A few years back I found a vinyl copy of NORMA DELORES EGSTROM FROM JAMESTOWN NORTH DAKOTA at a flea market in Albuquerque, N.M. Having loved Peggy Lee all of my life, but never having heard this particular album, I bought it for a buck or so. (I first paid really close attention to Peggy Lee when I was around twelve years old, at an alcoholic neighbor lady's house on my block, where I did chores for pocket change. This overly generous lady, who resembled Phyllis Diller, would drink gin out of a tall paper cup all day long with the drapes closed, and she would let me paw through her LP collection, where I discovered LATIN ALA LEE. In the following weeks, I would play that scratchy record over and over on my besotted host's console stereo). By the time I first heard NORMA DELORES EGSTROM..., I was in my mid-forties (this was around 1997), and was now thoroughly acquainted with most of Ms. Lee's catalog. I put the album on my turntable for the first time with some trepidation, as this great singer's first few post-Capitol albums in the seventies were, to say the least, not among her best efforts. Boy was I surprised! How had this excellent album eluded me for all of those years? Here was a mix of contemporary material mixed with old chestnuts that was handled with the flare of Peggy Lee in her prime, and I could not have been more pleased. The ragged edges and shortness of breath that were beginning to show up in Lee's voice around this time only added to the charm of these performances, and one tune, Leslie Duncan's "Love Song" moved me to tears. "When I Found You" was another standout on this set, gently rocking and confirming once more that Peggy Lee could sing just about anything with class and style. For those who still doubt, pick this "twofer" up and marvel at how Lee handles songs of the younger generation at that time, "Superstar" and "A Song For You." If they weren't already, Peg helped them become new standards. The version of the established standard, "I'll Be Seeing You," on this CD, is now among my very favorite Peggy Lee performances.
Now there's not much I can add to what other reviewers have written here about I'M A WOMAN, an album I've been waiting for years to come out on CD. Peggy's sly, swingin' rendition of "There Ain't No Sweet Man (That's Worth The Salt Of My Tears)" is alone worth the price of admission, but every song here is perfectly sung. One can just see the twinkle in Peggy's eye (and the tongue in her cheek) as she tosses off "Mack The Knife" in a half-whisper at breakneck speed. The sound effects make it fresh and funny, while somehow only enhancing the song's sinister undertones. "A Taste Of Honey" is gorgeous, and "Alley Cat Song" is one of Lee's great signature tunes, along with the title track. Although Rick Nelson's version of "I'm Walkin'" is not threatened by Ms. Lee's take, she makes it shine in her own, effortless way.
Taken together, these two records are a solid set, but are quite different; each could easily stand on its own. One note of caution: as mentioned by others, some of the tracks on NORMA DELORES EGSTROM... are not the same takes that were used on the LP version, and are not quite as polished (although certainly not bad). My guess is that the original masters were lost or were damaged. I was vaguely disappointed, and would have deducted half a star, but Amazon doesn't provide that option to customers, so the five-star rating stands, as these albums should be bought and heard by fans and newbies alike. They're great!