The grizzled Lee Hazlewood loved to play up his beast status by pairing himself with beauties: from his late ’60s hits with bouffanted babe Nancy Sinatra through the accented hotties decorating his final album, 2007′s Cake or Death, he assembled an impressive multi-generational array of breathy sopranos to sweeten his grumbling baritone. But for an interlude in the mid ’70s, Hazlewood got down for some serious bro-time. Decamped to Sweden to keep his son out of the draft, Hazlewood paired with a beefy, bearded, booted-and-flared Scandinavian counterpart, the director Torbjörn Axelrod, for a TV specials, including the plotless, ruminative, lavishly scored A House Safe for Tigers in 1975.
Never before reissued, the soundtrack is as weirdly ambitious and contrarian as anything Hazlewood recorded, a Herzog-like, fractured exploration into time, place and brotherly love. The title track is a soft-rock shuffle that weds harmonica and mariachi horns with tidbits of Buddhist-inspired philosophy. “May warm fires find your flue,” Hazlewood coos. “May all your vines bear sweet wines, and your sons the hearts of doves.” “Our Little Boy Blue” is a half-spoken cowboy lullaby about a grown man’s forgotten toys; bass notes plod like heavy footballs as music-box keyboards plink and trill. The album’s centerpiece is “Souls Island,” a metaphysical ode to the awesomeness of being dudes together. Philharmonic strings swell and cascade; timpani roll. Axelrod chimes in with an untranslated monologue — cross-cultural references like “Alcatraz” and “Wounded Knee” pop out of the spew. He wasn’t as cute as Sinatra or Ann-Margret, but he charmed the lothario just the same.