In contrast to the jazz recordings Nat Cole had made with his trio in the '40s, his music from 1949 until his death in 1965 was heavily produced. The arrangers for the sessions were top-flight and included Nelson Riddle and Gordon Jenkins, both of whom had worked their magic with Coles label mate, Frank Sinatra. Collectors Choice and Capitol have reissued 12 discs from Coles catalog, many of them on CD for the first time. This is the second wave of Cole reissues from Capitol, following last falls nine CDs, each of which included two LPs in their original song order.
This is Nat "King" Cole (1957, although the liner notes on the disc say 1953) was part of Capitols series of compilations by its most popular artists (e.g., This is Sinatra; This is Dean Martin). As James Ritz writes in his liner notes, the LPs gathered together memorable performances fans might have missed. Nelson Riddle arranged the 12 tracks on the original LP, to which the CD adds four more. The emphasis on this release was ballads, with Coles beautifully warm voice floating on Riddles tasteful string arrangements.
Ralph Carmichael arranged many of Coles later recordings, including his last, L-O-V-E (1965). Carmichael is not in the same league as Riddle or Jenkins, but his arrangements on this LP were solid and very effective. Coles vocals on the title track and a lightly swinging version of "The Girl from Ipanema" show the singer moving back closer to the jazz style of his early years.
The recording quality on this series varies from merely acceptable to very good indeed. Anyone who has heard Sinatras Capitol recordings, or Stan Kentons, will know what sonics to expect. I wish Collectors Choice had proofed the release dates listed for the original LPs. Otherwise, this series is well done and welcome.
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