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Mr Lucky
Music Reviews

Keely Smith Is Under Our Skin

A Discography

The Reprise Years

Keely It's hard to believe how much action Keely Smith saw in the recording studios in the early 1960s. From Capitol to Dot to Sinatra's newly-formed Reprise Records. The varying degrees of quality is astounding as well. The Dots, with exceptions, are average at best. We imagined going from Dot to Reprise was like going back to Capitol, but Keely laughed. And she wouldn't elaborate.

Little Girl Blue /Little Girl New (1963)
Reprise Records
Arranged & Conducted by Nelson Riddle
 

One side of the disc is Keely "blue", with slow, languid ballads, while the other side is Keely "new", with peppy, upbeat songs that mostly were new when she recorded them. The concept makes for a great campy cover but balancing the songs in a more traditional format would have been more successful. Still, it's very close to her Capitol heyday (of less than five years earlier!) and a winning disc.

Keely on Little Girl Blue / Little Girl Blue: "Being at Reprise wasn't like being back at Capitol. It was nice to record with Nelson again, though."

Album cover

Album cover

Reprise Musical Repertory Theatre
Kiss Me Kate
South Pacific
(1963)
Reprise Records
 

Frank Sinatra collected his label mates to record studio versions of four important Broadway scores. Keely sings Twin Soliloquies with Frank and A Wonderful Guy by herself, both from South Pacific. On Kiss Me Kate, she sings Always True to You in My Fashion and again duets with Sinatra, this time on a reprise of So In Love. Naturally, there's no where near enough Keely for our tastes.

Album cover
Keely Smith Sings the John Lennon / Paul McCartney Songbook (1964)
Reprise Records
Arranged & Conducted by Ernie Freeman & Benny Carter
 

If you are of a certain age or a Beatles fan, this album will terrify you. Lennon and McCartney were just not to be covered credibly by other artists. It just wasn't done. Yet Keely did it and if you're not a a devotee of the Beatles, but like their music, this disc will oddly grow on you after several listenings. At least it did for us.

Keely on The Lennon/McCartney Songbook: "This was a very big album for me. That was a top ten album for me in London for years. I think it was Jimmy's idea. As long as I like something, I would be almost agreeable to do it if I thought it would help. And Ernie Freedman was one of the best arrangers I ever heard."

Album cover
The Intimate Keely Smith (1965)
Reprise Records
 

If we have one teensy weensy complaint about Keely's singing, it's that once in a blue moon she sounds as if she's whining. This album is taken a dirge tempo with just a small combo behind her. If she were Sinatra, she could have pulled it off and she almost does, but an album like this has to wear on you if you're really listening. Perhaps it works best as background music, but that would be to miss her fine Time After Time.

If ever there was a candidate for CD technology, it's The Intimate Keely Smith. The muted accompaniment makes even a clean copy of the disc sound like a sit by crackling fire with all the pops and scratches, no matter how minuscule.

Keely on The Intimate Keely Smith: "Well, in those days, I had what we called a "mood spot" that I did on stage of about six or eight - depending on how I felt at that particular show - ballads, that I did just with the trio. And that's what, I told Jimmy Bowen who was my record producer at the time, I said, " I want to go in and I want to do this mood spot on a disc." And he said, "Gee, I don't know." So he went in, he let me record it the way I wanted to which was with no endings. It was just going from one song to the other. And after we did it, the company, Reprise, came back and told Jimmy, "You can't do that because the disc jockeys have no place to cut off a song or start a song." So, we had to go back in and do it giving them cuts in between where they could end the song and start another song. I still think they should have left that alone."

Album cover
That Old Black Magic (1966)
Reprise Records
Arranged by Ernie Freeman
 

This is just dire. A collection of remakes from the good old days with Louis, without Louis.

Keely on That Old Black Magic: "I don't think it was so much fun to do - and not that it wasn't fun - it was just something I did. Now, this album that I'm doing now, that I'm copying Louis, is a lot of fun."

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