Nat King Cole

Just One of Those Things/Let's Face the Music

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Part of mail-order firm Collectors' Choice Music's series of reissues of Nat King Cole's Capitol Records albums, this CD two-fer combines the contents of the two LPs Cole recorded with arranger/conductor Billy May, Just One of Those Things (cut in 1957) and Let's Face the Music! (done in 1961). Just One of Those Things is a theme album comparable to one of Frank Sinatra's up-tempo swing LPs of the same period (Come Fly with Me, etc.). Cole is a bit less effective than Sinatra at up-tempo material; he tends to undersing these sprightly standards, and May saves his dramatic horn charts and percussion shots for moments when Cole is away from the microphone. Even so, by the fifth track, "These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)," May has retreated to ballad time, and though his embellishments threaten to break out behind the singer, Cole gives an assured, unhurried performance. And that's the point: That Cole has tamed the rambunctious May does not mean he doesn't give wonderful interpretations to some wonderful songs: "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Just One of Those Things," "The Song Is Ended." And the light-handed swing supports those efforts well. Let's Face the Music!, a swinging album of rhythm tunes, is notable in Cole's catalog in that it is the only instance of an LP on which he is heard playing the Hammond organ. That is not to say that this is an instrumental collection. On the contrary, Cole sings on every track; it's just that on "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street," "Cold, Cold Heart," "Moon Love," "Too Little, Too Late," and "Let's Face the Music and Dance" he also sits down at the organ in between vocal sections and reels off some lively solos. They are, not, however, the real high points of the set, which is dominated by May's typically punchy neo-swing horn charts, augmented with string passages. Choosing a majority of standards dating back to 1924 with half the songs bearing '30s copyrights ("Day In -- Day Out," "Bidin' My Time," "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down [And Write Myself a Letter]," "Moon Love," "Ebony Rhapsody," "Let's Face the Music and Dance"), Cole keeps up with May's arrangements easily, but he still never brings the kind of aggressive edge heard in Sinatra's work with the conductor. Up- or medium tempo, Cole maintains his cool and his smooth delivery, always sounding unhurried, articulate, and correct, whether he is singing of romantic joy or sorrow. This evenhandedness sometimes drains the material of its potential force. Still, Cole fans had reason to welcome his versions of some classic songs he had not addressed before, just as they did on Just One of Those Things.

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