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Album Review

It's hard to think of many performers who make their debut solo albums in their mid-sixties, but Howard Keel is, of course, a ringer. The veteran musical comedy star of stage and screen was first heard on record on the original London cast EP of Oklahoma! in 1947 and went on to lend his rich baritone voice to soundtrack and cast recordings from a series of theatrical and film productions of musicals over the next 25 years. He never found much time for television until 1981, when he began playing the role of Clayton Farlow, who marries the widowed Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes), the matriarch of the Ewing clan. This had the surprising effect of raising his national profile considerably and paved the way for And I Love You So. Keel is quick to revisit his musical past, performing a medley of the songs he sang (or didn't sing) in the 1950s movie adaptations of the musicals Annie Get Your Gun and Show Boat. Playing Gaylord Ravenal in Show Boat, he did not have occasion to perform "Ol' Man River," but he makes up for that here. Rounding out the re-recordings of songs from his career in movie musicals are "So in Love" from Kiss Me, Kate, "Rose Marie" from Rose Marie, and "Bless Your Beautiful Hide" from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. His voice has lost little power in the years since, and gained in nuance. Less impressive are the more contemporary tunes. Keel isn't really introspective enough to bring out the complexities of songs like "Send in the Clowns" or the self-help psychobabble of "I've Never Been to Me," and he undercuts the self-laceration of "Yesterday When I Was Young" by tying it to a Robert Frost poem. Still, the remakes are impressive. (And I Love You So was released in the U.S. and Canada under the title With Love: For Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow.)


Born: 13 April 1917 in Gillespie, IL

Genre: Soundtrack

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Howard Keel made a splash as the cheerful and virile leading man in numerous MGM musicals of the 1950s, but it wasn't until 1984 that he received the chance to record his first album as a solo performer. The opportunity came about thanks to his long-running role in the popular nighttime soap Dallas, where he played opposite Barbara Bel Geddes as matriarch Miss Ellie's husband, the silver-maned Clayton Farlow. The prominent role that he stepped into in 1981 put him back into the spotlight after a...
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