19/01/2013

Love Is The Thing

Nat King Cole
1957

Listening to this album today, and in particular having just listened to Frank Sinatra's emotional switchback duo of In The Wee Small Hours and Songs For Swingin' Lovers!, it's easy to assume Love Is The Thing was Nat King Cole's attempt at a similar concept. The big, sweeping string arrangements and the classic songs are all present and correct. Probably, though, this is just the kind of album that many singers were releasing, except we don't get to hear the also-rans sixty years later.

So why has this one endured? (And endure it has - it went platinum 35 years after its release). It's tempting to ascribe some of the album's longevity to its most famous track. "When I Fall In Love" is, of course, a timeless classic, but anyone who wants that can choose from a million compilations. People buying this album are looking for something more, albeit maybe more of the same, and that's what they'll get. There are other well-known songs, such as "Love Letters", and "It's All In The Game" in the same style. The whole album is a long soak in a lovely warm bath - listening to Cole's silky smooth voice is like luxuriating in a million bubbles - and the tempo never raises your pulse.

In some respects this is an easier listen than the Sinatra albums (C prefers it), but I think it is ultimately less rewarding. I do like it and Cole never lapse into cliché or sounds forced. But the arrangements tend towards the overly-sweet and the whole borders on inoffensive and is ideal background music.

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