he used drugs; I mean that he was trying to be part of that culture. Trying to be hip,” explains Nancy, who delivers an emotive vocal performance on the solo track. Also included is Machine Gun Kelly, penned by a staple of the ’70s singer-songwriter movement, Danny Kortchmar (James Taylor, Carole King, Linda Ronstadt). Recorded several months after the release of the album, the song found Nancy reuniting with Billy Strange, who arranged many of her solo albums, as well as Nancy & Lee. Sinatra and Hazlewood first performed Machine Gun Kelly during their residency at Las Vegas’ Riviera Hotel in February 1972 (later released as a concert documentary on Swedish television). While the recording has long remained a career favorite of Nancy’s, it would be decades before it was officially released.
Nancy & Lee Again remains a creative high point in the careers of Sinatra and Hazlewood and, upon its release, garnered rave reviews from Billboard, Record World and Cash Box, among others. Yet, Nancy & Lee Again never received the spotlight it so utterly deserved. “We didn’t have label support at all in those days,” recalls Nancy. “Without the strength of a label, records die. We were old. We were old-fashioned. We were just not what was happening. It’s a very ageist kind of business.” Nevertheless, she adds, “I think it’s a very good album. I think it’s timeless.” Now, after years of being a sought-after rarity, this gem in the Sinatra-Hazlewood canon can finally get its due.
Five decades later, Nancy’s legacy only continues to grow, as new generations discover her impressive catalog (which boasts nearly 20 studio albums — her duets with Hazlewood among them — and dozens of charting singles, including the theme song to the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice). In 2020, Sinatra was recognized by her peers when These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. That same year, Sinatra released Nancy Sinatra: Start Walkin’ 1965-1976, a definitive survey of her most prolific period.”