The Very Best Of
REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/10/2007
Most of these speculations are the stuff of history novels. (Though I’ve always thought the game company Looney Labs should get bonus points for including ‘Senator John Lennon’ in their alternative history game Chrononauts). I admit to my own participation in these daydreams, and I also admit that one of the names that surfaces – perhaps more now – is that of Nat King Cole.
Cole, one of the smoothest and most eloquent voices of the immediate pre-rock era, died in 1965 at the age of 45, just before his star status was about to become superstar. He had appeared in a movie to great critical acclaim (1964’s “Cat Ballou”) and his last album, Love, was a Top Ten hit. He was also a supreme rarity, an African-American with mainstream appeal to whites – in 1956, he became the first black man to host a network television show (which, admittedly, only lasted a year due to lack of sponsors). He was a symbol, and a great singer whose career was cut tragically short.
More than that, though, he was a jazz man. What The Very Best Of does is capture that smooth, elegant and magnificent voice; this is the very best of Cole’s career boiled down to one CD. From his early tracks with the King Cole Trio to his many songs that appeared in movies to his monster hits – songs like “Unforgettable,” “Mona Lisa” and “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home” – TVBO documents Cole with a historian’s eye. While it’s easy to get involved in Cole as either an early champion for race harmony or a sad case of what-could-have-been, these songs remind us that there was a ‘what-was’, and it was pretty damn wonderful.
If you only know Cole from his recording of “The Christmas Song” or his virtual duet with his daughter, you owe it to yourself to check out The Very Best Of. Powerful, elegant, easy, delightful and magnificent, Nat King Cole’s music is without peer.