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In 1954, Capitol Records released the 10" LP collection Eight Top Pops, compiling eight songs that had appeared on singles by Nat King Cole during 1952. The first two, "Somewhere Along the Way" and "Walkin' My Baby Back Home," were the biggest hits, both reaching number eight in Billboard. "Because You're Mine," Cole's cover of the Mario Lanza movie song (done in a far more relaxed style than Lanza's, of course), was also a major hit, reaching number 16. "Faith Can Move Mountains" and "The Ruby and the Pearl" were somewhat less successful, but still lodged in the Top 30, as did the B-sides "Funny (Not Much)" and "I'm Never Satisfied." The only one of the eight songs not to earn a chart placing was "A Weaver of Dreams," the B-side of the single "Wine, Women and Song." In 1963, Capitol expanded Eight Top Pops into the 12" LP Top Pops by adding two tracks at the end of either side of the original release. These four songs all came from an EP recorded by Cole in 1954, on which he covered hits by other performers, including Doris Day's "If I Give My Heart to You," the De Castro Singers' "Teach Me Tonight," and Perry Como's "Papa Loves Mambo." In 2007, mail-order firm Collectors' Choice Music reissued Top Pops with four more added tracks (thus doubling the length of the original Eight Top Pops album). They were rarities all recorded in 1952: the A-side single "A Fool Was I," which hit number 17 in 1953; the non-charting single "You Will Never Grow Old"; the B-side "How (Do I Go About It?)"; and "When I'm Alone," which had never been released before in the U.S. (Except for "A Fool Was I," these tracks were making their CD debuts.) On the various tracks, Cole addresses charts written by his conductors Les Baxter, Billy May, Nelson Riddle, and Pete Rugolo, varying the mood from lightly romantic to lightly melancholic, but always remaining as smooth a crooner as ever. ~ William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide
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The track set begins with Nat King Cole performing "Somewhere Along The Way." The strings are lovely and Nat's voice sounds terrific! Nat delivers this with all his signature style and grace; he never sings a superfluous note and this romantic ballad sounds like silk when Nat sings it. "Walkin' My Baby Back Home" is a number I have heard Nat perform before; but I could never tire of listening to Nat do this fine tune. Nat sings this in grand style and the big band style arrangement adds to the beauty of this ballad.
"Funny" is another gorgeous ballad in Nat's capable hands; he delivers this well as he sings about a love gone wrong. The piano arrangement is subtle but very elegant as well. Listen also for "Teach me Tonight;" I have heard Dinah Washington perform this and when Nat sings this number it shines every bit as bright! Nat makes this song all his own with his singularly beautiful timing and diction. The brass also makes the melody very pretty for this romantic number. "The Ruby And The Pearl" is another amorous ballad that Nat sings beyond perfection!
"Papa Loves Mambo" is a tune that is so joyful I practically laugh with pleasure every time I hear it; and Nat's interpretation lacks nothing--it's THAT good. I predict that you'll enjoy "Papa Loves Mambo" very much.
"If I Give My Heart To You" is a sensitive ballad that Nat sings with all his heart and soul; he wonders if his one true love will love him in return and this all works very well. "How (How Do I Go About It?)" features Nat squarely front and center and the horns on "How (How Do I Go About It?)" sound just right. All good things must come to an end, unfortunately, and so this album ends with Nat King Cole singing his heart out on "A Fool Was I." "A Fool Was I" is a type of torch ballad that is beautiful despite its melancholy nature; and it makes a strong ending for this CD.
Naturally, Nat King Cole fans will enjoy this CD; but they may have many of these songs in their collections already. Fans of classic pop vocals will be delighted with this excellent album; and people who enjoy the oldies will not be disappointed.
"Somewhere Along the Way" is one of those sweet songs that would sound great while walking along the beach. "Walking My Baby Back Home" deals with the lost concept of romance. "I'm Never Satisfied" is the kind of jazzy, uptempo pre-rock and roll pop that the likes of Harry Connick have recently brought back into fashion. "Papa Loves Mambo" is a nice pseudo-calypso number type of tune that was popular at the time, and "Faith Can Move Mountains" is an inspirational number along the lines of "You'll Never Walk Alone."
Overall, this CD is good for what ails you when you're hit by low spirits. Listen and enjoy.