Natalie Cole's latest album seems the result of a seven-year itch. After spending most of the last decade mining classic pop tunes and reviving songs associated with her father, Nat King Cole, the singer has moved on to more contemporary material. Well, somewhat more contemporary, at least.
Just what possessed Cole to record this curious collection of tunes is anybody's guess. Do we really need another interpretation of Leon Russell's "A Song for You," even one from a singer as gifted as Cole? Does Roberta Flack's "Reverend Lee" deserve another reprise, especially one that holds no surprises? And though the inclusion of a Taj Mahal tune on a Cole album is a bit surprising, Cole's rendition of "Corrina" lacks the original version's grit and personality. In fact, of all the familiar tunes only Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody," powered in part by a gospel choir and equipped with a new final verse, manages to do the singer and the song justice.
While these and most of the other tracks on the album were made in New York with the help of producer Phil Ramone, the album's title cut and the Patti Page hit "Eyes Wide Open" were recorded in Los Angeles, with David Foster overseeing things. East Coast or West Coast, the results are pleasant enough, but anyone expecting something exciting coming from Cole's return to R&B and pop grooves should be prepared to wait a little longer.
Appearing Monday at Wolf Trap. To hear a free Sound Bite from Natalie Cole, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8103. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)