In 1976, Nat "King" Cole fans were still hoping that his 26-year-old daughter Natalie would provide an album of standards and pre-rock pop. But R&B fans had a different agenda: They hailed her as "the next Aretha Franklin" and wanted her to stick to gritty, gospel-drenched soul music. Cole, however, didn't see herself as a soul purist any more than she saw herself as a female version of her late father, although her first few albums were quite soul-oriented. From a soul standpoint, Cole's second album, Natalie, is among her strongest releases. Those who like Cole as a robust, big-voiced soul shouter weren't disappointed by Franklin-influenced offerings like "Touch Me," "Keep Smiling," and the funky hit "Sophisticated Lady (She's a Different Lady)," which shouldn't be confused with the Duke Ellington standard. But Cole brings jazz overtones to the exuberant "Mr. Melody" (another major hit), and she detours into torch singing on the ballad "Good Morning, Heartache," which Billie Holiday defined in 1946. It wasn't until 1991's Unforgettable that Cole recorded the sort of project her father would have recorded -- for the first 15 or 16 years of her recording career, she avoided his type of music. But occasionally, the Natalie Cole of the 1970s and 1980s showed her appreciation of jazz, standards, and pre-rock pop -- and her pleasing interpretation of "Good Morning, Heartache" is a perfect example. Nonetheless, R&B is her primary focus on the excellent Natalie, which was produced by Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson