Ah Love Keely
:: Entire Album Zipped Up ::
So The Beatles have finally gone Vegas. Cirque Du Soleil's "Love" has been running at the Mirage since last summer, and for a couple hundred bucks, you can hear mash-ups of your fave fab songs, while watching a bunch of acro-dancers flitting about on stage, all within the lovely environs of America's most ridiculous city. But in fact, The Beatles went Vegas long before even the King did, by way of this record.
Dot Keely was 15 when she saw Louis Prima perform in her native Norfolk, VA. About a year later, she had joined his band (changing her name to Keely Smith) and a few years after that became his wife. The two of them, along with Sam Butera and The Witnesses became the ultimate Las Vegas lounge act, and to this day remain an icon of that city's early days.
When Prima signed with Capitol in the mid-50s, he insisted Smith be given a solo contract as well. Her records tended to move away from the jump blues and Italian loose cannon bombast favored by Prima, and toward straight pop balladry. In the early 60s, she ditched Prima and signed with Sinatra's Reprise label, and continued to work with arrangers like Nelson Riddle and Billy May. By the time The Beatles had become the flavor of the month, Keely's career was cooling, and she was more interested in spending time with family than spending nights in smokey Vegas lounges. These factors came together and the result was this album.
These days, schmaltzy versions of rock standards are fairly common (Pat Boone/Paul Anka) and always intentionally ironic. These Beatles covers fit right in minus the irony. One thing I can't not mention is Ms. Smith's tendency to pronounce "i" as "ah", perhaps because of her southern roots, or maybe just because she's a 50s hipster. In any case, it sticks out like a sore thumb on songs like "If Ah Fell" and "P.S. Ah Love You". Of course the arrangements serve to point out the huge gulf between the music of the cocktail generation and that of the teenagers who were about to take over the record business and give us a lifetime of "classic rock". I'm sure this record was used countless times by martini wielding 40 somethings in a vain attempt to find some connection with their eye rolling teenaged offspring, who by that time had no doubt moved on to edgier stuff like the Rolling Stones anyway.
I gotta hand it to Keely Smith and her collaborators though for recognizing good songs when they heard them. Whether or not the material is right for a Keely Smith is debatable, but maybe it was her way of passing the torch. Keely Smith still plays Vegas occasionally, by the way.