Smokey Joe’s Cafe

Smokey-JoeOriginal Broadway Cast, 1995 (Atlantic) 2 Stars (2 / 5) Did Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller write every great 1950s-’60s tune? That’s the feeling you get when listening to Smokey Joe’s Cafe, a greatest-hits revue of their songs that opened on Broadway in 1995 and ran for five years. “Spanish Harlem,” “Kansas City,” “I Who Have Nothing,” “Love Potion # 9,” ”I’m a Woman,” even novelty numbers like “Yakety Yak” and “Charlie Brown” are here, delivered by top-notch Broadway singer-dancers and backed by a Louis St. Louis-led band. Directed by Jerry Zaks, the production had a neon-hued party atmosphere that matched the pulsing, vintage-rock energy of the songs. On the recording, Ken Ard, Adrian Bailey, Victor Trent Cook (a tenor with a huge range), and Frederick B. Owens make a doo-wop group par excellence. Among the soloists, Pattie Darcy Jones has an appealing, slightly hoarse sound; B. ]. Crosby’s gospel growl is dynamite; and Brenda Braxton sizzles in everything she does. So why isn’t this album more fun? Probably because these are theatrical performers putting over the songs, not singers who live and die by their sound the way real rock ‘n’ roll shouters and thumpers do when they deliver a “Hound Dog” that will send you crawling to the pound. — Robert Sandla