100 Essential CDs – Number 29 – Unforgettable With Love –Natalie Cole (1991)

imagesUnforgettable With Love – Natalie Cole (Elektra 1991)

UK Chart Position – 11

US Chart Position – 1

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Four years after the commercial and critical success that was my last essential album Natalie Cole’s “Everlasting”  came the album she was born to make. There had been one album in the interim period 1989’s “Good To Be Back” released on EMI-USA. In the UK this became her biggest ever album reaching number 10 and from it came her biggest ever British single, the number 2 placing of “Miss You Like Crazy”. It featured a range of musical styles, once again confirming her versatility as an artist but for me, was a good, solid album rather than an essential one. In her homeland it reached number 59 so wasn’t really building on the success of “Everlasting” over there but the hit track gave her another Top 10 US single (number 7) announcing that not only was she back but she was a reliable seller as an artist.

The idea for her next album was one that had been continually suggested from the start of her career. She had resisted but by the early 90’s with Nat’s music still very much in vogue there was talk of other artists considering this- George Benson, Al Jarreau and Barbra Streisand were all mentioned and to an extent Natalie realised it might be now or never for her. In her autobiography “Angel On My Shoulder” she explains her hesitation.

“One of the reasons I resisted singing my father’s music was because deep down I believed that it would totally change my life –and there were no guarantees that it would be for the better. Now, I felt I had made great progress with myself personally, emotionally and professionally- I had paid my dues, and had my own hit songs. Now I was ready.”

Her label EMI were not keen on the idea, they saw it as a marketing disaster after they had promoted Natalie as a R&B/pop star to then switch tracks and let her explore her roots for an entire album but Elektra were keen on the idea and knew that producer Tommy LiPuma was the man to oversee the project. With him sharing Executive Producer duties with Cole, David Foster and her then husband Andre Fischer were drafted in to produce the tracks. The whole thing was done with style and class and the production of this album is quite sumptuous. Natalie saw it as her gift to her father, something that could never be repeated and had to be exactly right. This is really an ultimate Father’s Day gift and I would imagine quite a few Dads have opened this on Father’s Day.

Did it change Natalie’s life as she feared? Absolutely – Worldwide it is her biggest selling album by far. It gave her an American number 1 album and was the 47th biggest album of the 1990’s. It was a critical as well as a commercial triumph. In 1992 it won the Grammy for “Album Of The Year” together with another five Grammys and Cole herself needn’t have been worried about the desertion of her fans as she once again picked up another Soul Train award which she had deemed so important with “I Live For Your Love” from “Everlasting” – this time it was for Best R&B Album by a Female Artist. The demand for this album was huge, she toured worldwide (I saw her for the second time in her career at the Royal Albert Hall which was a fabulously professional concert). She had spent a lot of her early career being compared to Aretha Franklin, as a result of this album it was Ella Fitzgerald being cited. Like Ella and Aretha, Natalie is one of the greatest song stylists of all time.

It was a labour of love from the start. The songs had to be selected – the producers wanted more tracks on the CD than the label did initially. With the strength of her father’s back catalogue they could have done hundreds. In the album notes Natalie does a good job at explaining her choices. It contains a mixture of her father’s best known tracks together with lesser known, more unusual tracks that many of the listeners would not have heard before. In some cases it feels like Natalie singing one of her father’s songs, in others it is her version which has become definitive, but because of the high standard of the vocal, instrumentation and production every track is of a high quality.

For me, what makes the album so special is the interesting choice of tracks. “It’s Only A Paper Moon” is a well known song by many different artists but Cole sings a rarely used prelude which is just a lovely introduction to the song and which I didn’t even know existed. “Lush Life” is a blues soaked jazz number of heartbreak and alcoholism which needs to be sung by a voice that has battled with demons. Natalie had slumped to the bottom and so this is a fitting song for her to sing and so her version feels more authentic than Nat’s. (Actually, another superb version of this song is by Donna Summer, recorded by her at a time when things had been difficult). Other notable versions have been recorded by Linda Ronstadt, Queen Latifah and Lady Ga Ga on her album with Tony Bennett. Lyrically, it feels like a man’s song but it works so well when it is performed by a woman with its complex chord changes and inherent sense of weariness ;

I used to visit all the very gay places

those come what may places

where one relaxes on the axis of the wheel of life

to get the feel of life from jazz and cocktails

the girls I knew had sad and sullen gray faces

with distingué traces that used to be there you could see where

they’d been washed away by too many through the day

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The most unusual thing about this song? It was written by a sixteen year old! Billy Strayhorn who went on to collaborate with Duke Ellington had the world-weariness to come up with lyrics such as;

Romance is mush

stifling those who strive,

I’ll live a lush life

in some small dive

and there I’ll be

while I rot with the rest

of those whose lives are lonely too.

Another surprising songwriter was eden ahbez (lower case intentional), who adopted a fruit and nut eating nomadic lifestyle some twenty years before the Hippy movement began and was reputedly living underneath the Hollywood sign when Nat recorded his “Nature Boy”. This is another complex song which Natalie does a great job on – a song which has already featured on my Essential CD list in superb versions by her father and by George Benson.

As well as possessing the same perfect diction as Nat which makes every word crystal clear to the listener, Natalie is able to up the tempo and put so much energy into the faster numbers. My favourite track on the album is “Orange Coloured Sky” with its “flash, bangs and alacazams”, promenading rhythm and a performance of pure gusto, “Almost Like Being In Love” is taken at a good tempo and at this speed becomes a great swing number, “Avalon” is a short, almost frantic song. I’ve never heard Nat’s version of but it reminds me a little of his “Dance Ballerina Dance”. Of the tracks clearly associated with Nat you get “Mona Lisa”, “L-O-V-E”, “Route 66” and “Too Young” amongst others. The reason the album attracted so much publicity and provided a hit single (UK-19, US- 14) was the final track, a duet with her father on “Unforgettable”. The seamlessness of combining Natalie’s voice with her Dad’s was a technical triumph, but for me I’ve never been totally convinced and I don’t think it adds anything to the solo version. It is something that many people wanted to hear and in the years since this album Natalie has done this a few more times. I think it works best on the more playful “Walking My Baby Back Home” which was re-recorded as a duet on 2008’s “Still Unforgettable”.

This album did push Natalie in a different direction. Her albums since this have sometimes been jazz dominated, sometimes pop/R&B and sometimes there has been a mixture of both. Her most recent album (2014) is of Spanish songs. It really does seem she can sing anything (rather like her father). My favourite of her post- Unforgettable albums is “Snowfall On The Sahara” produced by rock legend Phil Ramone which features a real mix of songs from Leon Russell’s beautiful “A Song For You” to songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Jerry Ragovy and Michel Legrand. “Unforgettable With Love” is the last of her albums I would deem as essential but there are a lot of treasures to be found in her work since then. Natalie is now 65 and still going strong in a career which has given her 9 Grammys for her vocal performances and it is now forty years since she first exploded onto the music scene with “This Will Be”.

At time of writing this CD can be purchased from Amazon.co.uk for £4.28 new and used from £0.01. It can be downloaded for £8.99. American listeners can buy new from $8.55 and used from $0.01 and as a download for $9.49.   In the UK it is available to stream from Spotify.

 

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100 Essential CDs – Number 75 – Everlasting –Natalie Cole (1987)

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Everlasting – Natalie Cole (EMI/Manhattan Records 1987)

UK Chart Position – 62

US Chart Position – 42

This was Natalie’s 11th solo studio album. Her debut “Inseparable” from 1975 had marked a superb arrival onto the music scene. Critically acclaimed, it was a fresh, vibrant sound which got record buyers excited and their parents recalling the music of her father. I had a vinyl copy given to me as a Christmas present and it was the first album I owned which wasn’t by a well-established chart act. The first single “This Will Be” is an all-time classic and is still Natalie’s most streamed track on Spotify. It got to number 6 in her homeland but bizarrely only made 32 in the UK. It was a track ahead of its time. British radio did not know quite what to make of this fresh, energetic sound with more than a nod back to the greatest moments of Aretha. Despite that lowly chart placing it is still a very well known track over here, one that has certainly lasted the test of time. It won a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Natalie was named Best New Artist. The first album would be an essential CD but I don’t own it on CD as it took years for it to be released, by which time I had bought various anthology releases which had the best tracks from it. The same would apply to its follow-up “Natalie” from 1976 which had a greater range of musical styles and a greater gloss of sophistication.   Natalie’s chart career peak at this stage of her career was in 1977 when “I’ve Got Love On My Mind” gave her a US Top 5 record and the album from whence it came “Unpredictable” became her first platinum album reaching number 8 in the US album charts.

But Natalie was a troubled artist and that trouble came in the form of drugs. Her addictions have been catalogued by her in her impressively honest autobiography “Angel On My Shoulder” (Warner 2000). By the 80’s the career was in freefall. The record buying public had largely deserted her and the quality of her album releases was decidedly patchy. 1987 saw a reversal of fortunes. She signed to EMI/Manhattan records and was teamed up with a combination of the hot and the vintage to produce her first gold album for eight years.  It was her first ever to chart in the UK and gave her two Top 20 US Singles, her second ever Top 5 US and very first UK Top 5 single together with three other UK Top 40 hits. Natalie was back.

Production duty on this album was shared. In the early days Natalie had a very identifiable gospelesque sound developed with her production team Chuck Jackson & Marvin Yancy. In the meantime Cole and Yancy had married, divorced and Yancy had died of a heart attack two years before the release of this album at the age of 34. For this album production honours were spread out between a number of producers which meant the album did not have as much as a cohesive feel as some that had gone before but encompassed a range of styles. The album contains three tracks produced by Dennis Lambert (including one famously remixed by Robert Clivilles and David Cole), two by the legendary songwriting/production husband and wife time Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager and one by then hot production team Reggie and Vincent Calloway (plus one other by Reggie on his own), one by Marcus Miller one by her uncle Eddie. Jerry Knight, Aaron Zigman, Bruce Roberts, Andy Goldmark and Gerry Griffith complete the production team.

The album kicks off with the title track written and produced by Knight and Zigman. Jerry Knight had been a founder of the band Raydio in the late 70’s with Ray Parker Jnr and Zigman has since become a prolific film score composer. Working as a team they had scored a top 3 US, top 5 UK hit earlier on in the year with “Crush On You” by family group The Jets and this track does have a similar feel. It launches Natalie directly into the Pop/R& B market and makes her a relevant artist again from the outset. It’s a tale of total commitment to a relationship. It became a British hit single reaching number 28 when it was released over here as the third single off the album. Feeling very contemporary on release was “Jump Start” with its heavy beats and car imagery;

“Feels like my battery is in need of a jump

Our love is running down, done fell into a slump

Give me a spark to get the fire burning

Get my engine movin, set these wheels a turnin”

Okay it’s not exactly subtle but Natalie gives an Aretha-esque performance and the production is heavy and effective. The Calloway brothers who wrote and produced this were at the time members of the band Midnight Star and they had also charted a couple of times in 1986 in the UK with “Midas Touch” being their biggest hit (number 8). This has a heavier feel than their hits and sounds a little like what Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were doing with great success at this time with Janet Jackson. When it gets to the “Jump Start My Heart” chant you can’t help but feel this is a major hit in the making. It was chosen as the first single and as Natalie had gone so cold as an artist had to make up the ground by attracting radio play. In the UK it hovered just outside the top 40 but was re-released once Natalie had become hot again the following year and got to 36. In the States it was the track that heralded the return of Natalie Cole getting to number 13, her biggest hit for 9 years.

The uptempo pace is maintained by “The Urge To Merge” a track which sounds like it would be very much at home on Whitney Houston’s mega-selling second album also released in 1987 as it has a “Love Is A Contact Sport/So Emotional” feel to it. It’s a good track, it has diminished somewhat for me because my partner sings the hook line “I get the urge to burp” whenever it plays. Don’t start me on misheard lyrics, I think that’s a blog post of its own (and Peter Kay has probably cornered the market with these).

I have a real soft spot for the two Bacharach/Bayer-Sager songs and they are amongst the best written by this particular partnership. “Split Decision” extends a courtroom metaphor to look at the state of a relationship and “In My Reality” is a warm, mid-tempo track beautifully performed. Both these tracks ooze class and would appeal to those who had traditionally supported Cole as well as those discovering her through the more commercial tracks.

The big hit on the album is Natalie’s version of a Bruce Springsteen song, which would not have seemed that promising in development but it was transformed by a Clivilles and Cole Turbo Remix taking her Top 5 in both US and UK. Natalie’s version of “Pink Cadillac” may just be the very best song about a car, (and we’re not counting “GTO” by Sinitta, as I’m not even sure what that is about!!). On my first vinyl version of this was the original mix, produced by Dennis Lambert which had a rockier edge but it was the club version that sold with its stuttering vocals and driving (pun intended) rhythms. The album was repackaged to replace the original with the Turbo mix and it is that which has made its way onto the CD. I had two vinyl copies of this because, one of the risks of vinyl, youngsters, I dropped the needle on my first copy which caused a scratch and jumping on one of my favourite tracks. When I bought my second vinyl copy it was the repackaged disc. This is the original cover art for the album.

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At this point in her career Natalie had been reluctant to cover her father’s songs. There had been an album recorded with Johnny Mathis in 1983 which was turned into a TV special but that was more Mathis’ baby than Natalie’s. The time was not right for Natalie to do much more than this and the occasional song performed live. In interviews she was asked regularly when she would be recording her father’s songs.  Almost as a concession to this Natalie does cover “When I Fall In Love” on this album, but in a stroke of genius, the song is completely transformed into a mid 80’s Soul ballad. Produced by Marcus Miller of Luther Vandross fame the pace is slowed, the melody is revealed at a leisurely pace and the whole thing works superbly. Many of the listeners to this album would not have realised that this was a song from the early 50’s. “I Live For Your Love” was another ballad which confirmed Cole’s soul roots and got to number 13 in the US and 23 in the UK. The song won Cole a Best Female Single category in the Soul Train Awards, an honour that Natalie was particularly thrilled by as she states in her autobiography;

“There is a funny line black artists have to walk when they cross over to the pop charts, and getting this award from my peers meant that they still felt I was black, too. At the awards ceremony, I felt very grateful, and I got a chance to thank those who had seen me come and go- and come again.”

“More Than The Stars” was an affectionate nod to her family. It was the only track written by Natalie and produced by her uncle Eddie and has combines a contemporary feel with a nostalgic, relaxed jazz feel which makes it sound like a song her father would have recorded. Its Latin flavour is boosted by a superb guitar solo by Jose Feliciano. You can’t help but feel that this was a musical direction that Natalie was favouring. This was the track I dropped the needle on making it jump. I’ve had the CD copy for years and whenever it gets to the point where the record started to skip I find myself holding my breath. What’s that all about? By the mid 80’s vinyl was pretty inferior anyway and wafer thin compared to the thickness of albums ten or so years before.

This is a transition album – it has the commercial aspects which made her once again relevant and had her selling in quantities that the younger generation of Whitney and Janet Jackson would have respected; it had the class of the Bacharach numbers; it had the jazz feel of “More Than The Stars” and it had a recording of one of her father’s most famous songs. With the success of this album Natalie had clout again and if you combine all the elements of this album it’s no surprise that it would lead to a decision to revisit her father’s back catalogue without stinting on the finances and building on the success she had achieved as a valid, relevant artist and come up with the best album of her career. But that’s for another blog………………………….

This video is for the original Dennis Lambert produced version and is a perfect example of the 80’s pop video!

At time of writing this CD can be purchased from Amazon.co.uk for £6.98 new and used from £0.24. It can be downloaded for £8.49. American listeners can buy new from $13.31 and used from $0.01 and as a download for $9.49.

100 Essential CDs – Number 66 – Let’s Fall In Love – Nat King Cole (MFP 1990)

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Yes, there is overlap between this CD and the previous two which I reviewed together. In fact, eleven of these twenty tracks either appeared on “20 Golden Greats” or “Greatest Love Songs” but the nine that remain are good enough for this CD to be worthy of your consideration. It appeared in 1990 on the budget Music For Pleasure label but here “budget” certainly does not imply any concessions in quality as this is a very good compilation with good sound and original recordings.

Amongst the tracks we’ve covered before there’s my Dad’s favourite “Stardust” (Click here for my review of this) together with a number of hits and tracks associated with Cole- but for this review I’m going to focus on those tracks which do not appear on the other compilations. On the whole they reflect a more jazzier side to Cole. “Just One Of Those Things” has a bright, brassy introduction and the whole thing hustles along behind Nat’s vocal. It’s almost as if two tempos (tempi?)  are taking place within the whole song, there’s probably a technical term for this which I don’t know but it all works a treat. Nat’s version of this Cole Porter song was the title track from his 1957 album. It’s a song mentioned by JD Salinger in “Catcher In The Rye” as a song Holden Caulfield was fond of. I’m sure Caulfield would have approved of Cole’s slightly edgy version.

The title track “Let’s Fall In Love” has a more sedate tempo. It is a sensitive plea “to make a go of it”. It’s a calm, gentle reassuring song. It was written in 1933 by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler and other versions I have heard (Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Krall, Frank Sinatra) take the main song at a faster tempo and have an introductory verse which Cole doesn’t use. I think it works well at this slower pace. The tempo is upped again for the next track “Almost Like Being In Love” (daughter Natalie does a lovely version of this song on her “Unforgettable- With Love” album) . There’s a snatch of Nat on the piano, which is always a good thing. It’s a Lerner-Loewe song from “Brigadoon”. Wikapedia gets scientific in its analysis of its song stating ; Cole’s version, in the key of G major like the original, features a ii–V–I turnaround (2-5-1) in G, a pair of similar 2-5-1 sequences in E major and D major for the bridge, after which it raises the refrain a half-step with a 2-5-1 in A flat major. “ Now that doesn’t mean a great deal to me, but it must be significant enough to need mentioning and may just explain why this song works well!

There is a muted bluesy feel to “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”, a touching tale of lost love.

“Missed the Saturday Dance/ Heard they crowded the floor/Couldn’t bear it without you/Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”

This is classic Cole with that lovely vocal phrasing, a man in total control of the melody. There’s an explosive instrumental mid-section with a real uplift to the brass which is quite magical, but Cole is having none of this jollity even though his “mind is more at ease”. This track was originally a Duke Ellington instrumental but in 1942 Bob Russell added lyrics and it was retitled. Ellington had a big hit with it. This was another track from Cole’s 1957 album “Just One Of Those Things”.

The introduction to “Once In A While” does sound a little like the last track. This isn’t one of my favourites on this album. There’s not enough here to make it any more than a listenable album track. It was also the last song recorded by Bing Crosby, just a couple of days before he died. Things for me brighten up a little with the purposeful “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter”, which pre-dates the affirmations advocated by self-help books by several decades , even if Cole is going to “make believe that it came from you.” There’s an interesting instrumental phrase in the middle of the line in this song, where Cole doesn’t sing to the end of the line which singers often do live but don’t tend to do so much on record. It gives it a cool edge and of course Nat King Cole is the epitome of cool. The most famous version of this song is perhaps by Fats Waller who gives it a real honky-tonk feel. One of the most recent notable versions was by Paul McCartney who included it on his 2012 covers album. This song also of course contains the double entendre which gets the child in me sniggering when Nat croons;

“A lot of kisses on the bottom. I’ll be glad I got them” (!)

For me one of the highlights on this CD is “This Can’t Be Love” with Nat questioning why he doesn’t have any of the traditional falling in love symptons “but still I love to look in your eyes”. There has a lovely, lengthy instrumental section which is just joyful. Nat’s version of this Rodgers & Hart standard was recorded in 1954.

“A Cottage For Sale” is quite a poignant tale of the end of the relationship reflected in the now rundown house which has been put on the market – “The lawn we were proud of is waving in hay, our beautiful garden has withered away”. It’s actually an older song than I thought it was –the early Fifties were a time of extended metaphors in popular songs but this dates from 1929. Cole does a good, solid version of this song.

The CD ends with “Ain’t Misbehaving”, a song which has been recorded by just about everybody. It is a song closely associated with its writer Fats Waller but there have been versions by Johnnie Ray, Billie Holiday, Eartha Kitt etc. Where this song works best is where you believe they probably are misbehaving (like Eartha & Waller- although it is unlikely Waller was misbehaving at the time he composed this as he reputedly wrote it in prison). Nat’s version does come across as a little bit too sincere, missing out the slightly subversive layer to the song which makes it a little sugary.

Nine quality songs together with the eleven featured on the previous compilations makes this an essential CD for your collection. This is Nat King Cole’s third and final appearance on my list but I am not straying too far from the gene pool with my next recommended purchase.

At time of writing this CD can be purchased from Amazon.co.uk for £2.69 new and used from £0.01. American listeners can buy new from $9.92 and used from $0.01.

100 Essential Albums – Number 23- Twenty Golden Greats – Nat King Cole (Capitol 1978) and Number 24 –Greatest Love Songs – Nat King Cole (Capitol 1982)

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Twenty Golden Greats- Nat King Cole – UK Chart Position- 1 (for 3 weeks)

Greatest Love Songs – Nat King Cole – UK Chart Position – 7

 And now for the first artist to feature more than once upon my run-down and here are two CDs which I cannot separate, they are both equally essential and both by probably one of the greatest male vocalists who ever lived. As there is nothing to choose between the two of them I thought I’d review them together. For a completely essential CD collection I think you would need both. The first one is the bigger seller, giving Nat King Cole his second number 1 on the UK album charts some twenty one years after “Love Is The Thing” and 13 years after his untimely death at the age of 45.

My Dad loved Nat King Cole and was always singing his songs. I think he thought his voice sounded a little like him, but he was mistaken. By the time I came along my elder sisters were dominating the music choices in the home and we had a lot of singles but very few LPs. The (semi) portable record player would always be stacked full of singles and as I’ve mentioned before I grew up with the sounds of Cilla, Dusty and Sandie Shaw. Dad’s Nat King Cole recordings were on 78’s and we didn’t actually have anything to play them on anymore so they ended up in the shed where they broke and mouldered away. Dad, did, however, have some Nat King Cole music on his old Philips reel to reel tape recorder. I think he must have taped a concert off the television and he would listen to this regularly. We children, on the other hand, were forbidden to ever touch this tape recorder because we would not understand how it worked and if not used correctly all the tape would come whizzing off the spools. My middle sister and I got quite adept at winding the tape back on, loading and taking off spools and recording on the tapes there was nothing on. It was too marvellous a piece of equipment for us to leave alone and we loved to hear the sound of our own voices. My sister used to get “Disco 45” a magazine which used to have all the words to the latest songs and we’d push record and sing them onto tape. Great fun, until the inevitable happened and one day Dad thought he’d have his little Nat King Cole session and in the middle of Nat crooning “Mona Lisa” he is rudely interrupted by us caterwauling over Pickettywitch’s “That Same Old Feeling”. His prized recording was ruined.

So a few years later when these albums were released we bought them for him to make up for what should be termed the “Nat King Cole incident”. By that time the Philips reel to reel had also been consigned to the shed and our days of hoping we would be the next Esther and Abi Ofarim were long gone. I think this is why it took me a while to get into Cole’s music, the combination of guilt and the teenage obsession of not liking the music of our parents. Cole, himself, is of course one of the great pioneers of American popular music, the first Afro-American to appear regularly on American television. Firstly a highly gifted Jazz pianist he took some persuading to sing. By 1943 “Straighten Up And Fly Right” had become his first vocal hit, and from there on in, he never looked back.

“Straighten Up And Fly Right” is the second track on “20 Golden Greats” and shows the genius of the man. Written by Cole and Irving Mills the song itself sounds like part nursery rhyme, part folk-tale in its tale of a monkey outwitting a buzzard. It is however, imbued with a sense of cool that not even Cab Calloway would be able to match up to. This is the CD that features the songs most associated with Cole, “Mona Lisa”, “Let There Be Love” “Unforgettable” and “When I Fall In Love”. Amongst his slightly lesser known songs there are gems such as “Nature Boy” (this song has now featured twice on my essential CD list as there is a version on my George Benson selection), a superb version of one of my favourite songs “For All We Know”, the lovely “Portrait of Jennie” and perhaps my favourite “Dance Ballerina Dance”. This is just over two and a half minutes of absolute joy. The magic of dance is contained within this song, a lovely brassy swing accompaniment to Nat’s sublime baritone – “Whirl ballerina!” There are a couple of tracks which do not do it for me . For me Nat is better than the sing-along hokum of “Ramblin’ Rose” and “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days Of Summer” seems a bit of throwaway fluff but the rest of this CD is top quality stuff.

“Love Songs” opens with my Dad’s favourite song of all time – “Stardust”. Written by Hoagy Carmichael, this was one my Dad would always give his rendition of, which seemed strange to me when I was young because it seemed to take such a time to settle into a tune. Over the years this song has worked its way into my soul so it almost feels a part of me. When Dad died I was adamant that we should have this at his funeral, not as a piece of entry or exit music but within the service where everyone would just sit, listen and remember him. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. I did think that, after this, it would be very difficult to listen to this but it really isn’t. It may have taken me a while to appreciate it but it’s such a good song, beautifully sung. Although it brings back memories, for me this song exists outside those memories. Other absolute gems on this CD include the cool elegance of “Answer Me” and “Walking My Baby Back Home” with that lovely creeping brass interlude to add a hint of menace behind Nat’s voice (and the lovely lines “That’s when I get her powder all over my vest”). Nat’s versions of “More” and “You’ll Never Know” are outstanding and “A Blossom Fell” for some reason always make me go a little misty-eyed in its tale of a falling blossom acting as a kind of natural lie-detector. “Love Songs” ends with “The Party’s Over” which I’ve also heard played at a funeral and it seemed very apt.

So within these two CDs are forty examples of a superb vocalist doing what he did so well. There’s no repetition of tracks between these CDs so they make excellent companions on your shelves. Should you wish to add them to your collection, at time of writing 20 Golden Greats can be purchased from Amazon.co.uk for £5.00 new and used from £0.01. Greatest Loves Songs can be purchased new for £9.95 and used from £0.09. These two compilations do not seem to be so readily available in the US but of course there are many other Cole CDs to choose from.