Top positive review
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An album for the ages.
on 30 August 2005
Though Cole and Shearing came from totally different backgrounds, their approach to music was similar, and in this remastered CD of the original 1961 album, the two find the perfect blend of sound and mood, allowing each to be himself while complementing the other. Cole is a crooner here, singing mellow, usually romantic ballads, and often sliding down the scale to his lower notes. Shearing plays quiet, inventive, and "tinkly" accompaniments in the background, without ever stepping on Cole's notes. Both are gentlemen of the old school who maintain a professionalism and formality which shows clear respect for the audience and for each other, while at the same time conveying a sense of controlled passion and warmth for the music.
Varying the sound from the easy swing beat of "Pick Yourself Up," in which Cole offers gentle advice, rather than an assertive recommendation, to the Latin beat of "Serenata" and "The Game of Love," the very slow ballads of "Lost April" and "I Got It Bad," and the less familiar songs of "There's a Lull in My Life" and "Don't Go," Cole uses phrasings which make overly familiar lyrics suddenly come alive. Shearing, keeping his piano accompaniments relatively simple, adds to the moods Cole creates, while Ralph Carmichael, with the String Choir, fills in the arrangements.
Three songs stand out: "Let There Be Love" begins with a bluesy piano intro and light percussion, until Cole and Shearing guide the song into somewhat louder and jazzier realms near the end. "Fly Me to the Moon" is sung much more slowly than usual, sounding more intimate and private as a result, as if Cole is singing directly to the audience in phrasings that sound conversational. "The Game of Love," with its syncopated Latin beat has a great piano solo by Shearing, flute-y piccolo sounds, and a more integrated accompaniment with the strings. Cole's phrasing is reminiscent of Belafonte here.
For listeners more accustomed to the minimalist percussion and piano accompaniments of modern jazz and ballad soloists, the inclusion of the heavy strings of the String Choir may sound a bit dated and a bit intrusive, an overly romantic (Nelson Riddle-like) element commonly included on recordings at that time. Cole and Shearing adapt to the strings beautifully, leaving room for them while keeping their own styles simple. With beautiful songs rendered even more beautiful by the partnership of Cole and Shearing, this is an album for the ages. Mary Whipple