There have been many actors whose musical aspirations out-distance their vocal abilities. Not so for Connie Stevens, whose singles and albums for Warner Brothers were sung with both charm and talent. Though best remembered for co-starring roles in 77 Sunset Strip and Hawaiian Eye, Stevens sang these early-to-mid ‘60s sides in a voice that conveyed both sweet innocence and Hollywood sophistication. Better yet, Warner Brothers often supplied her with very good material, top-notch arrangements by Don Ralke, Perry Botkin Jr., and Neal Hefti and the production talents of David Gates, Lou Adler, Jimmy Bowen and others. She only cracked the Billboard Top 40 twice, first with the novelty “Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb),” and later with “Sixteen Reasons,” but landed several more in the Top 100.
Real Gone’s two-disc set collects seventeen complete mono singles (A’s and B’s), the stereo single version of “Kookie, Kookie” (the B-side of which was an Edd Byrnes solo), and the superb radio promo “Why Can’t He Care for Me.” The latter was featured in the Jerry Lewis film Rock-A-Bye Baby, but never released commercially. Stevens’ early singles were similar to those of her early ‘60s peers Connie Francis, Annette Funicello and Shelley Fabares. She sang lyrics of love, longing and broken hearts, often in tunes that have novelty arrangements; but as early as 1960’s “Little Sister” you can hear a growing sophistication in the arrangements and vocals, if not yet the lyrics. Though Stevens was never a belter, she does add a bit of sass to her delivery of Goffin & King’s “Why’d You Wanna Make Me Cry.”
Stevens continued to sing of moony teen-romance (including titles by noted songwriting pairs Goffin & King, Barri & Sloan and Cook & Greenway), but also branched into more mature emotions with the punchy horn arrangement of “Hey, Good Lookin’” and a torchy cover of “Nobody’s Lonesome for Me.” By 1966, she incorporated Nancy Sinatra-styled go-go sounds into the upbeat “How Bitter the Taste of Love,” and her last Warner single covered Tim Hardin’s “It’ll Never Happen Again” in a soulful style similar to contemporaneous versions by P.P. Arnold and Johnny Rivers. She continued to act in film and on stage, and developed a successful cosmetics line, but these singles forever capture the Spring of her celebrity. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]