The Second Disc

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Archive for December 21st, 2010

Review: Nat “King” Cole, “Love is the Thing” and “The Very Thought of You”

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The time is 1957. The place is the corner of Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles, California – the Capitol Tower. And you are there.

Such is the magic of Analogue Productions’ pair of hybrid Super Audio CDs, part of the label’s Nat “King” Cole reissue program. Thanks to the gorgeous remastering and improved quality afforded by the format, you’ll hear every breath, as if you were in the studio alongside Cole himself during a recording session. The versatile artist is today remembered for many things: his pioneering jazz sides, his posthumous duet of “Unforgettable” with daughter Natalie, and this time of year especially, his Christmas recordings including the definitive reading of Mel Torme and Robert Wells’ “The Christmas Song.” But Analogue’s reissues of 1957’s Love is the Thing (CAPP 824 SA) and its 1958 follow-up, The Very Thought of You (CAPP 1084 SA), are potent reminders that, like Frank Sinatra, Cole was an album artist of the highest order, crafting LPs with thematic and sonic unity.

A certain effortless quality marks Love is the Thing. While the album is sophisticated and with a certain refined air, Cole’s choices are musically adventurous yet never labored. Just listen to his languid take on the usually-rollicking “Ain’t Misbehavin’” to see how the singer made a song his own. Cole makes every performance sound like that song’s quintessential one, even a song as recorded as often as Hoagy Carmichael and Mitchell Parrish’s “Stardust.” This particular song was a standard even in 1957, but Cole imbues it with an intimacy not heard previously. Similarly, on Victor Young and Edward Heyman’s “When I Fall in Love,” you hang on every single lyric and believe each word, however familiar. “At Last” is so very different from Etta James’ classic recording, with arranger and conductor Gordon Jenkins (by no coincidence a close associate of Frank Sinatra’s) providing his customary strength in string orchestration. The take here on “It’s All in the Game” is more emotional than Tommy Edwards’ laid-back hit version of a couple years later, and more subtle than the arrangement Jenkins provided years earlier for Louis Armstrong. “I Thought About Marie,” written by Jenkins, sits well alongside the more well-known songs that populate the disc.

This romantic, atmospheric LP spent eight weeks atop the charts and was Cole’s first stereophonic LP. For this listener, though, the stereo tracks aren’t the attention-grabber, gorgeous though they sound. Analogue Productions has made the disc playable in three configurations of 24 indexed tracks: a CD and SACD layer with the original 10-track album in mono and stereo plus two bonus tracks; and a three-channel surround SACD layer with the original 10 tracks. This multichannel program is a revelation. The separation is beautiful, and the clarity of the recording is stunning. This is both a testament to original producer Lee Gillette and Capitol’s engineers, as well as to remastering gurus Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray. The multichannel tracks (from the three-track session masters) are clean and crisp with Cole’s soft vocals up front and center, where they should be, and the monaural recordings are also life-like as taken directly from the close-miked masters. While Hoffman previously tackled these titles for DCC some years back, I can’t believe that he hasn’t outdone himself with these remarkable new editions. Hit the jump for the scoop on The Very Thought of You! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 21, 2010 at 14:32

Posted in Nat King Cole, News, Reissues

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Release Round-Up: Week of December 21

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Just one title today, because it’s almost Christmas! Who’s going to buy new CDs Christmas week? Not counting the awesome Kritzerland titles (Casino Royale and Genghis Khan)!

Various Artists, 20th Century Fox: 75 Years of Great Film Scores (Varese Sarabande)

A sweet three-disc set of classics from Fox’s deep vault. This was delayed from earlier in the month, but I have a feeling it’s worth the wait. (Varese Sarabande)

Written by Mike Duquette

December 21, 2010 at 09:31

“Genghis Khan” Makes CD Debut Alongside “Casino Royale”

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During a time of the year when most labels have wound down their new releases for 2010, Kritzerland has rewarded loyal listeners with a pair of early Christmas gifts. On Monday, the label made available for pre-order its final two releases of the year, and both are doozies. On Friday, we brought you the news of the remastered and expanded Casino Royale soundtrack composed by Burt Bacharach, and yesterday, the label gave official word that Casino will be joined by the first-ever CD release for Dusan Radic’s score to the 1965 film Genghis Khan.

Although the film itself didn’t live up to the lofty heights of Ben Hur, El Cid or the other acknowledged classics in the historical epic genre, it still boasted plenty to offer. The cast included Omar Sharif, James Mason, Telly Savalas, Michael Hordern and the still-active Eli Wallach, the 95-years young actor just rewarded with an Honorary Academy Award. In 1964, Yugoslavian composer Dusan Radic composed the score to Jack Cardiff’s film The Long Ships, and the following year returned with Henry Levin’s Genghis Khan. Radic’s score was appropriately in the grand tradition, with big, sweeping themes. Both of these rare Hollywood excursions by Radic were released on LP, and now Kritzerland brings the long-lost Liberty Records presentation of Genghis Khan back into print with this debut CD. Two additional tracks only heard on an overseas pressing have also been included.

Hit the jump for ordering information and full track listings! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 21, 2010 at 09:22

Posted in News, Reissues, Soundtracks