This entirely insane and altogether delightful album was originally released in 1968, when enigmatic producer/songwriter Hazlewood and screen icon Ann-Margaret were both about as famous as they were ever likely to get. The pair pose on the cover in Wild West period costume, and for the inner sleeve photos in Wild West period underwear. While it seems safe to assume that neither party embarked upon this recording intending that it would be the most serious artistic statement they would ever make, The Cowboy & The Lady nonetheless contains, like all Hazlewood's albums, more than its share of poignant moments.Though this CD includes three Hazlewood compositions as bonus tracks, the idea was clearly that The Cowboy & The Lady would be a slightly off-kilter reading of the classics. There are moments of total chaos (on "The Only Mama That'll Walk The Line", both vocalists sound like they're learning it as they go along), but some of it works strangely well: "Victims Of The Night", "No Regrets" and "Dark End Of The Street" are some of the best things the mercurial Hazlewood was ever involved with. As ever, he's at his best in his improvised off-moments, like the moment in "Greyhound Bus Depot" when, contemplating a fellow transient, he muses "If I knew her better ... I'd buy her a puppy." --Andrew Mueller
Review by Eugene Chadbourne
Many listeners are surprised that this combination doesn't click, and as it turns out the best thing about this record is the photography, as the pair strips down to longjohns in what appears to be the frontier city set in Tucson, AZ. After all, brassy Ann Margaret does have things in common with the Hazlewood breadwinner Nancy Sinatra, and that includes a good voice as well as a hard body. The instrumental arrangements reveal that Hazlewood was already brave, bold, and audacious, sometimes changing the texture totally for what winds up to be a fade-out tag; other times dropping so many instruments in one's lap it will seem like a music store has moved in upstairs and caused the floor to collapse. The one missing ingredient is subtlety -- this is what good old Nancy Sinatra brought to each and every one of the classic recording collaborations with Hazlewood. She never pushed too hard, and it wasn't just a matter of sounding sultry, either. Even in the diabolical "Boots Are Made for Walkin'" she really just sounds like someone's slightly bitchy girlfriend, whereas judging by the performance of "Sweet Thing" that comes near the close of this collection, one shudders to think of how Ann Margaret might have interpreted the personality behind the tromping boots. She is just over the top much too often, an approach that of course works well for her when an audience is also watching her dance or she is part of a farce such as the hit play Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. What can be said for her is that she sometimes accomplishes the not-simple task of stepping into a country & western arrangement when she is not at all a country singer. This does not mean her "Only Mama That'll Walk the Line" will make anyone forget the Waylon Jennings original, but it does mean that the moments when her voice is swathed with the harmonica of Charlie McCoy and Mr. Unidentified on pedal steel are pleasant indeed. Which is more than can be said for some of the atrocious bombast that also came out of this session, material that probably only saw the light of day because some bean counter at the record label wanted something to show for having hired an entire symphony orchestra and big band for the session.