Love Is the Thing

by: Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole's collaborations with Gordon Jenkins rank among the finest from either artist or arranger. Cole's first stereophonic long player, 1957's Love Is the Thing remains the epitome of the pair's undeniable compatibility, and it topped the album charts for eight weeks. The opener "When I Fall in Love" is considered by many to be nothing short of definitive; the restrained orchestration perfectly adapts to the singer's verdant vocals. Similarly, "Stardust" sparkles as a flawless musical alliance is formed with Cole's warm and inviting narrative weaving over Jenkins' intimate score. Simply stated, both songs are unmitigated masterworks -- and we're only two cuts into the dozen-song LP. Another key to the project's success is Jenkins ability to reign in just enough instrumentation to support Cole's uniformly restrained leads. Examples abound throughout, with "Stay as Sweet as You Are," "At Last," and the rural sophistication of "When Sunny Gets Blue." The heartfelt "Love Letters" and even the comparatively light "Ain't Misbehavin'" incorporate a sonic synergy as the airy string section glides between Cole's line by line phrasing. Also worth mentioning is the Jenkins original "I Thought About Marie," as it sits comfortably beside some of the most time-honored tunes in 20th century popular music. [Some reissues add three bonus tracks.] ~ Lindsay Planer

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