When Carole Cole, Nat King Cole’s daughter, selected Collectors’ Choice to reissue Nat’s entire Capitol LP catalogue on compact disc, fans salivated at the prospect of having some of the most beautiful recordings in their personal collections.
Some of Nat’s LPs would be appearing on CD for the first time in the United States, making the compilation a must-have for serious collectors. Some selections would be packaged as “twofers,” placing two albums on one compact disc.
One such twofer contains Nat’s 1959 record Welcome to the Club and 1960’s Tell Me All About Yourself.
The cover art for Welcome to the Club is suggestive of the tone of the record, showing a smiling photo of Nat on the marquee of a posh nightclub and a starry-eyed couple on the front walk.
Joining with the Count Basie Band (but sadly not the Count himself) for this set of recordings, Nat made one of his most resolute statements to date. Welcome to the Club told the world that Nat had indeed joined another club and that his jazz roots weren’t the only offerings he could make to the world of music. He was now geared towards belting popular standards and would become an icon for doing just that.
Welcome to the Club features Gerald Wiggins subbing for Basie on piano (Basie had to sit out on the recording due to “contractual restrictions). Wiggins capably handles the compositions, but one has to wonder how disconcerting it was for him serving as the stand-in for one piano master while another one, Cole himself, looked on. The environment for the album is set effectively thanks to a determined performance from Wiggins.
The record is packed with traditional standards, running the range from “Mood Indigo” to “She’s Funny That Way.” The album’s amusing title track has Cole relishing the addition of a new forlorn member to the “club” and serves as a fine introduction.
The band alternates easily from splashy flurries to an effortless sway on “Anytime, Anyday, Anywhere,” a slow ballad that has Cole’s voice meld entirely into the immaculate Basie backdrop. And “I Want a Little Girl” uses bluesy swing to keep things moving.
The second set on the twofer, Tell Me All About Yourself, also has revealing cover art. An almost comical picture of Nat on the phone with a golf club in hand conjures a playboy image for the normally modest singer. Something about the twinkle in his eyes reveals that he’s asking a girl to tell him “all about herself” on the other end of that call.
This 1960 record features Dave Cavanaugh’s arrangements and makes for a perfect companion to Welcome to the Club because of the seamless production. Both albums contain a slew of standards and both albums find Cole plunging the depths, as it were, to find a selection of eclectic songs that wouldn’t normally see releases on similar records that stuck to familiar Great American Songbook standards.
Like Welcome to the Club, Tell Me All About Yourself is a leisurely swinging record. Using lesser-known works from some very celebrated songwriters, Cole diverts from some of the supreme scorchers that made his catalogue so impressive in the past and gears things down.
Tracks like Irving Berlin’s “The Best Thing For You” use simple tempo and flashing blasts from the band. “I only want the best thing for you,” Cole intones. “And the best thing for you is me.” Smooth as silk, Nat.
Other tunes venture through some odd lyrical territory (“You’ve Got the Indian Sign On Me”) and moody opulence (“This Is Always”) with Cole always adeptly in the driver’s seat to ease the path. The magnificence of this album comes not on its first listen, but perhaps around the third or fourth listens when the songs really bond together and Cole’s spotless command of the proceedings shines through.
With Welcome to the Club and Tell Me All About Yourself, Collectors’ Choice has assembled a pair of appealing recordings from the master baritone. The albums are not instant hits, but after a few listens the quality of these great tunes and Nat’s remarkable voice will become quite evident.Powered by Sidelines