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Mr Lucky
Music Reviews

Keely Smith Is Under Our Skin

A Discography

The Dot Years

The Dot YearsLouis & Keely left Capitol for Dot at the height of their career. It was a mistake. Most of the Dot recordings have a few worthwhile moments but on the whole the production values are either lackluster or just plain bad. What's more disturbing is, according to Keely, they had complete control. This would suggest that either the mighty Capitol machine and/or producer Voyle Gilmore was more than a little responsible for their success at Capitol.

The Dot recordings were all reissued in the 1990s on the Jasmine label. The fidelity sounds as if they hadn't used the masters or the anonymous recording technician didn't know what he was doing. Keely Smith owns the rights to these discs and had plans to issue them all herself but that would make little sense unless she improved the quality or found forgotten alternate takes and unused tracks.

Swing You Lovers (1961)
Dot Records
Arranged & Conducted by Gerald Dolin
 

Swing You Lovers is very good. The band sounds a little under-rehearsed and over-arranged but it's fine and fun. It's a valiant attempt to go back to her Capitol sound, but there's just a little something missing that would make it go from very good to great. We suspect better sound would make it a better album.

Keely on Swing You Lovers: "Well, we tried to get Gerald to copy Nelson. And if you listen, you'll see. You'll hear quite a few notes and sounds in there."

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Dearly Beloved (1961)
Dot Records
Arranged & Conducted by George Greeley
 

This album starts out with a bang and ends with a whimper. The title song by Jerome Kern, from You Were Never Lovelier, is also the opener and it's a fine, almost clever arrangement with swelling strings and a mysterious rhythm. It's followed by Close, another winner with great lyrics such as Like winter to spring is / Like sand is to the sea, / Like finger to ring is / You're oh, so much closer to me. But other than these two tracks, the rest is rather mediocre.

Keely on Dearly Beloved: "The very first time I met Ray Charles was in Hollywood. And when I walked up to him I said, "I'm so happy to meet you." He says, "Oh, Tea Leaves! That's' my favorite record." And I couldn't believe it, because I never looked at it that way!"

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A Keely Christmas (1961)
Dot Records
Arranged & Conducted by George Greeley
 

We searched for years to find a copy of this LP and when we finally heard it, we were very disappointed. It's bland and predictable.

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Because You're Mine (1962)
Dot Records
Arrangements by George Greely, Marty Paich & Billy Vaughn
 

We're sorry to be so negative, but the "Dot Years" were not so good for Keely Smith. We like her version of Canadian Sunset but not much else. The credits list Marty Paich (who did such fine work for Mel Torme, among others) as an arranger but his touch isn't evident anywhere, except maybe on Prisoner of Love.

Keely on Because You're Mine: "Because You're Mine was very good for me, too. I did that on a couple of television shows. I got a lot of requests for it. I did it in night clubs. Sometimes I opened my show with it."

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Be My Love (1961)
Dot Records
Arranged & Conducted by Billy Vaughn
 

As above. Only worse.

Keely Smith on Be My Love: "Well, believe it or not, Be My Love was my biggest selling album on Dot. Yeah. My biggest selling."

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Cherokeely Swings (1962)
Dot Records
Arranged & Conducted by Billy May
 

The reissue of Cherokeely Swings, like almost all the Dot Records reissues on Jasmine, features substandard sound quality. It does however reunite Keely with Billy May and they make the best of a mixed bag of songs. Keely doing the Calypso, Yellow Bird, wasn't what the world was waiting for and it still isn't. She does a great version of That Lucky Old Sun. It's not a bad album and any fan should have it but it wouldn't be a good place to start.

The cover is a very campy un-P.C. classic. Keely is just a little too tan and dons a simple but offensive American Indian headdress.

Keely on Cherokeely Swings: "Well, again, in that one we let Billy have his own way. Actually, with a Billy May you don't really tell him what to do, you know. And you just kind of tell him what kind of feeling you want to get. Give him the keys and he just writes what he wants."

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Twist With Keely Smith (1962)
Dot Records
Arranged & Conducted by H.B. Barnum
 

At least Twist With Keely Smith has some camp value. Occasionally the beat meets the voice in a swell, danceable way and Keely doing the Twist works. Chubby Checkers needn't worry, but Keely fans at least have some comic relief after the dreary string of albums she'd recorded previously.

Keely on Twist With Keely Smith: "Oh, God. The Twist album! Well, Dot wanted me to do that. [Arranger] H.P. Barnum literally stood and sang in my ear when we recorded, so I would know the songs. I didn't know the songs. He really did. He sang in my ear and I was able to sing those songs. Not that it's one of my better albums."

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What Kind of Fool Am I? (1962)
Dot Records
Arranged & Conducted by H.B. Barnum
 

Finally Keely on Dot hits artistic gold. Great songs, adequate arrangements and Keely in her prime. The 1960s chorus is pretty syrupy but not too intrusive. What Kind of Fool Am I? features a knock out version of Don't Blame Me, showing off both her sex appeal and her tinsel tonsils. When I asked her about the song, she said, "Don't Blame Me? Well, that's the song that was playing the first time that I ever danced with Sinatra. That's why that's in there!"

Keely on What Kind of Fool Am I?: "Anthony Newly changed the lyrics for me, but we had to get a petition. And I was doing it at the Riviera Hotel, on stage. And I was singing What kind of fool is he? because I didn't believe the song - it was right after Louis and I broke up - and I didn't believe the song the way it was written. So I changed the words and sang it the way I wanted. And the people kept saying, "Why don't you record that? Why don't you record that?". So, we got in touch with Leslie Griffiths and Tony and asked for permission. And first we were turned down. And so, [Keely's manager] Barbara Bell went out and got a petition of, like, twelve hundred signatures and sent it them and then they gave me permission to change it.

What Kind Of Fool Am I is my favorite [of the Dot recordings.] I love singing those kind of songs. I'll Be Tired Of You.... there are some really great love songs in that one.

H.P.Barnum, I haven't seen him in a long time but he was so talented and he was a dear, dear friend. I met him through Jimmy Bowen and we became great friends. And I think he's a great arranger. I think he's still working."

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