Are you ready, boots?

I’ve always had a hard time getting into a lot of American pop, especially white American pop from the 1950s to the beginning of the ’80s. It always feels safe, often a little too earnest, a little too corporate. That’s why for the longest time I’ve gravitated more and more towards the French pop of the 1960s. It wasn’t just cool, it was effortlessly cool. Part of it was because of the actual songs, but it was mostly in the delivery of the singers: when they weren’t dishing out delectable double-entendres, they sang with a detached attitude that Americans could never match.

Except for Nancy Sinatra.

For almost 60 years Nancy Sinatra has been a pop culture outlier despite putting out a handful of seminal singles that had a profound effect on popular culture. Perpetually overshadowed by the towering presence – even in death – of her dad Frank, Nancy has since been relegated to cult fave status, which she has completely embraced. But it’s high time her body of work was given a proper re-release that does her underrated musical career justice, and the wonderful Light in the Attic Records – a reissue label that specializes in pristine remasters and gorgeous art design – announced a thorough series of reissues. The first in the collection was Start Walkin’, a double-LP collection of her best work from 1965 to 1976.

19 of the collection’s 23 tracks come from Sinatra’s prolific period between 1965 and 1970, and is also a showcase of the extraordinary chemistry she had with frequent collaborator Lee Hazlewood. Every bit as incongruous as the musical partnership of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, Sinatra and Hazlewood clicked together just as beautifully as their European counterparts. 11 years Nancy’s senior, Hazlewood had tons of songwriting and production experience, both as a solo artist and a collaborator with Duane Eddy, and he brought a distinct style to Nancy’s music, which until that point had been faceless, middle-of-the-road pop songs. With Hazlewood, Sinatra’s music got much edgier in a hurry: it was darker (“Bang Bang”), more psychedelic (“Sugar Town”), sexier (“Paris Summer”), and best of all, feminist, as the seminal “These Boots Were Made For Walkin'” wastes no time in hammering home. Their duets were especially spellbinding too, especially the legendary “Some Velvet Morning”, a song I consider one of the very best of the 1960s.

Start Walkin’ wisely leaves out Nancy’s number one duet with Frank “Somethin’ Stupid”. Stylistically it doesn’t fit, and this collection is all about placing the emphasis on Nancy’s work. Her story is a rare one, in which a kid is raised in a world of wealth, comfort, and privilege yet was able to steadily build a career that stands apart from that of her father. Presented in a lavish gatefold package with copious liner notes, Start Walkin’ is a fitting tribute to one of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest women.