With the overabundance of female vocalists making records in the fifties, it's not much of a surprise that Keely Smith has become lost in the shuffle today. If known at all, it's probably for her records with Louis Prima and not for her work as a solo artist. This is a shame, for Smith was a more than capable singer who, paired with the right material and terrific arrangements, could turn out splendid recordings.
This collection of Capitol recordings from the late fifties compiles the best Smith has to offer from her various records and, truth be told, is probably the only Smith record anyone really needs. But what a record it is. Paired with top-notch arrangers like Nelson Riddle and Billy May, Smith croons her way through choice material like "All the Things You Are, "Autumn Leaves," and one of the best versions of "You Go To My Head ever recorded. It's a treat to hear vocal versions of tunes which are normally associated with improvising and not for their lyrics; Smith's beautiful voice captures every nuance intended by the lyricists. As one might expect, Riddle's arrangements are dazzling, worth listening to closely for their intricacies yet never detracting from Smith. May's feature is a more subtle approach yet no less spectacular.
One can certainly appreciate having a few duets thrown in, too. A couple of recordings with Prima display the goofiness that ensued whenever the two shared a stage. Less well-known is her work with Sinatra; two tracks are included here, although neither is as special as the rest of the compilation.
Smith has never truly received her due, and this set is a welcome introduction to a hidden talent in jazz singing.
Personnel: Keely Smith: vocal; with various others including Frank Sinatra: vocal; Louis Prima: vocal; Billy May: arranger, conductor; Nelson Riddle: arranger, conductor.