Cole_cd_span3
August/September 2009

Various Artists
Nat King Cole: Re: Generations
Capitol Records

Re: Generations finds modern popular artists injecting their brand of contemporary relevance into the Nat King Cole canon. The results range from the hysterical “Pick-Up” by Just Blaze to eerie, almost Stockhausen-like mash-ups of “Lush Life” by Cee-Lo Green (the “Crazy” voice of Gnarls Barkley) and “Nature Boy” by TV on the Radio. Some tracks, like Cut Chemist’s remix of “Day In-Day Out,” will.i.am and Natalie Cole’s Duets redux “Straighten Up and Fly Right” and the Roots’ “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home” actually swing, in a new-jack way. Souldiggaz’s loop-laden “Hit That Jive, Jack” and the Bebel Gilberto/Michaelangelo L’Acqua samba-esque acid-jazz version of “Brazilian Love Song” feature more of the guest artist than Cole, while Stephen and Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley’s “Calypso Blues” qualifies as a cover more than a “reimagining.” These artists are all over the modern music map, making the album a hit-or-miss affair. People who like Brazilian Girls’ neo-tango or the Marleys’ one-drop might be put off by Just Blaze’s and Souldiggaz’s looping samples.

All of this begs the question of whether Cole’s music needs Black Thought, Izza Kizza or Nas rapping over it to make it contemporary. Does “Nature Boy” still speak to us with strings or does it need synthetic ambience for relevance? The songs and Cole’s voice cut across the genres and the years here, standing up well to the musical modernization, though current fans might find this teetering on the brink of shock of the new. However, this might help Capitol capitalize on a new generation of Cole fans.

Originally published in August/September 2009
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