Good old R&B in the old school mode is what Natalie Cole supplies in sweet abundance on her latest album, Leavin’. This album is, by and large, an album of covers with a single contribution to personalize the set. With a pedigree as rich as hers – she’s the daughter of Nat King Cole – it’s no wonder that she has had the degree of success that she has. Everyone warmly remembers her “duet” with dad on “Unforgettable,” a perfect example of technological remixing that delivered an extraordinary hit. With her skilled voice, she has forged her own legacy.
Leavin’ is 12 tracks of music, 11 from a varied selection of music that include challenging covers of Neil Young’s “Old Man,” and Kate Bush’s “The Man With the Child In His Eyes” to Sting’s percussion-dated “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You,” and Fiona Apple’s “Criminal.” She also covers R&B tunes from The Isley Brothers (“Don’t Say Goodnight (It’s Time For Love)”), and Aretha Franklin’s great hit, “Day Dreaming.”
Most interesting are her covers of unlikely tunes. On “Old Man,” she attempts to recreate the song in the same setting and does a damn good job of it. Her cadence is perfect and is, in fact, memorable as a cover, more so than her own rendition of “Day Dreaming,” which, while good, doesn’t perform the same impressive magic. With Natalie Cole’s range, she is able to successfully attempt “The Man With the Child In His Eyes” not straying far from the original sound of the composition (chorale, strings, etc), adding just enough to stamp it with an R&B undercurrent.
Natalie Cole is an excellent singer, one who is still able to refreshingly deliver the R&B of yesteryear. Her own “5 Minutes Away,” with its gospel sound is a great song and lets us know that while she can do other things, she is still in her element. Oh, and you should hear her sing “Don’t Say Goodnight (It’s Time For Love).” Its sensual delivery left my stomach in knots and there are not many singers that can achieve that.
Leavin’ is an album of excellent music; complete with proof that Natalie Cole covers (pun intended) a broad stretch of musical ground. It really sets her apart from the crowd of current female R&B singers as a singer of strength and superior ability. Natalie, you have my ears…and my heart.