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Natalie Cole: Cole en Espanol

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By 1958, Nat King Cole’s global popularity had grown so massive that Capitol encouraged him to record an album entirely in Spanish. Despite his painfully awkward, phonetically learned vocals, Cole Español proved an enormous success, so much so that two well-intentioned but equally clunky follow-ups, 1959’s A Mis Amigos and 1962’s More Cole Español, were released.

Now daughter Natalie, who has built a substantial second career trying to recapture the pop-jazz zeitgeist of her late father’s era, takes her own viaje, with far more impressive results. Her appreciation for the language is genuine, allowing for a much deeper emotional connection to the lyrics. And, at 63, she sounds terrific, her rock- and soul-tinged vivacity barely diminished.

Cole draws only three tracks from her father’s Spanish oeuvre-“Quizás, Quizás, Quizás,” “Solamente Una Vez” and “Acércate Más”-the latter extending her tireless affection for from-the-grave bi-generational duets. Other, more vital guests drop by, including Andrea Bocelli for a muted “Bésame Mucho,” Chris Botti for an appropriately dreamy “Yo Lo Amo” (Lennon and McCartney’s “And I Love Him”) and Juan Luis Guerra for a sun-dappled “Bachata Rosa.” Backed by the lush, fiery Miami Symphonic Studio Orchestra on all but three tracks, with the likes of Orlando Hernandez and Ed Calle accenting various selections, Cole delivers winning treatments of such familiar fare as “Frenesi” and “Amapola,” and teams with pianist Arthur Hanlon for a scorching medley anchored by Tito Puente’s “Oye Como Va.” Produced and directed by Rudy Perez, it’s all slickly grand-scale, yet it works satisfyingly well.

Originally Published