Thursday, November 20, 2003

Review - The Classic Singles

Artist: Nat King Cole

Posted on Thu, Nov 20, 2003 at 4:00 AM

The Classic Singles
Label: Capitol
Media: CD
Format: Album
WorkNameSort: The Classic Singles

It was no accident that Wong Kar-Wai turned to "Quizas, Quizas, Quizas" by Nat King Cole as one of the central musical themes in his lusciously evocative film "In the Mood for Love." The steady pulse of longing that's visually described by slow-motion shots of the rain and Maggie Cheung's backside is perfectly emphasized by the slightly campy melodrama of Cole's gorgeous voice stiltedly singing Spanish lyrics. It's a soundscape that's rich with the repressed late '50s/early '60s passion that's burning on the screen. The song was recorded in the twilight of Cole's career (1958), when he was on a pop-music pedestal buttressed by more than 15 years of hit-making that allowed him to release singles in Spanish for no apparent reason. He would continue nailing victories to the Billboard pop charts for another six or seven years -- an astonishing feat given the predominance of rock & roll during the time -- but it could be said that, as far as grown-ups were concerned, the '50s were dominated by the hit machine that was Nat King Cole. This four-disc box set is composed of 100 (yes, 100) singles that Cole released on Capitol between 1941 and 1964 and copiously documents his transition from jazz trio leader to string-laden crooner to one of the dominant cultural figures of the time. Though some of the earliest tracks are irreparably damaged by time, the '50s sides gleam with the buff of remastering. A crossover genius of the highest order, Cole has been long-deserving of a retrospective of this magnitude, and by focusing on his pop successes, "The Classic Singles" is an excellent document of his true importance.

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