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Leavin by Natalie Cole

For her first release in four years, Natalie Cole turns to a group of contemporary songwriters for material. She smoothly covers an unexpected set of songs by Fiona Apple, Kate Bush, and Shelby Lynne. She also offers new takes on songs by Aretha Franklin, Neil Young, and Sting.

Leavin’ is her second CD for the Verve label. Her first, 2002’s Ask A Woman Who Knows, found her in a more introspective mood as she worked her elegant voice around a solid collection of standards. It was an extension of the jazz and popular music that she began exploring in 1991.

Leavin’, however, returns Cole to her early R&B sound. On the song "The More You Do It (The More I Like It Done To Me), the singer says, "Now, this is for the old school." That line could apply to the entire album.

Cole kicks off the CD with Apple’s "Criminal," replacing the original’s youthful angst with more soul. That leads into Young’s classic "Old Man." Cole wisely approaches this familiar song in a straight-ahead manner, and works the lower register of her voice.

The title track is Lynne’s song, which is redone as a slow, soul number. Cole also sings Bonnie Hayes’ "Love Letter," which was a big hit for Bonnie Raitt. At first, it doesn’t sound like Cole brings anything new to the song, but the number gradually gets funkier and funkier and becomes a worthy, fresh interpretation instead of a copy. It would have fit in on any one of Cole’s earliest albums.

Perhaps, with the enormous success of "Unforgettable," Cole has become better known for singing ballads, but she has always been great with a fast, hip tune. Remember "This Will Be?" The buoyancy she brought to that song can be found on the new album on "The More You Do It" and Des’ree’s "You Gotta Be."

The new album teams Cole with co-producer Dallas Austin, who has worked with Madonna, Michael Jackson, Gwen Stefani, and others. Cole, Austin, and Chanz Parkman share co-writing credits on the album’s only original song, the easy groovin’ "5 Minutes Away."

Leavin’ isn’t Cole’s best album, but it’s a very good one that serves as a fitting reminder how remarkable and versatile she is.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Natalie Cole
  • CD Title: Leavin
  • Genre: Jazz Vocals
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Verve Music Group - Universal
  • Tracks: Criminal, Old Man, Day Dreaming, Leavin’, The More You Do It (The More I Like It Done To Me), Lovin’ Arms, Love Letter, The Man With The Child In His Eyes, 5 Minutes Away, Don’t Say Goodnight (It’s Time For Love), You Gotta Be, and If I Ever Lose My Faith In You
  • Rating: Four Stars
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