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The Very Best of Nat King Cole [Capitol] ()

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This generous anthology, with 28 tracks and close to 80 minutes of music, is one of the best single-disc sets on the market of Nat King Cole's pop side. Spanning over 20 years, from 1943 to 1964, The Very Best of Nat King Cole includes most of his biggest hits for Capitol Records, like 1946's "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66," 1950s "Mona Lisa," 1951's "Walkin' My Baby Back Home" and "Unforgettable," and 1956's "When I Fall in Love" (with its wonderful orchestration arranged and conducted by Gordon Jenkins), although there are some intriguing omissions (1962's "Ramblin' Rose," for instance, isn't included here), but it's hard to quibble; after all, Cole charted over 100 pop singles during his career and nothing short of a massive box set could feature them all. What's most striking is how uniform everything is, as if it was all drawn from one long recording session, and Cole's rich, warm voice and perfect enunciation never falters. He was criticized for leaving his jazz roots for pop stardom, but it is worth noting how jazz-based and stripped-down most of these sides actually are, and even when orchestration is present, it is never intrusive or overwhelming, and the focus is always on Cole's steady, calm and measured vocals. It all adds up to a near-perfect introduction to Cole's Capitol years. ~ Steve Leggett, Rovi Hide synopsis

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