Peggy Lee

Peggy Lee

The Best of Peggy Lee: The Millennium Collection

MCA

It’s pretty tempting to take the easy way out and just say that any Peggy Lee compilation that doesn’t include “Fever” isn’t really worth much. And if you really need that song — and you do — this 37-minute comp won’t do it for you, because it only covers Lee’s four years recording for Decca in the 1950s, and scantily at that. To this day, I don’t understand why MCA shorts these Millennium comps the way they do, but whatever. So yeah, this is a greatest hits that doesn’t include Peggy Lee’s greatest hit.

However, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come stomping out the box with one of the most frenetic recordings of the pre-rock era: Lee sings a cover of Rodgers and Hart’s “Lover” with about one million gazillion backup Latin percussionists and horn players going mad behind her. It’s so bizarre and wild that you won’t believe it. I’m serious: crucial stuff.

The rest of the disc is also ace, because Peggy Lee was the bomb. Her voice wasn’t perhaps the deepest (compare her dramatic but thin “Black Coffee” with Sarah Vaughn’s operatic and sexy version), but she knows how to deliver the goods on tunes like “Just One of Those Things” (someone needs to take the amphetamines away from the orchestra, though) and the weeper “He Needs Me.”

Bonus stuff: she co-wrote four of the songs here, including the haunting theme to the most messed-up western of all time, Johnny Guitar (Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge fighting over Sterling Hayden, but maybe in love with each other too?), and “I Don’t Know Enough About Love,” which should be a bigger classic than it is already. Double bonus stuff on the racist tip: “The Siamese Cat Song” from Disney’s The Lady and the Tramp, also co-written by Lee, which has a lot to answer for, but which MCA’s been brave enough to include instead of just dustbinning.

Overall, this is pretty cool — Lee’s knowing platinum-blonde delivery is classic, and the songs are great too (that damned cat song notwithstanding). But why they didn’t slap on another ten or fifteen tracks is way beyond me.

Peggy Lee: http://www.peggylee.com

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