Guard Session 53
1. Introduction by Martin Block & Keely Smith
2. Gonna Build a Mountain
3. Cherry Point
4. Fly Me to the Moon
5. Closer: Jumpin' at the Woodside
Guard Session 54
6. Introduction by Martin Block & Keely Smith
7. Young At Heart
8. Corner Pocket
9. Crazy He Calls Me
10. Closer: Whirly Bird
Guard Session 55
11. Introduction by Martin Block & Keely Smith
12. The End of a Beautiful Friendship
13. The Touch of Your Lips
14. Make Someone Happy
15. Closer: Why Not?
Guard Session 56
16. Introduction by Martin Block & Keely Smith
17. Basically Blue
18. My Heart Cries For You
19. Make the Man Love Me
20. Closer: One O'Clock Jump
The sleeve-note rightly says that, on this disc, the Count Basie Orchestra is "in excellent and swinging form, playing 'live' a selection of their well-known work It is however the inclusion of Keely Smith singing in her own inimitable way that makes these recordings different".
In other words, the Basie tracks are well-known tunes that we have heard on the band's own discs, mostly recorded more clearly than on this CD. They include familiar tunes like Corner Pocket, Whirly Bird and One O'Clock Jump. It may be good to hear alternative versions of these tunes but they are very similar to the famous recordings.
So this album is really unique for containing eight vocals by Keely Smith. Keely had performed with Louis Prima for more than a dozen years but she continued as a solo artist after their divorce in 1961. Tony Bennett called Keely "one of the greatest jazz-pop singers of all time" and, in a way, she was halfway between jazz and pop. Some of the songs she sings here veer towards pop, but she adds some jazzy inflections to Crazy He Calls Me, as well as singing the verse. This track also includes some nice tenor sax behind Keely's vocal. In fact one of the pleasures of this album is hearing the Basie band as accompanists for a splendid vocalist. Keely sings clearly and in tune, and the band acts efficiently as swinging back-up.
Incidentally, track 12 is listed as The End of a Beautiful Friendship on the sleeve but it is a medley preceded by I Could Write a Book. The CD's title may mislead, as these recordings come not from the fifties but the sixties: 1963 in fact, when the US government was trying to lure people to join the National Guard, for which there are rather too many commercials in between the music.