With a career spanning nearly seven decades, it’s hard to quibble with the multi-faceted chops of the one and only Peggy Lee. She began her career as a vocalist and sang with Benny Goodman’s outfit, but her refusal to be branded led her down a variety of avenues and into acting and writing music for movies.
After an extensive career releasing albums for Capitol Records, Peggy Lee took to her post-Capitol era with delight and with a pretty motivating musical marriage. Let’s Love, recently reissued by the good folks over at Collectors’ Choice, boasts a compelling title track arranged by Paul McCartney and carries out an interesting but not entirely satisfying combination of jazz, gospel and pop tunes.
“Let’s Love” is the key element of this record, of course, and it’s also the album’s strongest song.
For Lee, the track was a way to go beyond the Great American Songbook and to stretch her talents. Sure, she’d already been covering Beatles tunes and had been turning others on to versions of songs by the likes of Randy Newman and Otis Redding, but this was different. When McCartney presented Lee with the architecture for “Let’s Love” in London, it was like she’d be given a gift.
While the rest of Let’s Love is arranged by Dave Grusin, McCartney handled the arrangement of the title track and laid the backing track down at Abbey Road. Lee did her part at Los Angeles’ The Record Plant in early June 1974 after the majority of the rest of the record was completed.
Unfortunately, the rest of Let’s Love never reaches the deceptively simple and beautiful heights reached by the McCartney and Lee combination.
While the record is indeed very diverse, it’s hard to emotionally connect to it for some reason. Lee rolls through a touch of funk exemplified by the '70s fascination with fusion, but she never quite conveys the passion required to bring a track like Alan O’Day’s “Easy Evil” into the light. She vamps to some extent, sure, but Lee almost sounds evasive and that makes the tune less than convincing.