The Essential Capitol Collection

Keely Smith

Capitol, 2007

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Keely Smith, born in 1932, is primarily a jazz-tinged big band singer. Known for her partnership and Vegas act with then-husband Louis Prima during the 1950s, she has had a long career that is still going today; her 2001 disc my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Keely Sings Frank Sinatra was nominated for a Grammy.

The second part of her career began in the early 1960s when, after divorcing Prima, she joined the Reprise label with such pop icons as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. as stablemates. Reprise proved to be a good match for Smith, who produced some fine music for a label that at the time concentrated on vocals. She even married legendary Reprise producer Jimmy Bowen.

Yet The Essential Capital Collection focuses on the music recorded before that point. It is a 27 song collection of this early material, which is strongest on the ballads that fit Smith's clear soprano voice, like “Stormy Weather” and “You Go To My Head.”

The old standard “Fools Rush In” is slowed way down and the cadence is changed and emerges as one of the better cuts on the album. “The Birth Of The Blues” is an excellent example of jazz swing, which is now a dying art form. Two rare gems are duets with Frank Sinatra; “Nothing In Common” and especially “How Are Ya Fixed On Love” show Smith pushing Sinatra vocally as few singers have been able to do.

The Essential Capitol Collection does have some problems. “That Old Black Magic,” which won a 1959 Grammy award for Prima and Smith and is their signature song, now sounds very dated. Also, while Smith can sing uptempo songs, there is a sameness to many of them.

The Keely Smiths of the world, singers who began their careers as big band singers and have not strayed too far from this original musical style, are a vanishing breed. While some of The Essential Capital Collection may seem antiquated and may be a little too long, it is both a testament to the genre and a fine collection of a talented singer.

Rating: B

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© 2007 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol, and is used for informational purposes only.