On the Turntable — Wild is Love by Nat King Cole

August 11th, 2020

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Nat King Cole’s 1960 album, Wild is Love (Capitol Records)

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…..One of the many rewards of reading Will Friedwald’s comprehensive and lively biography of Nat King Cole, Straighten Up and Fly Right, has been rediscovering gems within the great singer’s expansive catalog.

…..Thanks to Friedwald – who I will be interviewing in a few days – I am reminded of Cole’s 1960 album, Wild is Love, an ambitious, electrifying (and “hit”) recording that could best be described as a concept album about falling in love.

…..In addition to an entire album of phenomenal vocal performances, as the between-song narrator Cole serves as the wise and experienced expert on love, shepherding the (male) listener through all the stages of love – the desire of finding a life partner, the emptiness of carousing, the despair following the one that got away, the pause of the hunt, and, ultimately (spoiler alert), meeting the love of your life.

…..Written by the unknown Ray Rasch (music) and Dotty Wayne (lyrics) and released at the advent of the “sexual revolution,” this album serves as a great example of how Cole and his arrangers – in this case Nelson Riddle, who worked with Cole for the last time on this project – could elevate otherwise unremarkable material into something, well, remarkable.  While the title track is the album’s highlight (and as fine a two-minute finger-snapper you’re likely to hear), the entire recording is instantly gratifying, stacked with the swagger coming from Riddle’s forty-piece orchestra and its perfection of sound, and capped by Cole’s legendary warmth, humor and brilliance.

…..Friedwald writes that “Wild is Love stands as one of the signature achievements of Cole’s career and, in particular, the culmination of roughly two decades of work in the visual mediums, film and television.” In addition to the music, at the time of its release the album was considered somewhat of a landmark in the marketing of recorded music.  Friedwald writes that Cole’s label, Capitol Records, “agreed to package the finished LP with a deluxe twelve-page full-color photo booklet.  The models were fully clothed, but other than that the whole section looked like it could have been a ‘pictorial’ from Playboy magazine.  When all was said and done, the total cost of the recording, the packaging, and the promotion, came to a total of $100,000, an unheard-of budget for a pop album (or any recording) at that point.”  The package was something “that a guy could present to his sweetheart on anniversaries or other romantic occasions” and sold for the princely sum of $8.98 (on stereo).

…..Cole also felt Wild is Love was the right project to fulfill his ambition to bring music to Broadway.  While that didn’t pan out (and his subsequent attempt with a musical titled I’m With You petered out shortly after its San Francisco opening), he was able to turn Wild is Love into a splashy television special that aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Company in November, 1961.  It is a little corny now, but for viewers who can take themselves back to that year, it’s clear to see that this project was way ahead of its time.  (You can check it out for yourself by clicking here).

…..Highlights from the album abound.  Don’t needle skip…play it through.  It heightens the appeal and intensifies the fun!

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Here a few highlights from the album…

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The title track, “Wild is Love”

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“Tell Her in the Morning”

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“Pick-up”

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“Stay With It”


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