March 2008

Nat King Cole - L-O-V-E
Collector’s Choice Music/Capitol Records 509995-01998-2-2
Format: CD
Originally released: 1965
Reissue released: 2008

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

Nat King Cole - This is Nat "King" Cole
Collector’s Choice Music/Capitol Records 509995-01982-2-1
Format: CD
Originally released: 1957
Reissue released: 2008

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

by Joseph Taylor

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 Cole’s label mate, Frank Sinatra. Collector’s Choice and Capitol have reissued 12 discs from Cole’s catalog, many of them on CD for the first time. This is the second wave of Cole reissues from Capitol, following last fall’s 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 Capitol’s 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 Cole’s beautifully warm voice floating on Riddle’s tasteful string arrangements.

Ralph Carmichael arranged many of Cole’s 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. Cole’s 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 Sinatra’s Capitol recordings, or Stan Kenton’s, will know what sonics to expect. I wish Collector’s Choice had proofed the release dates listed for the original LPs. Otherwise, this series is well done and welcome.