Nat King Cole

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L-O-V-E Review

by William Ruhlmann

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.

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