By the late 1950s, Nat King Cole wasn’t just an American treasure; his star shone beyond the shores of the United States and gave him international acclaim. This led to Cole’s desire to record songs in different languages.
In 1958, he released Cole Espanol, a full album of Spanish language tunes. Contrary to what the Capitol suits predicted, the album was a roaring success and led to two follow-ups.
One of those follow-ups was A Mis Amigos, recorded just a year later. With this record, Cole recorded his vocals in Brazil as he was touring there. Through his travels, Nat was able to learn more about pronunciation and his skills with the Spanish language became stronger. He didn’t speak the language, but he was able to articulate the words expertly and gave the songs an amiable delivery all his own.
That Nat didn’t speak Spanish came as a big surprise to me upon repeat listens of A Mis Amigos. Not only does Cole come across as someone warmly familiar with the Spanish language, he sounds absolutely expert with his delivery and tone. The songs would certainly feel right at home in Rio.
There’s no question that Nat King Cole is at home with this material. His elocution turns average songs into classics and his ability to handle the tempo changes creates magic. Cole’s work on songs like “Ay, Cosita Linda” and “Caboclo Do Rio” proves his flexibility as he works with Brazilian rhythms and generous percussion.
A Mis Amigos is an interesting album because it was still a relative rarity for an American singer to do a full album in a foreign language. Cole’s ability to break down barriers is on display with this recording, creating an exceptional experience for collectors and first-timers.
Collector’s Choice has included a few bonus tracks as well, namely a pair of English language tracks (“Come To the Mardi Gras” and “Come Closer to Me”).
The songs on A Mis Amigos are truly terrific and the album’s flow from soft balladry to pulsating Cuban/South American percussion makes it a distinctive recording from Nat King Cole. For a different glimpse at an American icon, look no further than A Mis Amigos (To My Friends).