Craft Recordings releases a sparkling re-mastered vinyl of Natalie Cole’s Grammy tribute to her father.
Natalie Cole – Unforgettable… With Love – Elektra Records (1991)/Craft Recordings CR00206 (2022) 180-gram stereo double vinyl, 72:47 ****1/2:
(Featuring Natalie Cole – vocals; David Foster – producer; and an all-star cadre of session musicians)
Being the child of a famous entertainer can be a challenge. In the case of Natalie Cole, it was daunting. Her father Nat “King” Cole” was a musical icon. He rose to initial stardom as a jazz pianist (on the lines of Earl “Father” Hines). Because of his incredible voice and and congeniality, he became a cultural trailblazer as an African-American performer. Natalie pursued a successful career as an r & b singer in the 70’s (“This Will Be An Everlasting Love”) and transitioned to pop with her cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac”. Her transcendence to stardom occurred in 1991, with a tribute album to her father, Unforgettable…With Love. With lush production, and outstanding arrangements (David Foster, Andre Fischer, Ray Brown, Bill Holman, Michel Legrand, Marty Paich), the album garnered 7 Grammys, including four for the single, “Unforgettable”. This track was electronically mixed to combine Natalie and Nat “King” Cole in a trend-setting duet.
Craft Recordings has released a re-mastered 180-gram double vinyl of Unforgettable…With Love. It is a showcase for Ms. Cole and features top-notch jazz and orchestral session players with talented arrangers… and of course, The Great Nat Cole Songbook! Side A opens with the atmospheric lushness of “The Very Thought Of You”. Cole’s delivery is smooth and deliberate. After the slower intro to “Paper Moon”, she breathes life into the familiar verse and chorus with jazzy nuances including scat. The cool grooves continue on the quintessential road tune, “Route 66”. There is a fine guitar solo by Dennis Budimir and one on piano by Ike Cole. “Mona Lisa” benefits from an acoustic guitar (John Chiodini). There are moments of unrestrained romanticism (“L-O-V-E”) and whimsical big band resonance (“This Can’t Be Love”). Gliding along, Side B features Cole warmly interpreting the eternally optimistic Charlie Chaplin tune, “Smile”. Next up is the sophistication and bluesy elegance of “Lush Life” (Billy Strayhorn). Her vocal phrasing is nimble and interacts effectively with the studio musicians. There are occasional over-produced pop numbers (“That Sunday, That Summer”), but she manages to swing on cuts like “Orange Colored Sky”. Her medley of “I Love You For Sentimental Reasons”/“Tenderly”/Autumn Leaves” effectively conveys the tribute spirit to her father.
The warm musical reverie flows contextually into Side C. Cole breezes through the jazzy syncopation of “Straighten Up And Fly Right” (with a great piano solo by Alan Broadbent). There is a nice up tempo translation of “Avalon”. A certain highlight is the Duke Ellington classic, “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”. Natalie distills the stylish rhythm and Bill Holman’s arrangement of the orchestra is excellent. “Too Young” is performed with measured ballad articulation including a mid-song tempo shift. One of Nat King Cole’s most interesting vocals was the ethereal “Nature Boy”. Backed by Michel Legrand’s swirling orchestration, this complex, slightly foreboding melody offers a simple look at love. The segue into” Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup” is seamless. The repertoire is memorable. Side D takes off with swinging covers of “Almost Like Being In Love” (Lerner & Lowe) and “Thou Swell” (Rodgers & Hart). Cole is even adept at English/Italian vocals on “Non Dimenticar”. Her heartfelt sensual delivery on “Our Love Is Here To Stay” is worthy homage to Gershwin. The album concludes with the “duet” on “Unforgettable”. At the time, considered somewhat controversial, it epitomizes the familial, musical vision of this album…an emotional and graceful convergence of the past and present.
This vinyl re-mastering of Unforgettable…With Love is a great achievement. The overall mix is balanced, with a centered focus on Cole’s pristine voice. The lush orchestration is layered, but not intrusive. Superior musicianship and songwriting stand the test of time.
Side A: The Very Thought Of You; Paper Moon; Route 66; Mona Lisa; L-O-V-E; This Can’t Be Love
Side B: Smile; Lush Life; That Sunday That Summer; Orange Colored Sky; A Medley Of: For Sentimental Reasons/Tenderly/Autumn Leaves
Side C: Straighten Up And Fly Right; Avalon; Don’t Get Around Much Anymore; Too Young; Nature Boy; Darling, Je Vous Time Beaucoup
Side D: Almost Like Being In Love; Thou Swell; Non Dimenticar; Our Love Is Here To Stay; Unforgettable (Duet With Nat King Cole).