Gregory Porter: Nat King Cole and Me
CD/Deluxe CD/DL/LP/Ltd Edition Blue Vinyl LP
Released 27 October
Christmas shopping? Sorted! What you need to do is make a list of all of your relatives that are over the age of ten and buy them a copy of Nat King Cole and Me by Gregory Porter. Buy the under-tens some traditional wooden toys. They won’t thank you now, but one day they’ll know you did them a service.
You can go for the CD option for most adults, deluxe CD for Uncle Johnny because he gets a funny feeling in his tummy when he hears Gregory’s voice. Your sister can have the limited edition blue vinyl because she’s cool like that and all the other kids can get it as a download. On Christmas Day, the family can gather round a warm, glowing set of speakers and, one by one, play their copy.
There might even be some resultant conversation.
That’s the idyll that this album makes me imagine. It’s such a welcome reawakening of tender songs composed by a beautiful mind, sung for the 21st Century in a beautiful voice that is rich with life. It ought to remind us that we don’t have to restrict the act of being festive to a once-yearly occurrence.
With the backing of a 70-piece orchestra, with multiple-Grammy-winning conductor Vince Mendoza at the baton, Porter gives us eleven Nat King Cole classics. Porter’s own When Love Was King, from 2011’s Liquid Spirit, is also reworked in the classic style of the other songs; it’s one of many tracks “to make the hardest hearts swell.” There’s much comforting common sense to be drawn from these lyrics.
Porter himself describes them as the, “Life lessons, words of wisdom and fatherly advice I needed,” having spent his childhood without a father figure himself. By the time album opener, Mona Lisa asks, “Are you warm?” we certainly are. Resilience lesson, Pick Yourself Up, embraces failure, encouraging us to, “fall to rise again,” while Smile kindly points out that there’s nothing to be gained from self-pity and studied cynicism.
L-O-V-E has a swifter, jazzier clip to it, showing that Porter can give it some crisp, energetic sch-wing, as well as his velvety growl. I Wonder Who My Daddy Is has a tremendous poignancy when you consider Porter’s back story.
As if by the power of Yuletide magic, everyone’s ideal Christmas gift ends with, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” The Christmas Song as an enchanting conclusion ought to pave the way, globally, for untold domestic truces and hands reaching out across the sprouts in search of peace and love.
See Gregory Porter’s video for Smile here: