Natalie Cole - Natalie Live (Reissue) (2011)

Natalie Cole

Natalie Cole Natalie Live.jpg

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Our generation has produced its own set of divas---women like Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott and Mariah Carey--- who manage to be both artists and entertainers by selling millions of records, packing out performance venues around the globe and evoking pandemonium just by a mention of their names. But if you want to know which icons they may have drawn inspiration from to understand what soul was all about, than look no further than this masterful reissue of Natalie Cole’s hit album …..Live!

Our generation has produced its own set of divas---women like Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott and Mariah Carey--- who manage to be both artists and entertainers by selling millions of records, packing out performance venues around the globe and evoking pandemonium just by a mention of their names. But if you want to know which icons they may have drawn inspiration from to understand what soul was all about, than look no further than this masterful reissue of Natalie Cole’s hit album …..Live!

Initially released in 1978 (before the versatile performer began to explore her jazzier/pop side), the 90 minute, two disc set was recorded from shows at Los Angeles, California's Universal Ampitheater and Cherry Hill, New Jersey’s Latin Casino.  Thanks to modern technology, the sound is crisp enough to make the notes, instrumentation and even the audiences’ reactions come roaring to life, transporting the listener back in time for a seat during Natalie's personable and polished performances.

Today’s artists, with exceptions here and there, tend to rely on elaborate stage props, dozens of costume changes and breathless choreography to entertain, but Ms. Cole’s pristine vocals and the warm enthusiasm she injects into her banter and material are compelling all on their own. It’s a rare performer who can turn an airy pop standard like “Que Sera, Sera” into a church-worthy confessional, sing high-energy numbers like “Mr. Melody” and “Party Nights” in the midst of a pregnancy (“This is my last performance for a little while, because I have some business to take care of”) and pour herself so fully into “Sophisticated Lady (She’s A Different Lady)" that she embodies the lyrics herself: “She’s the kind of person that you like to meet/cuz’ she’s always smiling and she’s always neat. She can start a fire in the coldest man/she’s a hip, slick sister known throughout the land.”

It’s a treat to hear Natalie experiment with selections from other genres (“Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds,” “Cry Baby”) and cover Etta James so assuredly (“something’s Got a Hold On Me”), but the sterling quality of the musical arrangements come through the most clearly when she’s performing her signature smashes. She scats her way into the already-buoyant “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love),” stretches “I’ve Got Love on My Mind” into a worshipful odyssey, and invites the audience members to disclose their private pains while she cathartically delivers “I’m Catching Hell (Living Here Alone)" because, “Every now and then, it rains on your parade….sometimes you think you’re the only one out there who’s got problems. Let me tell you something: be not dismayed, because you gotta go through some of the bad to get to the good.”

Natalie was already considered a superstar, thanks to her Grammy Awards, multiple million-selling albums and, of course, her being the eldest daughter of pop/jazz legend Nat “King,” but Ms. Cole displays the “how” and the “why” with this set: she’s glittering, yet gritty, oozing with charm and charisma throughout and giving her enviable catalog---as well as her devoted fans----the reverence and respect they obviously deserve.

Filled with photos, extensive liner notes and nuggets of musical trivia about the lady and her music, ….Live! would make a perfect Mother’s Day gift for that die-hard Natalie Cole fan or for anyone who wants to discover (or relive) when this dynamic diva came into her own. It’s an authentic and engaging set, spotlighting a performer at the top of her game and whetting the appetite for what will come in her still-evolving career. Highly Recommended.

By Melody Charles 

 

 

 
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