Nat King Cole

Cole Español

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Nat King Cole addressed his growing international following with Cole Español, on which he sang in Spanish. Although he did not speak the language, he learned the song lyrics phonetically. Nine of the 11 selections had backing tracks recorded by conductor Armando Romeu, Jr., in Havana, Cuba, in February 1958, with Cole adding his vocals in Hollywood in June. The other two, "Cachito" and "Noche de Ronda," were cut with Hispanic musicians in Hollywood under the direction of Capitol Records' Dave Cavanaugh. The tunes were a mixed bag of Latin standards including Mexican mariachi music ("Adelita") and even the Italian "Arrivederci Roma" (sung in Spanish), and Cole's vocals were augmented by the Rivero Quartet and other uncredited singers. While that no doubt was intended to shore up his tentative performances, it actually showed him up, as the native Spanish singers offered a painful contrast to his own pedestrian readings of words he did not understand and pronounced with no flair. (On one track, "Tú, Mi Delirio," he abandoned the microphone for the piano to delightful effect.) Cole's singing voice was as smooth and attractive as ever, which must have helped, though, and the album's sales -- it reached the Top 20 in the U.S. and was a big hit internationally -- indicated that Spanish-speaking audiences were flattered that an American singer would try so hard to communicate with them in their own language.

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