Passport Video // 2004 // 38 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Lacey Worrell (Retired) // July 26th, 2005
It's Nat "King" Cole at his very best!
Nat King Cole's legendary contributions to music showcased his unique talents in a multitude of ways. He is at once a pop singer, a jazz singer, and a talented musician. Responsible for what is quite possibly the best recording of a holiday song ever made, "The Christmas Song," Cole also holds the distinguished role of being the first black musician to ever have a weekly radio and television show. (The television show was, unfortunately, cancelled because, in the racially charged atmosphere of the 1950s, no one was willing to sponsor it.) In his admirable career, this preacher's son and talented baseball player made influential friends among the most famous people of his day, and even performed for Queen Elizabeth II.
Although he died of lung cancer at a relatively young age, Cole's astounding body of work is timeless. In today's world, when vocal ability is not necessarily a prerequisite for a recording career, there is something to be said for listening to this supremely talented man, dressed in a simple jacket and tie, and without flashy backup dancers or loud accompaniment. It's not necessary when one can, well, sing.
This DVD is a collection of various songs performed by Nat King Cole. All segments are done in black and white.
This DVD, at less than 40 minutes, manages to cram in an impressive number of songs:
* "Shy Guy"
This early, early piece features a young Cole at the piano, surrounded by his band mates and some comely young women, one of whom strokes Cole's shoulder lovingly while he plays. This song showcases Cole's remarkable skills on the piano.
* "Frim Fram Sauce"
Many of the women from "Shy Guy" reappear in this early video, which takes place in a restaurant. American Idol fans may remember that finalist Ryan Starr did a rendition of this song on the first season of the show. Look for a tongue-in-cheek moment where Nat catches his own image on a television playing in the background.
* "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter"
This song is more in what evolved into Cole's signature style, and is very brief.
* "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face"
This song, from the musical My Fair Lady, is touching in that it shows pictures of Nat King Cole with his young daughter Natalie.
* "I Want You to be Happy"
For this instrumental, Nat returns to the piano, backed by a saxophone, bass, guitar, and trumpet. Be sure to note the diversity of his band mates; for Cole, this appeared to be very natural. It is apparent in this segment that as long as good music was being made, the ethnicity of the musicians did not matter to him.
* "With You on My Mind"
Try not to swoon as Cole sings this one directly into the camera, backed by two saxophones. The man had class and charisma to spare.
* "Raintree County"
Crooning the theme song from the popular Elizabeth Taylor movie, Cole sings, appropriately, against a background of foliage.
* "Too Close for Comfort"
This is a great, up-tempo number with the legendary Ella Fitzgerald, whose voice is as clear as a bell. It is a short segment, but one of the overall highlights of this disc. Be sure to note the simple, cute choreography and the playfulness between the two legends.
* "Walkin' My Baby Back Home"
This is a simple, up-tempo song where Cole alternately sings and plays the piano.
* "Because You're Mine"
If you can overlook the production typo ("you're" is spelled "your" onscreen), you'll enjoy this slower number, where Cole showcases his ability to play to the audience.
Patsy Cline fans should note that this is not the same song she popularized, although it shares the name. Here, Cole is clearly enjoying himself, smiling although the lyrics question his lover's true intentions.
* "My Heart Reminds Me"
Enjoy the gorgeous lyrics of this tune, which refer to roses, music, summer evenings, and dreams.
Quite possibly one of the most beautiful songs ever written, this segment is a showstopper. Cole sings this song alone, resplendent in a tuxedo, with only a microphone on stage and very little musical accompaniment other than strings. By far the best song on the disc.
* "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful"
Cole sings directly to the camera, perched on a stool, hands clasped casually around his knee, creating an intimate effect.
* "Blueberry Hill"
Cole has fun with this Fats Domino classic, and adds his own signature spin to it.
* "Nat's Theme"
This is a poignant compilation of various still photographs featuring Nat King Cole with heavyweights of his era, such as Harry Belafonte, Ella Fitzgerald, and Rat Packers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr.
There is no doubt about it -- this disc will whet your appetite for more of Nat King Cole, who stands on his own as a class act and amazing artist. Other classic Nat King Cole recordings that are a must for every music fan include his version of "Blue Moon," "For Sentimental Reasons," "Perfidia," and "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," as well as his signature tunes "Unforgettable" and "The Christmas Song." I also recommend picking up a copy of "The Christmas Song" CD, where in addition to the titular tune, Cole does sweet justice to lesser known ones like "I Saw Three Ships," and even sings "O Tannenbaum" in perfect German.
Nat King Cole -- Stardust Memories is grainy and the sound quality is terrible, but on this particular release I think it is a good thing; part of the experience of listening to music back in the days of 45s and turntables was the accompanying scratchiness and imperfections. Watching this DVD is a trip down memory lane, so the flaws in the sound and picture are expected and -- in the age of digitally perfect everything -- almost welcome. That said, the overall judgment for this DVD is more a reflection of the choice and quality of Cole's performances in terms of what his fans would be looking for, and it forgives the audio and video as a product of its technologically limited era (at least by today's standards).
Amazon.com currently lists over 20 different compilations of Cole's work. This disc may be brief, but it is a loving tribute worthy of your consideration. In fact, with Cole's considerable talent and sweet humility, it would be difficult to make an unworthy tribute. As a performer, he was a tribute unto himself, in every performance he gave.
The Court orders the gallery to listen to two Nat King Cole songs for every Justin Timberlake or Jennifer Lopez song they play. Failing that, pick up this DVD, which serves as the perfect primer on Cole as a singer and musician.
Review content copyright © 2005 Lacey Worrell; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Passport Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 38 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* IMDb: Nat "King" Cole