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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Nat 'King' Cole
The World of Nat King Cole
Capitol Records

Rating: 9/10 ?

February 18, 2005
In the last year, The World of Nat King Cole was the second largely promoted posthumous comprehensive recording from a popular African-American musician. Just like Ray Charles, Nat King Cole was an icon within the black community for his accomplishments in the realm of music, and, as a result, civil rights. This is not to say that Cole wouldn't have been involved in the struggle for civil rights if he wasn't a well-known singer/songwriter, but his talent and renown allowed him a certain amount of clout and future celebrity as well.

The World of Nat King Cole commemorates the 40th anniversary of Cole's death (February 1965) and shows that the staying power of greatness is set to last much longer. From Cole's still-expanding catalog, the artist manages to sell one million albums per year, an extraordinary amount for an artist that hasn't released anything new in four decades. For those who without a unique Cole release or greatest singles collection, this album is as good a starting point as any. Popular classics - "Smile," "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66," "Unforgettable," and "Almost Like Being in Love" - are packed alongside innumerable love songs and warm Rhythm & Blues and swing/jazz sing-a-longs.

I realize that I complain a lot about today's popular music, but King Cole seems to make an even greater case for the past. During his day, Cole performed with real bands, among them the King Cole Trio and orchestral/big band arrangements featuring large string and horn sections. We are talking about musicians with actual talent. Some of Cole's contemporaries were Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. These men wrote and had written on their behalf songs that are still performed today as standards because they are great, classic songs. To put it in perspective, no one will be looking back in 40 years with a tear in their eye singing the "From the windows to the walls" song.

To add to what makes Cole truly legendary is the social context that he was part of. Just as the plight of Ray Charles was portrayed within the recent movie Ray, Cole lived through similar moments of intense racial protest while performing, as well as during everyday life. However while Charles eventually experienced the remorseful evolution of social standards, Nat King Cole passed on as the national conflict was at its boiling point. Little, if any, of his outside negative experiences can be drawn from the music he created, besides maybe a frequent case of the stolen heart.

Cole's music reflects a gentle and, at times, overly wistful soul, one that could turn bad times into good with a gentle voice and romantically dreamy string arrangement ("A Blossum Fell," "Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup," etc.). Many of the songs on The World of… create visualizations for man-to-woman serenading, gentle fireplace cuddling, or pond side nature gazing. Let's be honest, this is music to romance to. In a candlelit dinner three-disc carousel the play list would run something like this: disc one - Antonio Carlos Jobim; disc two - Nat King Cole; disc three - Barry White.

Greatest hits collections seem like the inexpensive, Cliff's Notes way to find out as much as possible about a musician/group without getting your feet wet. This always bothered me because it seemed to gloss over the entire career of the artist(s) and simply put together the best marketable package of music. This album serves a different function. With the way that records and singles were released throughout his career, and continuing 40 years after his passing, Nat King Cole had such an extensive catalog that only a fanatic would have heard it all. For this purpose, the 28 songs and nearly 80 minutes of The World of Nat King Cole does the job.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger



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