Recorded July 10th, 19th, 31st 1957 & August 7th 1957
Nat Cole - Vocals
Billy May - Arranger
Harry 'Sweets' Edison - Trumpet
Lee Gillette - Producer
John Krauss - Engineer
"Contrasting downbeat ballads with a brassy, upbeat big band attitude, this set proved one of the finest Nat ever did."
A good juxtaposition and a good irony can be a potent combination, giving new insight and sometimes capturing an experience more potently than a straight-ahead treatment. Nat King Cole's Just One of Those Things is... just one of those things. Contrasting downbeat ballads with a brassy, upbeat big band attitude, this set proved one of the finest Nat ever did. Nat's alternately biting, smooth, aching and brash vocals and Billy May's equally brilliant and expressive big band backing make for a distinctive, pungent experience of the disillusionment of love and spirit.
No strings are used, only big band brass; of course bass and harp is used, the latter very spare and distantly, but bass is strictly for rhythm, in tandem with great use of tuba; the band may be limited in instrumentation, but it covers the range from top to bottom and Billy May uses it all. Why this was done seems to be debatable. It could be that this was thought a good contrasting variety after the last album, which was all soaring strings and no brass. Sounds reasonable to me. It's also been said producer Lee Gillette wanted to save money by skipping the strings, which sounds beyond cheap considering the dough Nat's records made for Capitol. My feeling is that it was a creative and not merely financial choice. Billy May, it is true, is particularly good at keeping full orchestra with strings from being schmaltzy, but even so this album's theme is enhanced by this choice in orchestration. Downbeat songs with upbeat swagger and ballads with big band and no strings. Brilliant result, whatever the initial motive.
Great tracks include a raucous and blazing Just One of Those Things, a smoldering These Foolish Things, and an all too perspicacious The Party's Over. Nat's melodic way with a lyric aids Billy May's memorably melodic arrangement for an affecting A Cottage For Sale. Nat's biting Who's Sorry Now? and Billy's brash arrangement is so effective I can hardly stand to hear that song in the straight ballad form it's usually performed in.
A marvelous version of You'll Never Know was also recorded at the sessions for this album but not released in the day. In addition, a mono version of You'll Never Know, in large part a different take from the stereo, and a true alternate in mono of Just for the Fun of It was found and included in the Analogue Productions SACD release. This project was also recorded in stereo (by long time Capitol engineering head John Krauss); the stereo versions use a different take for parts of When Your Lover Has Gone and Who's Sorry Now? In addition to monaural LP and EPs, this album was also originally released in quality open reel tape, a 7 1/2" 2-track stereo (ZD-28). A Cottage For Sale was omitted from the open reel release due to space constraints; that track was instead included on a 7 1/2" 2-track stereo compilation Stars In Stereo (ZD-21), which fans of Frank Sinatra may wish to know also includes Frank Sinatra's I'm a Fool To Want You, a track omitted from the open reel tape of Where Are You? (ZD-17).