Keely Smith Sings The John Lennon – Paul McCartney Songbook (1964/2018)

Keely Smith Sings The John Lennon - Paul McCartney Songbook (1964/2018)
Artist: Keely Smith
Album: Keely Smith Sings The John Lennon – Paul McCartney Songbook
Genre: Vocal Jazz
Origin: USA
Released: 1964/2018
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps
Tracklist:
If I Fell (3:04)
This Girl (2:26)
Please Please Me (2:50)
And I Love Him (2:54)
World Without Love (3:18)
She Loves You (3:14)
A Hard Day’s Night (3:09)
Do You Want To Know A Secret (2:46)
Can’t Buy Me Love (2:18)
All My Loving (3:05)
I Want To Hold Your Hand (3:03)
P.S. I Love You (2:44)

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Avoiding what could have been a cheap cash-in on youth culture and the rising influence of rock on popular music, Keely Smith instead delivered a gorgeously rendered, swinging, and utterly purehearted celebration of the Beatles on 1964’s Keely Smith Sings the John Lennon-Paul McCartney Songbook. Deftly eschewing the use of the Beatles name in the album title, Smith instead chose to focus on the songwriting talents of Lennon and McCartney. The result was an album that smartly recontextualized the band’s songs within the pantheon of traditional pop and the canon of standards that grew out of the work of the Great American Songbook composers. Separated from the British Invasion hype (and crying fans), the Beatles were the one rock band that both teenagers and their parents could agree upon — a contemporary rock act who still wrote lyrical love songs with standard AABA forms that didn’t sound too far removed from the pop of the the big-band era. At least, that’s what Smith would seem to want you to believe here. Working with producer Jimmy Bowen and arrangers Ernie Freeman and Benny Carter, and backed at various times by a big band and string orchestra, Smith dives headlong into the process, soaring with a smile through a bossa nova-tinged take on “If I Fell” and drawing upon mentor Frank Sinatra’s laid-back style on her swinging reading of “Please Please Me.” Elsewhere, she brings out subtleties in the original material that the Beatles merely hinted at, including turning the first part of “World Without Love” into a slow, dramatic verse like a Broadway intro. Similarly thrilling is hearing how Smith and her collaborators have mapped some of Lennon and McCartney’s songs to other contemporaries, including drawing upon Ray Charles’ piano-driven soulfulness on “This Girl” and evoking Peggy Lee’s smoky, finger-snapping “Fever” on “A Hard Day’s Night.” Admittedly, not every Beatles song works as well in this context, and cuts like “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” while pleasant as light period background pop, suffer from schmaltzy string and backing vocal additions, while conversely pointing out the limits of Lennon and McCartney’s repeated chorus lyrics. Nonetheless, by unabashedly embracing the Beatles’ songs at a time when most of her peers were decrying the state of popular music, Smith managed to deliver an album that both lionized Lennon and McCartney (a fact that put her on the right side of pop history) and retained all of the urbane, swinging musicality she was known for.
Review by Matt Collar

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