Album Review: Peggy Lee — Norma Deloris Egstrom from Jamestown North Dakota

If you were a rock fan in 1972, chances are good that you had no use for so-called “easy listening” music. That was the stuff your parents and their uncool friends listened to. Of course a half-century later, there’s an equally good chance that your tastes have expanded, and that you now appreciate – if grudgingly — the artistry that could be contained and expressed within that format.

Exhibit A is a 1972 release from Peggy Lee. With the unwieldy title Norma Deloris Egstrom from Jamestown North Dakota, the eclectic collection of songs explores a variety of textures, all with Lee’s superb and effortlessly expressive voice at the center. The album’s single, “Love Song” is a wonderful slice of adult pop. “Razor (Love Me as I Am) is a modern-day follow-up to “Fever,” with a sultry and subtle swing and swagger. The big and brassy horns are tasty indeed.

Wonderfully tasteful arrangement abound; “When I Found You” has a Carole King vibe. Leon Russell’s “A Song for You” features sweeping strings and a soaring Lee vocal. A deeply melancholy “It Takes Too Long to Learn to Live Alone” is confessional adult pop of the first order.

Many artists have cut Delaney and Bonnie’s “Superstar.” The Carpenters’ hit recording is the most well-known. And while Lee’s recording isn’t radically different from that version, she slips into the song with aplomb. Far better, though, is a saloon song, “Just for a Thrill.” Buttery vibes, tinkling piano and a smoky, late-night vocal from Lee make it one the record’s best cuts.

And the arrangement on “Someone Who Cares” is an exemplar of the easy listening genre; it’s full of nuance and subtlety and power, all applied expertly. The gentle acoustic guitar picking that lies at the foundation of “The More I See You” is delightful. The album-proper ends with a classic, Sammy Fain’s “I’ll Be Seeing You.” The strings surge but never overwhelm Peggy Lee’s sweet vocals.

(This reissue features a half-dozen alternate takes. They’re all interesting but none are as good as the official versions.)