Keely Smith was a star during the 1950’s as the vocalist of a band led by her husband Louis Prima. After their divorce in 1961, she embarked on a solo career that has extended into her late 80’s.
During the mid-1960’s, she produced four albums for Frank Sinatra’s Reprise label. That material has been out of print for decades. Now, The Intimate Keely Smith, probably the best solo album of her career, has finally been re-released in an expanded form.
Smith had just released her most commercially successful album with Sings The Songs Of Lennon And McCartney. A year later she went in an entirely different direction with a very simple album of music backed by guitar, piano, and drums. The word intimate is the key as it seems she is in the room with you presenting the songs in a very laid back fashion. It is an approach that treads the line between jazz and moody pop.
It is mostly a laid back collection of songs from The Great American Songbook. Gershwin’s “Somebody Loves Me,” Gus Kahn’s “It Had To Be You,” the Khan/Styne “Time After Time,” and the classic “God Bless The Child” are like butter in her hands as they are given gentle treatments. The best performance may be “The Whippoorwill.” She revisits the song for the third time in her career but this simple and stark performance is the best.
The two bonus tracks may be a little out of place but taken individually they are both interesting. “No One Ever Tells You” is a Goffin/King/Spector song originally sung by The Crystals. Her take is very adult with a lot more emotion than the original. It was originally released as a single and never appeared on an album. The other bonus track is a duet with Frank Sinatra. “Twin Soliloquies” was originally recorded as a part of a Reprise label all-star salute to South Pacific. The give and take of the song is a perfect vehicle for the two masters of easy listening pop.
The Intimate Keely Smith is an album that may have been out of style 25 years ago but with the expansion of musical tastes today, it is an album with a time feel.