This 18-song compilation emphasizes the lyrically happy and positive side of love songs as delivered by Nat King Cole. Songs From the Heart is part of the Capitol songbook series that yet again repackages classic recordings from their vaults. The majority of these late-'50s and early-'60s recordings followed the successful romantic format that focused on lush string arrangements over Cole's warm crooning. You can't argue with the selection of songs with timeless lyrics written by Johnny Mercer, Jimmy Van Heusen, Johnny Burke, Harry Warren, and Harold Arlen. Along with Frank Sinatra, this era of Nat King Cole's recordings provided the romantic backdrop for an entire generation.
All Music Guide
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You could probably count on one hand the number of jazz artists who were able to successfully make the transition to mainstream entertainer.
Fewer still were able to sustain that success for more than a hit record or two. Louis Armstrong, of course, comes immediately to mind or, in more recent times, George Benson, who went from being a highly regarded jazz guitarist to a popular singer of love songs. But no one made the leap as successfully, so completely and for a longer period of time than Nat King Cole.
One of the reasons we still enjoy listening to Nat King Cole today is that his approach to a song is timeless. His style is simplicity itself. No frills, no excessive notes, no melodramatic, overstated emotional manipulation. He just sings the song pretty much as written, taking few, if any, liberties with the composer's melody. And, as one might expect of the great musician he is, he hits the notes dead on; there is very little sliding up or down into the note.
The amazing thing with Cole is, that even though he sings a melody straight, he is never boring. So great is the force of his personality, and the warmth he exudes, that we can listen to him sing the same songs we've heard a thousand times, by countless singers, and yet hear them anew when he wraps his warm, beautiful chops around them.
Nat's approach to choosing love songs tends to be a little different. Most of his hit ballads, like the songs on this set, reflect a positive outlook. Many present the singer, as befitting the times during which they were recorded, as a bit of an existentialist. Nat often stands almost outside the song, as an observer. Witness some of the biggest hits, Nature Boy, Mona Lisa or The Christmas Song. The lyrics do not address a lover directly, yet the effect is nothing less than pure romance.
The songs here portray the happy side of being in love. Our first number, Let There Be Love, was a favorite opening tune in many a night club act in its time and why not, it is a perfect stage-setter to get the proceedings off to a nice start.
Some of the songs are associated with other vocalists. One example would be At Last, best-known today in Etta James's wistful 1960 revival of this Glenn Miller classic. Nat takes it and makes it his own.
Several of the tunes are obscure gems, such as comedian Steve Alien's Impossible or bandleader Ray Noble's The Touch Of Your Lips. Others, like Fly Me To The Moon or The More f See You, could fall into the "overworked" category... that is, until you hear Nat sing them. Suddenly, they become fresh and almost new, at the same time like old friends dropping by for a visit.
Still others are associated with Nat's friend and labelmate, Frank Sinatra, Too Marvelous For Words, or from 01' Blue Eyes' "Ooh, Frankie" days with Tommy Dorsey, Sunday, Monday Or Always and A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square.
Whatever the source or whoever also sang them, Nat Cole's versions are unforgettable. Nat was the songwriters' best friend. He showcased their wares in the best possible light. And here is the best part, as far as the tunesmiths are concerned, he didn't change the melody.
Some of the all-time great composers and lyricists are represented here: Harold Arlen, Jimmy Van Heusen, Johnny Burke, Harry Warren, Richard Whiting and Capitol co-founder Johnny Mercer. I guarantee each and every one of them is very happy to know their children are in such good hands.