The Warwick Years

KICKS with BOB CREWE

Album cover of "Kicks" with Bob Crewe

Album cover of “Kicks” with Bob Crewe

Bob Crewe could be described as a musical chameleon. Place him on the color patch of practically any song and, like the one of those phenomena of nature, he’ll take on the number’s basic hue with ease and instinct – be the song beat-filled or lushly languid, gaily spirited or memory-nudgin nostalgic, sophisticated or straight down to , low earth.

Bob takes a tune by storm, staking more than a little personal claim to each melodic conquest even in the case of standard numbers associated in the past with other performers.

Yet, his dynamic energy is always held under skilled, calculated control: each performance is true to the material itself, mirroring the model with the kind of looking-glass accuracy that’s professionally polished to a degree of near perfection. But, that very coolness of polish and knowing control, whatever the musical style might be, represents just one of the myriad facets of an impressive total talent. The Lad’s face and frame are as pleasing to the eyes as his rich, multi-tinted voice is to the ears. He has a stage-filling poise that glues the orbs to every movement — and, when he really takes off on a rhythm number, you’d think the rafters might rock right down.

Bob Crewe in his early years singing in the studio

Bob Crewe

A remarkable and instinctive musicality marks his singing: he seems to sense and grasp completely the shape of a melodic line and he has the faculty of being able to mold it in a manner that discovers hidden, yet inherent twists and turns of value. He’s got an incisive rhythmic sense of split-second precision. He can let his voice range from rough-and-ready lustiness to velvet smoothness.

And, a lyricist of note himself Bob gets to the heart of the matter of a lyric, making each word tell intelligently in a total, meaningful tale. The Crewe talent came to full national attention first in the late Autumn of 1959 through his personalized, hit-blessed re-creation of that collegiate favorite: The Whiffenpoof Song, a singles release culled from the contents of this very album prior to the set’s own issue. The excitement-packed waxing took off toward Hitsville with a speed just about unknown on the “pop” music scene of recent years. Within ten days of the shipment of the first disk-jockey sample on “Whiffenpoof,” public acceptance was pushing a great new star to the pinnacles of nation-wide popularity.

Bob was a newcomer through his hit to the public at large, but, though he had counted up only twenty-three birthdays to date, he could point to an impressive variety of accomplishments “behind the scenes” of songs and disks. We mentioned before that he is a skilled tunesmith himself. The first of the top songs he helped to pen came along in 1957 in the form of Silhouettes, a run-away best-seller that’s “revived” by Bob in this album to the revelation of new values. Since that first hit, other million-seller products of the Crewe imagination have followed in items like Lucky Ladybug, Lah Dee Dah, Tallahassie Lassie, Okenfenokee, and so on.

a photo of Bob Crewe and Ralph Burns during rehearsal.

Bob Crewe with Ralph Burns

Elsewhere, on the level of Bob’s hit-making hand and ear, one might note that he has been the busy producer behind many a winning platter – as, for example, Freddie Cannon’s 1959 chart-maker: Way Down Yonder In New Orleans.

And, add to this the fact that Crewe has taste and flair enough on the niceties of orchestral arrangements that has become a much-sought “consultant” to record companies in the preparation of backings for many a top singer. (Not a little of his own thought and imagination went into the super Ralph Burns accompaniments in the album you now hold in your hands, by the way. No mean accomplishment when one considers that Burns can boast a background including such compositions as Early Autumn and unforgettable arrangements for the likes of Woody Herman at the peak of the various Herds.)

Since the “Whiffenpoof” success from coast to coast has already displayed the Crewe prowess as a performer, there’s little need to use these notes as a platform to “present” his talents first time around in album form. Let it suffice to say that he brings his songful sorcery here to a neatly-varied line-up of tunes, both fresh and familiar – the range coursing from standards like Bye, Bye Blackbird and Bess, You Is My Woman Now through newcomers like the wistful Autumn Reverie to bits of mezzo-tinted exotica like his own poetic rendering of a theme from Rimsky-Korsakov in Let’s Pretend and chic show-tunes like She’s Only Wonderful (from the score of the ill-fated Flahooley – remember?) … The promise of the overall album title – “KICKS” WITH BOB CREWE – is fulfilled in many a constrastedly “kicky” fashion. Come to think of it, the collection’s title might almost better have been derived from the Jules Styne hit from Broadway’s “Gypsy” which stands out here: Let Me Entertain You. Bob Crewe sets out to do just that here – entertain you with every fibre of his faculties and facilities. And, the resultant pleasure is listening just as exciting the hundreth time around as the stimulating first playing…! –HOWARD COOK of the Billboard and EDWARD COLE

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