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November 2008

Natalie Cole
Still Unforgettable
Rhino

In the press release for Still Unforgettable, Natalie Cole claims she waited 17 years to create a follow-up to 1991’s massively popular, multiple Grammy-winning Unforgettable … With Love, noting that, “I wasn’t in a hurry to make this kind of a record right away.” Really? She seems to have forgotten 1996’s Stardust, which not only delved further into her late father’s songbook but offered up a second “duet” with dad on “When I Fall in Love.” She’s also conveniently forgotten 1993’s Take a Look and 2002’s Ask a Woman Who Knows, both heavy with jazz standards. Nor is Still Unforgettable truly the opposing bookend to her ’91 release, since it moves well beyond the Nat “King” Cole oeuvre to salute tunes associated with Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Judy Garland and Jack Jones.

Cole opens with yet another father-daughter pairing, this time built around Nat’s 1951 recording of “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home.” Though it again demonstrates how superbly matched their voices are, it fails to fully satisfy. It’s as if, unlike its seamless predecessors, the Scotch tape that binds old and new is showing. Also disappointing is Cole’s cover of Lee’s late-’40s smash “Why Don’t You Do Right.” Compared to the biting Lee version, presented by a cynical, money-hungry woman who’s not to be messed with, Cole’s seems toothlessly insipid.

As for the other dozen tracks that fill the album, well, they’re among the best of their ilk that Cole has recorded. From the wistful regret that fogs both “Somewhere Along the Way” and “Here’s That Rainy Day,” and dreamy romantic idealism that lines her lullaby-tender “Lollipops and Roses” to the breezy contentment of “Nice ’n’ Easy,” the percolated zing of “Something’s Gotta Give” and the coy, predatory purr of “It’s All Right With Me,” Cole is at the top of her game. Nor, apart from her attempt to climb above the overwhelming brassiness at the conclusion of “Come Rain or Come Shine,” is the pop-diva shrillness that invaded previous albums evident. As shaped by such superlative arrangers as John Clayton, Patrick Williams, Nan Schwartz and Victor Vanacore, these are exemplary readings of exemplary tunes.

Originally published in November 2008
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