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Pop - Released December 13, 2018 | Real Gone Music

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Avoiding what could have been a cheap cash-in on youth culture and the rising influence of rock on popular music, Keely Smith instead delivered a gorgeously rendered, swinging, and utterly purehearted celebration of the Beatles on 1964's Keely Smith Sings the John Lennon-Paul McCartney Songbook. Deftly eschewing the use of the Beatles name in the album title, Smith instead chose to focus on the songwriting talents of Lennon and McCartney. The result was an album that smartly recontextualized the band's songs within the pantheon of traditional pop and the canon of standards that grew out of the work of the Great American Songbook composers. Separated from the British Invasion hype (and crying fans), the Beatles were the one rock band that both teenagers and their parents could agree upon -- a contemporary rock act who still wrote lyrical love songs with standard AABA forms that didn't sound too far removed from the pop of the the big-band era. At least, that's what Smith would seem to want you to believe here. Working with producer Jimmy Bowen and arrangers Ernie Freeman and Benny Carter, and backed at various times by a big band and string orchestra, Smith dives headlong into the process, soaring with a smile through a bossa nova-tinged take on "If I Fell" and drawing upon mentor Frank Sinatra's laid-back style on her swinging reading of "Please Please Me." Elsewhere, she brings out subtleties in the original material that the Beatles merely hinted at, including turning the first part of "World Without Love" into a slow, dramatic verse like a Broadway intro. Similarly thrilling is hearing how Smith and her collaborators have mapped some of Lennon and McCartney's songs to other contemporaries, including drawing upon Ray Charles' piano-driven soulfulness on "This Girl" and evoking Peggy Lee's smoky, finger-snapping "Fever" on "A Hard Day's Night." Admittedly, not every Beatles song works as well in this context, and cuts like "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand," while pleasant as light period background pop, suffer from schmaltzy string and backing vocal additions, while conversely pointing out the limits of Lennon and McCartney's repeated chorus lyrics. Nonetheless, by unabashedly embracing the Beatles' songs at a time when most of her peers were decrying the state of popular music, Smith managed to deliver an album that both lionized Lennon and McCartney (a fact that put her on the right side of pop history) and retained all of the urbane, swinging musicality she was known for. ~ Matt Collar
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Lounge - Released January 1, 2007 | Capitol Records

There's no way Keely Smith will ever be able to escape the long shadow of Louis Prima, whose fourth wife she was and who led the band where she found her greatest fame. Heard apart from Prima, she was a fantastic vocalist, the equal of more respected singers like Chris Connor or Helen Merrill, who were working a much different circuit than Smith during the late '50s and early '60s. The Essential Capitol Collection is an excellent way to survey Keely Smith's early career; it includes 27 songs, including much of her several LPs for the label, as well as her most popular duets with Prima and two with Frank Sinatra. ~ John Bush
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Lounge - Released October 10, 1959 | EMI Records

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Crossover - Released July 7, 2017 | Real Gone Music

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Following her split with husband and creative partner Louis Prima, vocalist Keely Smith signed with Frank Sinatra's Reprise Records for a series of finely curated and well-received albums designed to showcase her voice and relaunch her career. The first of these, 1963's Little Girl Blue/Little Girl New, featured arrangements by Sinatra's longtime collaborator, the illustrious Nelson Riddle, and was conceptualized in two parts with Side A, "Little Girl Blue," featuring ballads and Side B, "Little Girl New," focusing on more upbeat numbers. The result was a tour de force of an album that presented Smith as the solo star she deserved to be -- and which Sinatra had known she could be for many years prior. Thankfully, as per all of Sinatra's Reprise contracts, the artists kept the rights to the master recordings, which is where they remained until Smith struck her own deal with Real Gone Music for a series of reissues, including this 2017 expanded edition of Little Girl Blue/Little Girl New. Though she had recorded solo albums for Dot during her years with Prima, she had been somewhat overshadowed by the kitschy, flamboyant tone (and Grammy-winning success) of their performances, which often found her playing the cheeky straight man to her trumpeter husband's swing-era clown. Afforded far greater freedom on Sinatra's label, she was presented on Little Girl Blue/Little Girl New as an urbanely sophisticated hipster and a clarion diva in the mold of such similarly inclined contemporaries as June Christy, Anita O'Day, and Kay Starr. Cuts like her yearning take on "Here's That Rainy Day" and her languorously sensual reading of "I'll Never Be the Same Again" reveal her as a mature and knowing performer in contrast to the lighter, more comedic tone of her work with Prima. That said, she can still knock 'em dead as she does on the latter half of the album, her highly resonant voice slicing through uptempo swinger's like "I'm Gonna Live 'til I Die" and "I've Got a Lot of Livin' to Do." Ultimately, listening to Smith and her pointed yet dusky, golden-toned voice pouring out of Riddle's shimmering, sky-blue arrangements, one can easily see why Sinatra jumped at the chance to work with her. ~ Matt Collar

Pop - Released September 20, 2017 | Rarity Music

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Pop - Released June 8, 2018 | Acrobat

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Crossover - Released October 14, 2016 | Real Gone Music

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Pop - Released December 13, 2018 | Real Gone Music

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Lounge - Released May 21, 1958 | EMI Music Japan Inc.

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Lounge - Released February 2, 1957 | EMI Music Special Markets

Although known primarily as one-time partner and wife to Louis Prima (vocals), Keely Smith (vocals) also had a measurable amount of success on her own. I Wish You Love was not only the title of her debut long-player, it quickly became one of her signature pieces as well. By the end of the 1950s, the team of Prima and Smith were among the hottest tickets along the burgeoning Los Vegas and Atlantic City gambling strips. The buzz of their perpetually packed houses and high energy stage show garnered them recording contracts at Capitol both as a duo as well as respective solo artists. On stage, Smith's sweet, inviting, and intimate tone was a perfect contrast to Prima's often bombastic delivery. That same cosy quality is at the heart of the 11 performances on this disc. No doubt the mood enhancing arrangements of the great Nelson Riddle didn't hurt either. While torch songs/ballads became her trademark as a soloist, Smith's sumptuous prowl through "When Day Is Done," and the happy-go-lucky mid-tempo romp of "When Your Lover Has Gone" proves her mettle as an intuitive jazz interpreter as well. Other examples range from the subtle give-and-take she brings to her sensitive reading of "Imagination," to the breezy "Don't Take Your Love from Me," which bops along with an Edie Adams' like effervescence. Smith would go on to collaborate with Billy May on Politely! (1958), and reunite with Riddle on Swingin' Pretty (1959). In 2003, Collectors' Choice Music issued I Wish You Love on CD with an additional half-a-dozen bonus tracks, including an alternate version of the title composition as well as four other sides cut during her very first demo sessions in April of 1956. ~ Lindsay Planer
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2005 | Concord Records

The proposition of deep freezing a late-'50s gig by Louis Prima and Keely Smith with accompaniment by Sam Butera & the Witnesses -- which usually earned its tag, no small praise, as the Wildest Show in Vegas -- and thawing it nearly 50 years later is a risky one; specifically, it risks losing most of the energy that made the show so special in the first place. Nevertheless, when Keely Smith's booking agent, Allen Sviridoff, suggested that she resurrect the sound and feel of a vintage Prima/Smith show for a live appearance, she agreed. Recorded for the Concord label, Vegas '58 -- Today can't help but pale next to the real thing. Most importantly, absent are Prima's volcanic performance personality and Butera's powerful band; in the show, Smith functioned as a cool flame, an able foil for all the exuberant action going on around her. Her 2004 band is energetic and powerful enough, and they do a solid job of recycling some of Prima's own arrangements for his standards like "Basin Street Blues," "Lazy River," "Jump, Jive, an' Wail," and "That Old Black Magic." And Smith makes the date as loose as her old shows with Prima, laughing and giggling and even good-naturedly sharing her possible lack of judgment in trying to reprise Prima's vocal performances herself (which she then confirms by performing them). She does still shine on the material she performed with the classic show, such as "Don't Take Your Love from Me," "That Old Black Magic," and a breathless closer, "What Kind of Fool Am I?" (no "Autumn Leaves" though, unfortunately). After all this, however, the fact remains that, as all but the best tribute shows do, this performance makes one yearn for the original. ~ John Bush