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Image Entertainment presents
An Evening with Nat King Cole (1961)

"I'd like for you to pull up a chair and be my guest, and sort of relax a bit. It's an extreme pleasure for me to visit with you tonight, and I hope that in the next half hour or so, we can get to know each other a bit."
- Nat King Cole

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: April 15, 2002

Stars: Nat King Cole
Other Stars: Ted Heath, Reunald Jones, John Collins, Charles Harris, Leon Petties
Director: Joe Zito

Manufacturer: Ritek Global Media
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 00h:47m:20s
Release Date: April 16, 2002
UPC: 014381142228
Genre: music

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+C-C D-

DVD Review

The thin tie. The silk suit with the shawl collar. The pocket square folded just so. Nat King Cole had some style, and it's very much on display in this easygoing presentation of some of his best-known songs, produced for the BBC in 1961.

Stripped away of almost all production values, with nothing to lean on except occasionally a stool, a performer's talent and charisma is put to a severe test in a one-person show like this. But Cole had some serious vocal chops, and a winning smile, and some great tunes to sing—it may not be galvanizing television, and it's even a misnomer to call this "an evening," as it runs just over forty-seven minutes. But it's a fine way to while away some time with a terrific performer having fun with his songbook.

Cole is backed by Ted Heath and his orchestra, who are offstage; it sounds as if much of the music might even be canned, as it doesn't have much of a lilt to it, and bears a suspiciously precise resemblance to some of Cole's studio tracks from the period. The up-tempo numbers work especially well in this format—the rendition here of Day In, Day Out is particularly winning. (It offers one stupid directorial flourish, though: when Cole gets to the lyric "The ocean's roar / Ten thousand drums," he's shot from the perspective of the drummer, with a snare and cymbals in the frame.) And while it's nice to hear live renditions of Cole standards like Mona Lisa and Unforgettable, he really swings with songs not associated with him exclusively—The Way You Look Tonight sounds just great here.

It's not exactly a seamless, taped live sort of event; boom, one song ends and a piano magically appears next to Cole. (As a preview, Cole noodles around on a clavieta, an instrument that's sort of a keyboard you blow into.) Cole was a talented piano player, too, and he seems to be having the most fun when he's at the keyboard, and joined onstage by a quartet of musicians, for Paper Moon and Sweet Lorraine. Heath makes a brief appearance onstage to present Cole with a gold record for a charity project to which he contributed, an album called All Star Festival, all of the proceeds from which went to the World Refugee Fund. (No, this didn't all start with We Are the World.)

Things fall off a little bit late in the program, when he moves away from his jazz roots and sounds—well, he sounds too white, and things get way too Lawrence Welk. Cole is joined onstage by the Cliff Adams Singers, who back him up on gooey songs like Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer and Ramblin' Rose; Cole tries to cajole the audience into a sing-a-long on the latter, but they're not too enthusiastic, and the camera pans around to show that they're a bunch of proper Brits who applaud when they should, but that's all. (And just three short years away from Beatlemania.) Cole sports a boater and a ukulele for these final numbers while his backup singers, all of whom are white, sit in pairs at café tables as he strolls around them, looking a little too much like a minstrel show for comfort.

Here's your track list:

Aren't You Glad You're You
Day In, Day Out
Here's That Rainy Day / But Beautiful
The Way You Look Tonight
When I Fall In Love
It's Only A Paper Moon
Sweet Lorraine
Let There Be Love
Mona Lisa
In The Good Old Summertime
That Sunday (That Summer)
Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer
Ramblin' Rose

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Apparently this show was forgotten in a BBC vault for thirty years, and it shows. Not shot to last, the video presentation is grainy and full of interference. Visually, this is little more than radio, but the transfer to DVD is adequate, given the quality of the source material.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Cole's voice of course shines, which is pretty much all that matters, but the mono soundtrack doesn't provide much nuance or dynamism. The music is clear enough, though Cole sometimes seems overmiked.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Music/Song Access with 16 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Cole sings a few bars of Unforgettable over the only menu, which provides access to each song in the show.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Don't be bashful. Pour yourself a cocktail, get your favorite cardigan out of the back of the closet, and enjoy the musical stylings of the great Nat King Cole. He's good company for this short period of time, and if the trappings aren't perfect, his voice nearly is.


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