Lee Hazlewood's partnership with Reprise Records in the 1960s resulted in timeless hits for Dean Martin and Nancy Sinatra. Throughout the decade, though, the label also released three of the artist's most highly regarded solo works: The N.S.V.I.P.'s, Friday's Child and Love and Other Crimes.
Hazlewood's 1964 sophomore album The N.S.V.I.P.'s (Not So Very Important People) is the perfect companion to his classic debut, Trouble Is a Lonesome Town, released the year prior. Setting his signature spoken intros to a new cast of small town eccentrics (perhaps modeled on his childhood locale in Mannford, Oklahoma), this early career high-point presents Hazlewood with all of his singular assets already intact: playful lyrics veering toward the bizarre, wry delivery and wonderfully understated pop-country song craft.
''First Street Blues'' opens The N.S.V.I.P.'s with the saga of Leroy, the once-irascible dragon who converts to a cheerful wino. The small-town drunkard's likely story merges with fantastic whimsy in Hazlewood's strange world. Elsewhere, he waxes absurd on ''I Had a Friend'' about Tarzan's deficiencies as a citizen and marital prospect for Jane. He even imparts some simple wisdom about the presidential election on ''Save Your Vote for Clarence Mudd.'' As always, Hazlewood's tongue is firmly rooted in cheek. Still, it's easy to just forget that and live inside the poignant songs he creates for each and every one of the not so very important, but absolutely riveting, people - and dragons, too.