Natalie Cole - Ask a Woman Who Knows 
Music Disc Reviews SACD
Written by Dan MacIntosh   
Tuesday, 29 October 2002

Hybrid SACD
Verve
performance 7
sound 7
released 2005
original release 2002

In 1991, Natalie Cole revived her career by releasing Unforgettable – with Love, which featured her singing duets with the overdubbed vocals of her deceased father, the great Nat “King” Cole. Since then, Natalie has settled comfortably into the modern-day chanteuse role. Although she continues to live up to the high expectations of such a calling, the main problem with 2002’s Ask a Woman Who Knows, which has just been re-released as an SACD, is that it is, well, just a little too forgettable.

It’s not as though Cole has chosen particularly obscure material to record. For instance, “Soon” draws from the Gershwin catalogue and “So Many Stars” is associated with Sergio Mendes, one of its co-writers. However, there aren’t any immediately familiar chestnuts in this bunch. Granted, Cole does her best with what she’s been given, including a few places where her voice leaps and dives the way the amazing Sarah Vaughn used to thrill us. Still, little of this release sticks in the old memory bank.

With all this said, there are a few moments here well worth noting. In particular, it’s a pleasure to hear Cole trade lines with fellow jazz singer Diana Krall during “Better Than Anything.” The Latin feel given to “Tell Me All About It” is a nice touch, the big string intro to “So Many Stars” has a beautifully retro feel to it and the full horn section on “Soon” nicely revives the swing era.

In the same way that these songs are strong, the musicianship is equally stellar. It features a cast of mostly jazz standouts, including Joe Sample’s keyboard work and Christian McBride’s steady bass playing. Cole – who has worked with Nelson Riddle and knows what it means to have great arrangers – works with a few of today’s best here. The talents of Alan Broadbent, Rob Mounsey and John Clayton are scattered throughout this release.

For those who enjoy revisiting the musical values of yesteryear, Ask a Woman Who Knows closely adheres to the sounds and words of Cole’s dad’s era. Attracting music fans less attracted to those values, however, requires a little more substance than this work supplies. Reading through the credits of this disc, it’s hard to imagine how this CD could go wrong. Yet even with all this talent, it still leaves something to be desired.

Sound
Listening to this bygone-era music, given the new SACD treatment here, makes you wonder what a guy like Frank Sinatra would have sounded like had he recorded when this technology was available. Nelson Riddle’s lush arrangements would certainly have been full and beautiful, the same way these songs are presented. The brass and string work here especially benefits from these SACD enhancements, but Cole’s sly singing voice has also never sounded better.







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