Nat "King" Cole Reissue Series
Faced with such a weighty responsibility (some of these titles have never come out on CD, many more never here in America), Collector's Choice set out to release these wonderful records in a fashion that would bring value to the consumer, and yet remain true to their towering artistic integrity. The label decided to release the albums in two waves. The first wave will consist of nine twofers; these are albums whose common theme or arranger made them perfect matches for each other.
The second wave, coming early in 2008, will consist of single albums augmented by non-LP bonus tracks that either hail from the same session or time period as the album in question, or fit the album's theme. Jim Ritz, who put together our album reissue campaigns for Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr., crafted the A&R for these releases, and penned some really great liner notes that take the viewpoint of both a fan and a collector.
NAT KING COLE: Ramblin' Rose/Dear Lonely Hearts (CCM08202)
Two of Nat's country-themed albums on one compact disc! Now, this ain't exactly cry-in-your-beer, honky-tonk material; these two 1962 releases are more along the lines of the country-pop Dean Martin recorded for Reprise, and they were every bit as successful; in fact, 1962's Ramblin' Rose stayed on the charts for 162 weeks! And if it seems too long of a jump from the sublime jazz trio sides that started Nat's career, well, consider this further incontrovertible proof that the man could do anything and do it brilliantly
NAT KING COLE: The Touch of Your Lips/I Don't Want to Be Hurt Anymore (CCM08212)
While Nat had acclaimed collaborations with Capitol's unparalleled array of arrangers including Nelson Riddle, Billy May and Gordon Jenkins, it was with a less celebrated arranger, Ralph Carmichael, that he recorded some of his most accomplished albums. And here are two of them, his 1961 romantic masterpiece The Touch of Your Lips and the third and last of his "country" releases, 1964's I Don't Want to Be Hurt Anymore (those still doubting Nat's ability to carry a country tune should check out his work here in front of a band boasting James Burton and Glen Campbell on guitar and Elvis favorite Don Robertson on piano)!
NAT KING COLE: Cole Espaņol/More Cole Espaņol (CCM08222) It wasn't too hard to figure out that these two albums would make a muy bueno twofer--especially when you consider that neither of these albums have ever been on CD - in the U.S. 1958's Cole Espaņol was partially recorded in Havana with Cuban musicians to lend authentic flavor; 1963's More Cole Espaņol was recorded in Mexico City.
NAT KING COLE: Welcome to the Club/Tell Me All about Yourself (CCM08232)
By the time 1959's Welcome to the Club (also known as Big Band Cole) and 1960's Tell Me All About Yourself were released, Nat was so identified as a singer of standards that, to a good portion of his record-buying public, his previous connection to jazz was tenuous indeed. With these two releases, then, Nat sought to re-cultivate his jazz roots by teaming up first with the Count Basie Big Band and then with Capitol's in-house jazz guru Dave Cavanaugh. Predictably, neither record was among the larger commercial successes in his catalog, but one can tell by listening that they were among the most fun for him to make; this vocal pop superstar was a jazz musician to his core. This reissue of Welcome to the Club includes a bonus track, "Madrid." that was recorded for the album but was yanked at the last minute.
NAT KING COLE: Just One of Those Things/Let's Face the Music (CCM08242)
A pair of big, brassy classics from Nat and his comrade-in-swing, arranger Billy May! 1957's Just One of Those Things belied its late-night, bluesy album cover with a bunch of punchy arrangements as only Billy could deliver; in this guy's hands, heartache swung! And 1964's Let's Face the Music features Nat on organ; not only is it the only time he played the instrument on record, but it marked the last time he would play any keyboard in the recording studio.
NAT KING COLE: Love Is the Thing/Where Did Everyone Go? (CCM0825)
1957's Love Is the Thing stands tall in the Cole album catalog; not only was it his first stereo recording, and his first collaboration with Gordon Jenkins, but this beautiful, romantic song cycle about falling in love went to #1 on the charts and stayed there for eight weeks! Where Did Everyone Go?, meanwhile, was a far more downbeat affair, as it dealt with the effects of love gone wrong; here, Jenkins employs his trademark string arrangements to achieve an almost classical sound as counterpoint to Cole's straightforward, sincere vocals. Two flat-out great albums!
NAT KING COLE: Penthouse Serenade/The Piano Style of Nat King Cole (CCM08262)
Had Nat Cole never sang a note, he still would have ranked among the top jazz pianists of all time. His first record for Capitol, the 1952 10" Penthouse Serenade (later issued as a 12" in 1955, which is the version we've released here), was an all-instrumental outing seemingly intended to put his more freewheeling Trio days behind him, a fairly straightforward set of numbers with a moody, contemplative streak that lifted them above the standard cocktail lounge into, well, the penthouse! We've paired that record with Nat's enthusiastic 1956 return to the keyboard on the all-instrumental The Piano Style of Nat King Cole, a Nelson Riddle-arranged project of which Nat was so fond he picked 16 songs to record, which was a lot in those days (this CD squeezes the two albums in at the outermost limit of 80 minutes). Half accompanied by strings, half accompanied by an orchestra, Nat truly does display his Piano Style at its best here.
NAT KING COLE: Nat King Cole Sings for Two in Love/Ballads of the Day (CCM08272)
1953's Two in Love was Nat's first vocal album for Capitol, and who better to accompany him on that maiden voyage than arranger Nelson Riddle?! The two recorded several more tracks in 1955 for Capitol's reissue of the album in the 12" format; all in all, one of Nat's most romantic albums and a worthy start to his career as a pop vocalist. 1956's Ballads of the Day, meanwhile, is something of a greatest hits album, as it compiles 12 singles--all but one arranged by Riddle--released in 1954 and 1955, all but two of which charted. It's Nat at his best.
NAT KING COLE: Songs from St. Louis Blues/Looking Back (CCM08282)
In 1958 Nat played legendary composer W.C. Handy in the film St. Louis Blues and Songs from St. Louis Blues was the album that accompanied its release. However, these performances of Handy tunes are NOT the versions from the soundtrack, but fresh creations courtesy of Cole and Nelson Riddle that combine the composer's blues sensibility with an updated, late-'50s big band sound. Similarly, our reissue here of Looking Back, the posthumously-released 1965 collection of singles and rarities, eliminates the after-the-fact rhythm tracks that Dave Cavanaugh added in order to make the material sound more contemporary in favor of the unvarnished sound of Nat King Cole (though three of these songs are stereo re-records Nat made in 1961 for The Nat King Cole Story). Aside from those, this reissue of Looking Back marks the first time these songs have been heard in their original, "pure" form since they were initially issued on singles and EPs.