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Great mastering, but a very poor track listing
on January 3, 2007
Yeah, it's hard to go wrong with the music of Nat King Cole, but somehow this disc manages to do so.
Casual fans should be aware that this disc is anything but "the very best" of Nat King Cole, despite the title. Some of Nat's biggest hits are missing in action. Note the absence of "Ramblin' Rose" and "Send For Me" and "Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days Of Summer" and "Pretend" and "Too Young" and ... well, you get the idea.
By excluding so many of Nat's biggest hits, the producers were able to include some rarely heard tracks like "Candy" and the live "I Wish You Love," but what's the point? Those who prefer Nat's 1961 stereo remakes of classics like "Unforgettable" and "Smile" and "When I Fall In Love" will also be disappointed, as the versions heard here are the mono originals that most Cole fans agree are inferior to the remakes recorded when Nat's voice was at its distinctive best.
All in all, the track listing resembles some committee's idea of a mix tape -- an indiscriminate, incoherent hodge-podge of big hits and obscurities that have nothing at all in common. Following the wistful "Looking Back" by cutting immediately to the bouncy, foreign-language version of "L-O-V-E" does both songs a major disservice.
One other complaint: The uncredited liner notes are among the most embarrassing ever penned for an album by any major artist: "In his lifetime, the king was renowned for an immortal ability to make stars of his hope and torment." Ehhhhh... Looks like someone took a creative writing class at the local community college.
All that said, Capitol deserves a lot of credit for including the previously unreleased version of "Morning Star" (it's a stunner) and for some very tasteful art direction. Also, this disc was superbly mastered by Ron McMaster and the resulting sound quality is exceptional.
Even so, I think most fans would be much happier with the 2005 compilation "The World Of Nat King Cole." (Though they should avoid the disappointing DVD of the same name.)