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Freddy Cole carries torch for torch music

Love Makes the Changes
Love Makes the Changes
By Freddy Cole

Fantasy Records: 1998

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This review first appeared in the May 23, 1998 edition of the American Reporter.

So you're deep in the dumps over Sinatra's death? Hey, brother, we all are – you get a talent like The Voice maybe once in a century.

But the whole style is disappearing, you say – Dino's gone, and Lady Day, and Miss Ella, too. Torme can't sing anymore, Sammy Davis is dead and in the ground ... hardly a singer left around anymore worth swirling bourbon to.

You know what, pal? There's lots of other singers out there who can lay a spell on you, make you forget your troubles in the mist of their song. Peggy Lee's going strong as ever, Anita O'Day continues to enchant – and check out Freddy Cole's new album, "Love Makes the Changes."

First thing you'll notice is that smokey, raspy voice – yeah, he's the kid brother of Nat "King" Cole; and if anything, he's got more of a Nat Cole sound than Nat had. But that's not so surprising, Jack – besides the blood lines, Freddy's 65 now and has had two decades more than Nat ever had to hone his craft.

Never heard of Freddy? Most folks haven't – never really broke through into the big time until about five years ago. Spent all those years before playing nightclubs in New York and Atlanta, touring Europe and South America, building up one of the biggest repertoires and best musical vocabularies around.

As did his big brother, Freddy plays piano as well as singing – although on this album, Cedar Walton handles piano on most of the songs. Shame, really – sure, Walton is a fantastic pianist, but there's something about a singer accompanying himself on the ivories; hell, even Sinatra rarely did that.

Like Sinatra, Cole moves effortlessly between pop and jazz, bringing some of both to everything he touches. And like the late Voice, Cole is a master at holding a beat just a hair for emphasis. He's got a touch of Lady Day (Billie Holiday) to him, too – like her, Freddy uses the spaces between notes as wisely as he uses the notes.

But most importantly, like all the great singers, Cole creates not so much a mood as his own world. When you listen to him, you're gone; when he stops, you want more. Like a junkie, you crave that next fix, you live for that warm, mellow escape from your troubles.

Freddy Cole is a classic salon singer. Like the above-mentioned artists, his body of work is drawn from the classic American songbook: Cahn, Van Heusen, Burke. He even throws in a song of his own, and turns Billy Joel's sickeningly sweet "Just the Way You Are" into something listenable.

Listening to Freddy Cole is to put yourself back into that same hip, world-wise groove that Sinatra, Fitzgerald, Martin and Holliday put you in. It's sophisticated, smart and adult fun – like good whiskey, strong coffee or a fine after-dinner cigar.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know, there'll never be another Sinatra. You went out last week and bought 10 of his albums and that's why he's all over the Billboard charts again this week, fat lot of good all those CD sales will do him now.

You know what? You ought to get your head together and get hip to Freddy Cole, 'cause there sure ain't gonna be another of him, either.