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May 2005

Keely Smith
Vegas '58: Today
Concord Records

Around the time the Freshmen were hitting their stride at Capitol so, too, was vocal powder keg Keely Smith (for my money the single-most underappreciated American pop-jazz stylist of the past half-century). At 73 Smith is still going strong and it sounds like no time at all has passed since she and her former husband Louis Prima were the toast of Tahoe and Vegas. Last year, Smith dropped by Manhattan's Feinstein's at the Regency to pay tribute to those manic days when even Sinatra and his carousing Rat Pack acknowledged Louis and Keely's frantic antics as the wildest show on Earth. Captured live, Vegas '58: Today (Concord) pushes all the right nostalgic buttons, blending such famously boisterous Prima material as "Just a Gigolo," "Buona Sera" and "Angelina" with the couple's brilliantly cacophonous, Grammy-winning "That Old Black Magic" and Smith's soaring solo work (supported by superlative Nelson Riddle and Billy May arrangements) on the likes of "Sweet and Lovely," "Don't Take Your Love From Me" and her signature tune, "I Wish You Love." It was a magical time, they were a magical pair, and this is a magical reenactment.

Originally published in May 2005
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