by: Natalie Cole

When Natalie Cole's debut album, Inseparable, came out in 1976, many fans of her late father hoped that she would follow his lead and embrace jazz and pre-rock pop. But Inseparable doesn't sound anything like a Nat "King" Cole session, and it wasn't until 1991's Unforgettable that Natalie Cole recorded the sort of project her father would have recorded. In the 1970s, she was essentially an R&B singer, and the person she was compared to more than anyone was Aretha Franklin. Some reviewers also compared Cole to Chaka Khan, which made sense because Khan certainly didn't escape Franklin's influence either. To be sure, Cole brings a definite Franklin influence to this promising debut album; her admiration for the Queen of Soul comes through on the joyous, gospel-drenched "This Will Be" and the hit ballad s "I Can't Say No" and "Inseparable" as well as funk y album tracks like "Something for Nothing" and "How Come You Won't Stay Here." But as strong as Franklin's influence is, Cole never fails to sound like her own person. By the end of the 1970s, it was clear that Cole wasn't a soul purist -- and not surprisingly, she picked up a lot of adult contemporary and quiet storm fans along the way. But Inseparable is among Cole's most soul-oriented albums, and it is also one of her most essential. ~ Alex Henderson

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