Music Review

Book Reviews and Reading Diary
CD Buying Guide and Music Links
Best-of lists
CD Reviews
CDs, sorted by Style
CDs, sorted by year issued
CDs, sorted by publication review ran in
CDs by San Diego bands
All CDs, sorted by band name
All CDs, sorted by album title
Favorite quotations
Contact Me

Keely Smith still swings like mad

Swing, Swing, Swing
Swing, Swing, Swing
By Keely Smith

Concord Records: 2000

Buy it on CD now from
Buy it now

This review first appeared in the May 26, 2000 edition of the American Reporter.

Swing revival? Is it really a revival when the original practitioners are still laying it down better than anyone else out there?

Forty years after she and and her one-time husband and musical partner Louis Prima basically invented the modern Las Vegas nightclub show (a point Sinatra would gladly concede were he still with us), Smith is singing better than ever. Her voice sounds just as strong as it did when she co-starred with Robert Mitchum as the lounge-singing girlfriend in "Thunder Road." Her timing remains spot-on, she still knows how to lead a blowing big band through its paces, and her sense of humor is undiminished.

And so we have a veteran star of the big band era leading us into the next century. Okay, the new album is a bit light on new songs, but Smith's versions of favorites like Prima's "Sing, Sing, Sing," "I Can't Believe That You're in Love With Me" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street" swing so hard, with such abandonment and spirit that all these new young swing bands would be hard-pressed to keep up.

Swing revival? Look, with all due respect for the incredible boost he gave the music, forget Brian Setzer and check out Keely's rocking version of "Jump Jive an' Wail." Her ex wrote it, Setzer rediscovered it – but it's Smith who owns it.

Besides, even if most of the songs here will be familiar, that familiarity may end with the title. Smith takes "Kansas City" and and "I Can't Believe That You're in Love With Me" and turns them inside out, with completely fresh arrangements.

And that's what makes this album such a joy – the whole session has a buoyant freshness around it, a sense that after all these years Keely Smith still gets a kick out of the music.