Natalie Cole did it again – on her latest album “Still Unforgettable” she sings a duet with her late father Nat King Cole. Thanks to refined audio techniques it is possible to combine a voice from old tapes with newly recorded voices and instruments. She has used this little gimmick before on her 1991 album “Unforgettable”. I just hope there won’t be any more of these eerie duets.
I don’t think it’s eerie because the singer Nat King Cole is dead. I listen to the voices of dead singer all the time. It’s eerie because the dead singer can’t control what’s happening to his work and it’s eerie that people don’t show any respect. It’s alright to re-issue material of dead artists, but there’s no point in cobbling together “new” songs. Unfortunately Natalie Cole is not the only one who loves to unearth the dead.
A similar thing happened to the late Buddy Holly. His record company managed to release several albums after his death. They took demonstration recordings and overdubbed them with additional instruments and backing vocals.
Even the Beatles couldn’t resist to jump on the “let’s-tinker-with-the-voice-of-the-dead-train”. In 1995 Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr took the song “Free As A Bird” that John Lennon had recorded at home in poor sound quality on a cassette. It’s just him singing and playing piano and it’s probably one of the weakest songs that John Lennon ever wrote.
That his singing is uninspired doesn’t make the song better. It’s not John Lennon’s fault, he was killed in 1980 and couldn’t prevent damage. The surviving Beatles added instruments to the home-recording and audio engineers managed to bring everything together. In the case of the Beatles greed is probably not the motive for committing this musical crime. Maybe it’s just bad taste.
Also soul singer Sam Cooke was not spared. Someone had the idea to violate his songs “Ain’t That Good News” and “Somebody Ease My Troublin’ Mind” on the Les Paul album “American Made World Played”. This album that claims to be a Les Paul album would be bad enough even without the overdubbed Sam Cooke songs, because there’s hardly any playing by guitarist legend Les Paul on it. I wonder how the producers managed to talk Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck into adding their guitars to the two Sam Cooke songs. And I wonder even more what Sam Cooke has to do with Les Paul.
Here’s my appeal to musicians, relatives of musicians and music producers: please don’t sing with the dead.