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Pop - Released January 1, 1999 | Capitol Records

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - The Qobuz Standard - Stereophile: Record To Die For
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Jazz vocal - Released January 1, 1999 | Capitol Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - The Qobuz Standard - Stereophile: Record To Die For
Once Nat King Cole gave up playing piano on a regular basis and instead focused on a series of easy listening vocal albums, jazz fans longed for him to return to his first love. These 1956 studio sessions made up Cole's last jazz-oriented disc, where he played piano and sang on every number, joined by several guest soloists. Cole's vocals are impeccable and swinging, while his piano alternates between providing subdued backgrounds and light solos that don't reveal his true potential on the instrument. Willie Smith's smooth alto sax buoys the singer in the brisk take of "Just You, Just Me." Harry "Sweets" Edison's muted trumpet complements the leader in his interpretation of "Sweet Lorraine." Composer Juan Tizol's valve trombone and former Cole sideman Jack Costanzo's bongos add just the right touch to the brisk take of "Caravan." Stuff Smith's humorous, unusually understated violin is a nice touch in "When I Grow Too Old to Dream." It's hard for any Nat King Cole fan to ignore these important sessions. [The original version of this release featured a dozen tracks, later expanded to 17 in the '80s with the discovery of some unreleased material. Yet another track, the alternate take of "You're Looking at Me," was also found and added to reissues beginning in the late '90s.] ~ Ken Dryden
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Jazz - Released September 15, 1952 | Capitol Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
The year after he had formally disbanded his trio to turn his attention to vocal pop music, Nat King Cole reversed himself and went into the studio with guitarist John Collins, bassist Charlie Harris, and drummer Bunny Shawker and recorded the eight-song 10" LP Penthouse Serenade, a quiet, reflective set of standards like "Somebody Loves Me" and "Laura" that he performed instrumentally at the piano. The album confirmed that, whatever success he might be having as a singer, he hadn't lost his touch. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Jazz vocal - Released January 1, 1987 | Capitol Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | Capitol Records (CAP)

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Pop - Released January 1, 2001 | Capitol Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
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Pop - Released January 1, 1993 | Blue Note Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Nat King Cole recorded with arranger/bandleader Billy May on several occasions and all of their collaborations are on this excellent double-CD The Billy May Sessions. Dating from 1951, 1953, 1954, 1957 and 1961, some of the more memorable numbers include "Walkin' My Baby Back Home," "Angel Eyes," "Papa Loves Mambo," "Send for Me," "Who's Sorry Now," "The Party's Over" and "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street." Cole also takes organ solos on three of the selections from 1961 (the only time he ever recorded on that instrument), though he plays no piano on this set. It's recommended for his superior middle of the road singing. ~ Scott Yanow
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Pop - Released January 1, 2002 | Capitol Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
This rare example of a Nat King Cole live recording captures one of the 20th century's greatest singers in fine voice in 1960 at the Sands, the Las Vegas headquarters of the Rat Pack. The band swings expertly through its sophisticated charts courtesy of legendary arrangers like Nelson Riddle and Dave Cavanaugh, and Cole demonstrates his command of a wide range of styles, from ballads like "I Wish You Love" and "Funny (Not Much)" to show tunes like "Thou Swell" and "Surrey with the Fringe on Top." A few bonus tracks are also featured, including a late-'50s studio recording of Duke Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone" and Cole' sniffy take on the then-still new rock & roll craze, "Mr. Cole Won't Rock & Roll." ~ Steve Goulding
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Pop - Released January 1, 1995 | Capitol Records

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Pop - Released January 1, 1995 | Capitol Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
The albums that Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, and other classic pop singers made in the 1950s usually consisted of standards from the golden era of pop songwriting in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. For this album, Cole had the idea of putting together a set of newly written songs in the classic style, with typically sympathetic arrangements by Nelson Riddle. "Personally, I hear the magic in all these selections," Cole wrote in the liner notes. "It will be interesting to see whether I'm right." The magic listeners hear today is in Cole's voice, not in the songs, all of which are as forgotten as most of the songwriters. (There are a couple of ringers, such as Johnny Burke, Sammy Cahn, and Paul Weston, but they're not at their best.) ~ William Ruhlmann
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Jazz vocal - Released May 27, 2014 | CAPITOL CATALOG MKT (C92)

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Ambiance - Released September 21, 2018 | CAPITOL CATALOG MKT (C92)

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Lounge - Released March 15, 2019 | CAPITOL CATALOG MKT (C92)

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Ambiance - Released January 1, 1990 | Capitol Records

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Pop - Released January 1, 2005 | Capitol Records

Easily the longest of any Capitol single-disc compilation, 2005's The World of Nat King Cole also benefits from a fresh remastering of its material to make it the best introduction to the interpretive brilliance of Nat King Cole. Nearly all the hits that need to be here are indeed present: "Straighten Up and Fly Right," "Route 66," "Nature Boy," "Too Young," and "Mona Lisa." The compilers also wisely chose a few representative songs to replace some of the middling hits; the only surprise is the absence of "The Christmas Song" and "Lush Life," although the chart hits -- "Answer Me, My Love," "Pretend," "Looking Back," and the much-maligned "Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer" -- are missing for good reasons. In their places are excellent selections like "Let There Be Love" from a 1961 George Shearing collaboration, "Thou Swell" from Cole's 1960 LP at the Sands hotel in Las Vegas, his sublime 1956 version of "Stardust," and the ghost duet on "Unforgettable" between Nat and daughter Natalie Cole that earned seven Grammy awards in 1992. The liner notes include many great photographs as well as an essay written by Natalie. ~ John Bush
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Lounge - Released May 27, 2014 | CAPITOL CATALOG MKT (C92)

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Pop - Released January 1, 1992 | Capitol Records

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Crooners - Released January 1, 1987 | Capitol Records

Nat King Cole possessed one of the most accessible and appealing voices of any singer in the 1950s. This ballad-oriented set puts the emphasis completely on his voice (there is no piano playing or any hint of his jazz-oriented past) and features Cole accompanied by Gordon Jenkins' sweet arrangements for a string orchestra. Many other singers might find it difficult to overcome, much less uplift this type of accompaniment, but Cole's basic and honest delivery works quite well in this setting. Highlights include "The Very Thought of You," "But Beautiful," "This Is All I Ask," "For All We Know," and "The More I See You." ~ Scott Yanow
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Pop - Released January 1, 1991 | Capitol Records

This double CD finds Cole revisiting his earlier hits with new versions. The 36 selections mostly focus on his pop successes of the 1950s, although there are a few wistful looks back at his trio days. Not as essential as the original renditions of these popular recordings, the remakes nevertheless find Cole in peak form and comprise a highly enjoyable retrospective of his vocal career. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz vocal - Released January 1, 1992 | Capitol Records

Bert Kaempfert and Milt Gabler's bouncy, upbeat song "L-O-V-E" was the B-side of Nat King Cole's 1964 Top 40 single "I Don't Want to See Tomorrow" and even grazed the bottom of the singles chart itself, and when it showed signs of international popularity, it became the focus of a full-length Cole LP of the same name, with the rest of the tracks recorded in the first few days of December (after an earlier session in August reportedly produced unsatisfactory results). This proved to be Cole's final LP project before his death from lung cancer in February 1965. Little evidence of his illness can be heard on the finished tracks, although the singer is at times a bit huskier than usual, and even introduces a bit of a growl during "My Kind of Girl." The arrangements seem patterned after that for L-O-V-E, which is to say that they are gently swinging in a big-band style. Conductor Ralph Carmichael adds a Dixieland flavor here and there, but for the most part, his charts are straight out of the Swing Era, and Cole matches the horns punch for punch. The selections sometimes date back to before the Swing Era, notably the standards "Coquette" and "Three Little Words," but there are also Cole readings of then-recent easy listening hits "The Girl from Ipanema" and "More." The recordings are virtual duets with trumpeter Bobby Bryant, whose solos earned him credit on the back cover. L-O-V-E is just another well-performed swing album for Cole that happened to be his last. ~ William Ruhlmann

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Nat King Cole in the magazine