Picks and Pans Review: Take a Look

Natalie Cole

You might say Cole claimed her birthright when she recorded Unforgettable with Love, the 1991 album of Nat “King” Cole tunes that has sold more than 5 million copies. After starting as an R&B singer, she scored a major comeback by doing standard tunes Dad’s way. But with the makeover came a new challenge: How to follow in her father’s footsteps without getting lost?

On that level, Take a Look triumphs. By selecting 18 songs from all over the classic-pop map and giving them delicate, jazzy treatments, Cole carves her own identity while remaining true to her father. She is always a very musical singer, whether bending a blue note or piping heavenward.

And yet there is room to grow. Cole can’t quite carry off the bop pyrotechnics of the Lambert, Hendricks & Ross tune “It’s Sand Man” or the painfully ironic subtext of Billie Holiday’s “Don’t Explain.” But most of this album showcases her understated charms. With only a few exceptions, Cole knows how to kill us softly with her songs. (Elektra)

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