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Holly Cole


Country of origin:

Canada

Type of music generally:

Jazz, solo albums more jazz pop

Status:

Most recent release, Night (2012)

See also:

Holly Cole's official website

Comparisons:

Karrin Allyson, Diana Krall, but with greater emotional and musical range

Covers/own material:

Standards, covers; many songs were written originally for Holly

General comments:

A subtler jazz/blues. (alex.teitz@state.co.us)

Varies from true jazz, to smooth jazz to pop. She consistently puts out great albums. (jjhanson@att.net)

She's a riveting live performer! (colford@chlotrudis.org)

Holly Cole is a fabulous jazzy interpreter of songs...a great entertainer on stage with a powerful, sultry voice. i bet that she could do an amazing interpretation of the telephone book. (paul2k@aol.com)

I simply *adore* Holly Cole (especially after seeing her in concert and meeting her recently)! (Riphug@aol.com)

I've loved Holly Cole for years, but I prefer the pop blend on Dark, Dear Heart and Romantically Helpless to her earlier, jazzier work with the trio. I do also like Shade quite a bit, and my favorite is her live album It Happened One Night. (JoAnn Whetsell)

The Holly Cole Trio consists of:

  • Holly Cole, vocalist extraordinaire, friend of Jane Siberry/kd lang/Mary Margaret O'Hara, VIP in the Toronto music mafia :-), lover of great music, possessing of a wonderful sense of humor, on stage and off, and one fine all-around cool and wonderful person!
  • David Piltch, bass player extraordinaire, who's worked with all manner of goddesses, including Holly, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Eddi Reader, VIP in the Toronto music mafia and one fine all-around cool and wonderful person!
  • Aaron Davis, piano player extraordinaire, who's written and worked on many a film soundtrack, who's worked with all manner of goddesses, including Holly and Jane, VIP in the Toronto music mafia, and one fine all-around cool and wonderful person!
Because Holly is "classified" as a jazz vocalist, it's as hard to get people to give her a chance as it used to be with kd lang, when she was "classified" as a country vocalist. Still, Holly does to jazz vocals what kd did to country vocals...that is, they take a style of music, change it and twist it to suit their own personalities and add their own brand of irreverence, humor and point-of-view. While they definitely respect the original musical style, they (to me anyway) send it to another dimension.
     Even people who generally didn't like country found they loved kd's "country" albums, and I think that people who aren't that crazy about jazz vocals (like me) can thoroughly enjoy Holly's work, like me.
     She comes across much "straighter" on album than she does live, which is why I *highly* recommend seeing Holly live, if at all possible.
     Disclaimer: It's very possible that my view is biased because I've met Holly a few times, interviewed her once (during a very fun brunch) and I've seen her in concert 4 times (3 with the Holly Cole Trio and the 4th at the Choral Christmas concert). I know what a fun, interesting and nice person she is in real life, so I definitely project those good feelings back to her when I listen to the album. But, since I'm generally *not* interested in jazz vocals, I'd hardly listened to the album at all before I met her. All I can say is that if you *love* jazz vocals, you will almost certainly *love* Holly Cole (though I don't know what "purists" will think of her) and if you *hate* jazz vocals, I may not be able to talk you into giving her a try. If you're in the middle, as I was (I can only take jazz vocals in very small doses) then I'd suggest at least watching a televised appearance. (vickie@enteract.com)

The Holly Cole Trio is wonderful! I have Vickie and Urs being a jazz-type person to thank for being introduced to their albums...I'd never really thought of myself as a jazz fan before, but Vickie helped me pick out an album for Urs (Blame It On My Youth), and before I knew it I'd bought both Don't Smoke In Bed and another copy of Blame It On My Youth for myself.
     I now have all four albums (their first is Girl Talk, and the most recent is Temptation which is an album of Tom Waits covers) and although Blame It On My Youth and Don't Smoke in Bed are my favourites, all four are great! (Temptation took a while to grow on me though — the style is rather different to the first three, no doubt due to Mr. Waits' songwriting :) (ectophil@netlink.co.nz)

I just wanted to second (etc.) Vickie's feelings about Holly Cole. Neile and I found Blame It On My Youth as a cut out at a fab used store in Seattle for only 4 bucks. At first we weren't too thrilled with the CD, but after repeated listenings it REALLY grew on us. She is sort of a standards singer, but with her own distinctive style. (jmgurley@drizzle.com)

Another yes on Holly Cole. Holly Cole's voice is wonderful: clear but rich. Her voice and style will really grow on you. The album we have is Blame It On My Youth. When we saw it so cheaply I bought it to give my father, and then I played it and like it more and more and finally had to buy him another copy. One word of warning, though, at least one ectophile I know who likes jazz didn't like it. I love it, though, and am hoping to find her new one soon. There is also one previous to these that I didn't like quite so well. I hear from Toronto friends who have seen her that she's really something live and I can believe it. (Neile)

The first album by The Holly Cole Trio (Holly, Aaron Davis on piano and the miraculous David Piltch on bass) was Girl Talk, which was, upon its release, Canadian only. Their next album, Blame It On My Youth It on My Youth, went gold in Japan as an import, so it, along with Girl Talk, was released there. Blame It On My Youth was released in the U.S., but didn't do so hot, and Girl Talk was still not released here. The trio's third album was Don't Smoke in Bed, which was of course released all over, but Alert (their Canadian record and management company) decided not to release Girl Talk here—despite Don't Smoke in Bed's modest success—because they thought the two albums would compete with each other for sales. For the trio's fourth album, Temptation, a Tom Waits songbook, Alert made the decision to release it here and in Canada as a Holly Cole album, even though it was released in Japan as the fourth album by The Holly Cole Trio. The fifth "album" (few songs; mostly it's multimedia stuff), It Happened One Night, was released everywhere (as far as I know) as a Holly Cole album.
     Along the way, there has been a Canadian/Japanese Christmas album, recorded live with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (or some such animal); a Japanese-only compilation (including 5 new tracks exclusive to this release) called Yesterday and Today; a Christmas EP called Christmas Blues; and of course, the live recording of the Christmas concert she did along with Jane Siberry, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Rebecca Jenkins, and Victoria Williams, called Count Your Blessings.
     Girl Talk is respectable, sophisticated jazz. Blame It On My Youth is campy, showtuney, nearly loungey jazz. Don't Smoke in Bed is dense, lush, jazz-influenced pop, postmodern-hip to its very core. Temptation is sophisticated, jazzy pop, serious and sexy, heavy-lidded and languorous, as textured and layered as it is possible for a pop album to be. (lissener@wwa.com)

It took some time before the music started to grow on me, but after some time Holly Cole's voice crept in under my skin. The way these people work together really make me feel good. (onealien@mo.himolde.no)

Her earlier albums are much jazzier than Dark Dear Heart. There are a lot of jazz treatments of pop standards, like "Que Sera Sera," "I Can See Clearly Now (the rain is gone)," "Downtown," and more. Those discs are a blast! seeing her wonderful show last month,I picked up all the older ones I didn't have, and love them. She did an album that is all Tom Waits covers, which I also think is pretty damn wonderful. ( neal)

Comments about live performance:

Early this morning, before I went to bed, I was listening to WBEZ, the Chicago NPR station, and on Weekend Edition there was an interview with Holly Cole, and the Trio (Holly, Aaron Davis on piano and David Piltch on string bass) performed 3 songs in the studios (of KCRW in Santa Monica, CA) and it was great! The 3 songs performed were all from Holly's most recent album, [Don't Smoke in Bed]. One song, "So and So," was written by Mary Margaret O'Hara specifically for Holly and the guys. Holly said that Mary would leave bits and pieces of the song on her (Holly's) answering machine, and it took months to piece together. Lots of fun! (c. 1994)
     [On Conan O'Brien TV appearance] I have to admit that I was a bit worried at what people would think. It was certainly strange! She actually looked and sounded a bit spacey and out-of-it. For concerts, she usually spends a lot of time and effort on her appearance. On Conan though, her dress was ill-fitting and (to me) ugly (compared to the other ravishing outfits I've seen her in) and her hair...eeks! Chris and I joked that Mary Margaret O'Hara did her hair for the show. It was stringy and messy and poufy and weird. Plus, she either wasn't wearing any makeup or it didn't show up well on television. She just looked pale and spacey.
     Now, don't get me wrong...appearances don't matter to me, it's just that every other time we've seen her she takes *great* pains to look like a jazz vocal diva extraordinaire, so we were curious as to why she didn't seem to care what she looked like for a national television audience.
     None of that would matter if the song they had performed had shown off Holly's voice, but "Get Outta Town" isn't that song. It's a nice song, but doesn't showcase the "Holly belt" that others do. The whole performance was subdued and very laid-back. Maybe she was saving her voice for Carnegie Hall the next night :-). As nice as it was to see her, I have to admit that I was kinda disappointed with the whole thing. (4/19/94, vickie@enteract.com)

I saw Holly Cole in concert a week ago or so. I didn't have Temptation, so it was a pleasant surprise that they were handing them out at the door. Seemed a bit of a foolish idea, since aren't the people who would pay to see Holly Cole the ones most likely to actually buy the disc?
     Anyway, I thought the show was a lot of fun, though coming the week after Jane's stunning show didn't help Holly's standings. I like Tom Waits a lot, so I was familiar with his versions of many of the songs, and while Holly's were nice, they never really wowed me. There were some stellar moments in the show though, and the whole thing was fun. The absolute highlight was her version of "Calling You". I love the version from Baghdad Cafe, and didn't even like Holly's for about 45 seconds. I don't know what happened after that, but it just clicked into place and started sounding wonderful. It ended up being an overpowering, moving moment. Everyone there recognized it as the highlight of the show, and the applause was easily 5 times longer than any other song. (You know how there is sort of an accepted length of time to applaud after each song? It was amazing how much this exceeded that.) Holly seemed pretty moved just by singing the song, and the overwhelming appreciation she got caused her to burst into tears.
     I was a bit surprised at her personality. I expected her to be kinda cool, a bit aloof, sultrier. Instead she was sorta giggly. In fact, she kind of reminded me of Björk attempting to be serious (and naturally failing, as I can't actually picture a serious Björk). (11/15/95)
     Holly completely bowled me over. I've seen her before, and still was shocked at how good her performance was. When I saw her on the Temptation tour, I thought her show was good with occasional excellent moments. This show, on the other hand, was stunning, with occasional good moments. She was funny and chatty, exchanging an endless series of quips with the audience. She played with a 4-piece band, augmenting the standard trio with an electric guitar and drummer.
     Some songs, like "Tea For Two," she completely turned on their head. She was scatting, deconstructing, and twisting the phrases in a lot of songs. Last time, she played things pretty straight and cool, but this time she was much wilder. Songs from the new album were more straightahead rock (like the title track and Onion Girl). The only thing that was better last time was the version of "Calling You", which earned her a mid-set standing ovation and left her in tears. This time, the encore of "River" was the most emotional number for her, also moving her to tears.
     Anyway, the show was a revelation. I thought it was so good that I'm seriously considering the show tomorrow. (1/98)
     Holly Cole's show was as wonderful as ever. This was my third Holly Cole show this year, and I can now identify what song she is going to play by the stage banter beforehand. Even though I've heard most of it, she's still a lively fun presence. The band is exceptional and the live reinterpretations of the songs worth seeing again and again. Plus, the stripped down, racing, teasing version of "Tea For Two" is worth the price of admission every time. "River" was missing from the encore this time, though we did get the extended "Jersey Girl". I'd say be sure to see her, but I know her tour ended earlier tonight in Philly. (5/18/98(
      Holly Cole's show was as wonderful as ever. This was my third Holly Cole show this year, and I can now identify what song she is going to play by the stage banter beforehand. Even though I've heard most of it, she's still a lively fun presence. The band is exceptional and the live reinterpretations of the songs worth seeing again and again. Plus, the stripped down, racing, teasing version of "Tea For Two" is worth the price of admission every time. "River" was missing from the encore this time, though we did get the extended "Jersey Girl." I'd say be sure to see her. (c. 1999, neal)

I saw Holly Cole last night and she was fabulous. I was amazed at her voice—it really is amazing how she can nail all those notes. Plus she changed all the album versions just enough live to really make you listen.
     Most of the material was from the Blame It On My Youth and Temptation CDs, and one or two from Don't Smoke in Bed (her "ire Safety album") with only a couple of "new" covers.
     Oh, she also did a lullaby her mother used to sing to her as an encore—solo with just bass accompaniment. Something about "All the Pretty Horses"—it was a pretty powerful moment. You could hear a pin drop in the theater. I expected that type of moment during "Calling You", as Neal says that was one of those magical concert moments when he saw her, but although that song was excellent, it wasn't quite magical.BR>      Anyway, if you haven't ever heard Holly or haven't seen her, I recommend you do so. She's one of the few vocalists I really like who only sings cover tunes. But she has such a way of making the songs uniquely her own. (11/96)      she put on a fabulous show. They were having an incredible amount of time. She was whopping and shouting and doing a lot more playing around vocally than the last time I saw her. Her voice sounded better than ever—I was amazed at her vocal control. The only disappointment I had was that the set list was almost identical to the time I'd seen her before—with the addition of a couple of more tracks from the latest album, but the versions were each different enough to be unique and memorable. Her version of "Tea for Two" is manic and amazing—they're an amazingly tight band. Overall a great show. (c. 1999, jjhanson@att.net) Just a quick note to say that I was blown away at Holly's Boston show. Never having seen her live, I was unprepared for just how good she was. Her voice was phenomenal, her stage presence was delightful, her band was superb, and her choice of songs terrific, although I probably would have listened to her sing anything. If you like Holly and haven't seen her, definitely see her at the next opportunity. If you don't know Holly, go see her, you'll love her. If you don't like Holly, go see her, her live show may change your mind! (1/26/98)
     I've got to add my 2 cents in about Holly Cole. I got to see her for the second time this year in Boston Friday night and she really is a riveting performer. The show is pretty much the same, so I know what to expect, but it doesn't take away from the excitement. Her band is phenomenal and I love how she goes on about how cute her drummer is to both men and women! Her stage presence is just amazing. She is sexy, funny, personable and one hell of a singer! Don't miss her if you like her at all and you get a chance to see her. (5/18/98)
     I've got to add my 2 cents in about Holly Cole. I got to see her for the 2nd time this year and she really is a riveting performer. Like Neal says, the show is pretty much the same, so I know what to expect, but it doesn't take away from the excitement. Her band is phenomenal and I love how she goes on about how cute her drummer is to both men and women! Her stage presence is just amazing. She is sexy, funny, personable and one hell of a singer! Don't miss her if you like her at all and you get a chance to see her. (c. 1999, colford@chlotrudis.org)

My wife and I saw Holly Cole last night. Awesome concert. She has such a tremendous voice, I may have to complete my Holly Cole collection.
     Two songs that I thought were wonderful was her live "River" off of Dark Dear Heart, and a really funk version of "Que Sera Sera." Finally, a version of that song I like. :-)
     Talk about a tight band. Both of us walked away quite in awe, me more so, including the fact my wife liked it. She usually doesn't like "my music". :-) (5/3/98, Matt.Bittner)

The concert took place in the ruin of Castle Wilhelmstein in Würselen, near Aachen, in the far west of Germany. The venue is a very beautiful place, a small amphitheatre (good view from practically every seat) with a permanently installed tent roof. After a 20-minute break Holly Cole came on stage, actually her band came first and started playing, Holly started singing from the off. The concert was great, Holly's voice, the musicians, the sound, couldn't have been better. (well, maybe a bit longer :) They did mostly songs from her new album Dark Dear Heart, but also a few older songs. I recognized "I can see clearly now", "Que Sera Sera", "Train Song" and "Calling You." Near the end of "Cry (If You Want To)", right after she sang the words "cry if you want to", we heard a rather loud cock-a-doodle-doo from a nearby garden. This made Holly, the band and the audience laugh so hard that she had to interrupt the song. Holly seemed to be in a good mood anyway, like when she introduced their drummer: "He is new to the band, has only played 5 or 6 gigs with us, so he's still a bit green. And nervous," [turns to the drummer] "I don't want to put any pressure on you, but it's really important that you don't screw up this song." She finished her set after about 90 minutes (including two encores) under standing ovations. (7/13/98, Rolf.Peukert@theoinf.tu-ilmenau.de)

She was fun. I'd also never heard her before either, but her stage persona reminded me of Tori and her songs of... I'm not sure. She had some jazzy aspects in some of them. She wasn't as great as I'd heard, but her banter with the crowd was nice, and her songs were pretty good. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Holly's set. I have one of her CDs, but it never gets played aside from the occasional airing of "I Can See Clearly Now". However, she put on a very polished, strong performance, oozing with sexy, classy charm throughout. A highlight of the evening for me for sure. (kamesan@geocities.com)

Holly was breathtaking...i'm kicking myself now for missing her Temptation tour. i appreciate the album more now that i've heard her and seen her perform the songs in concert... (Paul2k@aol.com)

Recommended first album:

if you must have only one album by her i would get Don't Smoke in Bed which is fantastic (okay so it was her first album i got so i am biased). (iflin@speakeasy.net)

I'd recommend either Blame It On My Youth and Don't Smoke in Bed as a first album, unless you're a Tom Waits fan, in which case Temptation may interest you more. (ectophil@netlink.co.nz)

Recordings:

As The Holly Cole Trio: As Holly Cole:

Girl Talk

Release info:

1990—Alert Records

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Holly Cole—vocals
Aaron Davis—piano
David Piltch—bass

Guest artists:

John Johnson—saxophone
John MacLeod—trumpet

Produced by:

Peter Moore (1-9); Holly Cole Trio (10)

Comments:

Girl Talk is respectable, sophisticated jazz. (lissener@wwa.com)

I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. I thought perhaps her style wouldn't have gelled yet, but I found her song treatments to be unique and catchy. (neal)


Blame It on My Youth

Release info:

1991—Alert Records

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Holly Cole—vocals
Aaron Davis—piano
David Piltch—bass

Guest artists:

Johnny Frigo—violin
Robert W. Stevenson—bass clarinet

Produced by:

Greg Cohen

Comments:

Blame It On My Youth is campy, showtuney, nearly loungey jazz. (lissener@wwa.com)

I hesitate to call the music itself Ectofodder, though Holly herself certainly is. At this point in her career she's concentrating on covers of standards and some more recent music. Charley and I were trying to decide how to describe her and the closest we could come up with was that she does to "lounge" music what kd lang did to country music. Respectful of the songs, yet adding twists and taking the music beyond what it originally was. Holly covers songs such as "Smile" (...though your heart is breaking... most would recognize the song immediately, though Holly points out that very few remember or realize that it was written by Charlie Chaplin) and "On the Street Where You Live" and "I'll Be Seeing You" (...in all those old familiar places) and "Trust In Me" (which Siouxsie covered on Through the Looking Glass) and other standards. She also covers songs such as "Calling You" (made famous by Jevetta Steele from the film Baghdad Cafe, and for Holly it made her famous in Japan, where it got to #5 in the charts) and Lyle Lovett's "God Will" and Tom Waits' "Purple Avenue." Holly has an *incredible* voice and if the initial "lounginess" of the music doesn't put you off, it's a wonderful album with many little subtle quirks. I can't wait to get the new one. (vickie@enteract.com)

I find that Holly's version [of "Calling You"] starts off very slow and sleepy, always making me wonder why I like it so much when the song starts. But somewhere around the chorus, it just clicks in and practically makes me cry. (neal)

Liking this album so much was a surprise to me because I'm not that much of a jazz fan. I bought it because a used cd place had it in their special sale bin, intending to give it to the friend who first mentioned her to me. Then I listened to it and couldn't give it up. She does a version of "Calling You" that seems as good to me as the original. Her "Trust in Me" hints at slyness. An evocative voice. (Neile)


Don't Smoke in Bed

Release info:

1993—Capitol/Manhattan

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Holly Cole—vocals
Aaron Davis—piano
David Piltch—bass

Guest artists:

Howard Levy—harmonica
Art Avalos—percussion
Joe Henderson—saxophone
David Lindley—lap steel guitar
Atis Bankas, Charles Elliot, Brian Epperson, Simon Fryer, Carol Fujino, Susan Lipchak, Martin Loomer, Paul Meyer, Mary Carol Nugent, Katherine Palyga, Young Dae Park, Joel Quarrington, Christopher Redfield, Marc Sabat, Mark Skazinetsky, Mihai Tetel, Nicole Zarry—strings

Produced by:

David Was

Comments:

Don't Smoke in Bed is dense, lush, jazz-influenced pop, postmodern-hip to its very core. (lissener@wwa.com)

I think Don't Smoke in Bed is the best yet, though they all have shining moments within. (vickie@enteract.com)

for those smoothy smaltzy swanky jazz straight up sort of times. you know what i mean. if you must have only one album by her i would get Don't Smoke in Bed which is fantastic (okay so it was her first album i got so i am biased). (iflin@speakeasy.net)


Treasure

Release info:

1998—Alert Music—6152 81035-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Holly Cole—vocals
Aaron Davis—piano (1-11, 13); organ (13)
David Piltch—bass (1-11); percussion (9-10)

Guest artists:

Mark Kelso—high hat (12); drums (13)
George Koller—bass (12, 13)
Kim Ratcliffe—guitars (13)

Produced by:

Holly Cole Trio (1, 10); Peter Moore (2, 3); Greg Cohen (4-6); David Was (7-9); Craig Street (11); Holly Cole (12, 3)

Comments:

Holly Cole's new CD, Treasure is a collection of hits and unreleased tracks. The first and last tracks are live, the rest studio. Haven't listened to the whole thing yet, but it sounds great so far. (colford@chlotrudis.org)

I'm much more of a Holly Cole fan than a Holly Cole Trio fan, but I really enjoy this overview of the Trio's career, particularly the new Mary Margaret O'Hara song "Christmas Trees and Holly Leaves." (JoAnn Whetsell)


Temptation

Release info:

1995—Metro Blue—CDP 7243 8 31653 2 2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Holly Cole—vocals

Guest artists:

Aaron Davis—piano
David Piltch—bass
Dougie Bowne—drums
Kevin Breit—guitars
Rob Piltch—guitar
Cyro Baptista—percussion
Howard Levy—harmonica
Phil Dwyer—alto saxophone
Earl Seymour— baritone saxophone
Perry White—tenor saxophone
Alex Brown—background vocals
Anne Bourne—cello
Douglas Perry—viola
Anne Lederman—violin
Ronald Romm (The Canadian Brass)—trumpet
Frederick Mills (The Canadian Brass) —trumpet
David Ohanian (The Canadian Brass) —French horn
Eugene Watts (The Canadian Brass) —trombone
Charles Daellenbach (The Canadian Brass) —tuba

Produced by:

Craig Street

Comments:

Very mellow even for Cole. (mjmjminla@yahoo.com)

Temptation is sophisticated, jazzy pop, serious and sexy, heavy-lidded and languorous, as textured and layered as it is possible for a pop album to be. Holly treats these Tom Waits songs like the standards that so inform his writing. She's toned down her sometime-showtuny style to darken and soften Waits's often-strident pieces; taken his demonic blues and made it world-weary jazz. This album would do Mary Coughlan proud. (lissener@wwa.com)

Don't forget that all the songs were written by Tom Waits, which might explain why they all sound the same to you. I do like it. Cole really has put an interesting spin on Waits' songs. (meth@smoe.org) I don't much care for Holly's version of "Take Me Home" (at least, not compared to the original) but her "Little Boy Blue" is *FANTASTIC*! In all, I think Temptation is brilliant and my only beef would be that the "Holly wail" is absent. Chris and I agree that Holly should tackle Randy Newman next. :-) (vickie@enteract.com)

I was surprised again when I got home and popped in Temptation. The decent versions of the songs live did not prepare me for how much I would enjoy the recorded versions. Some of those songs really came to life, and made me rethink the songs I already knew. I like the disc far more than the show (and I liked the show a reasonable amount too). (11/15/95, neal)

I'm not a Tom Waits fan, but I LOVE this album. I still think it's one of Holly's best. I don't know Tom Waits' originals at all, but I really like this album. Holly has a way of making the songs she sings her own, even though they're all covers. Her voice can be soo seductive and sultry. I think this style also works really well for her, jazz-influenced but not strict jazz. (JoAnn Whetsell)

I wasn't that impressed with Temptation when I first bought it. The first time I listenened to it, it all seemed too monotone—not enough variety. But lately, I've had it at work and been listening to it straight through, and have absolutely fallen in love with it. I think it's my favorite album of hers, though I still can't get too excited about the song "Temptation." (jjhanson@att.net)


It Happened One Night

Release info:

1996—Metro Blue—CDP 7243 8 52699 0 5

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Holly Cole—vocals

Guest artists:

Aaron Davis—piano
David Piltch—bass
Kevin Breit—guitar
Dougie Bowne—drums & percussion

Comments:

Probably the Holly Cole album I love best. There are only 8 songs, but they're soooo good. The band is fantastic and maintains an intensity throughout. Holly's vocals range from sultry to yearning to powerful to melancholy to flirty. "Cry if You Want To" is my favorite track and a song I always return to when I'm going through a hard time. This version is far more moving than the studio recording (which I like too). Literally all of the tracks are great, even "Que Sera Sera," which is one of my least favorite songs of all time. To say I like that track (which I do) is high praise indeed. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Dark Dear Heart

Release info:

1997—Metro Blue—CDP 7243 8 57365 20

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Holly Cole—vocals, background vocals

Guest artists:

David Piltch—bass, guitar, mandolin
Jim Cox—Hammond B-3 organ, Wurlitzer piano
Dean Parks—guitars, electric guitar, 6-string bass, raga guitar
Iki Levy—drums, programming, loops
Helik Hadar—drums, programming; digital editing (7)
Aaron Davis— Hammond B-3 organ; piano; Wurlitzer piano; orchestral arrangement (6); Fender Rhodes (9)
Kevin Breit—guitars, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bouzouki, autoharp, banjo, loops
Mark Kelso—drums; tambourine; vocals (8)
Greg Leisz—pedal steel guitar, electric guitar
Alex Brown, Mona Lisa Young—background vocals (5, 7)
Steve Tavaglione—soprano saxophone (6, 8)
George Koller—bass (8, 12)
Larry Klein—organ (12)
Jon Hassell—trumpet (12)

Produced by:

Larry Klein

Comments:

Though i have only had it for a couple of days, i have to say that i really like it. More of a move away from her earlier jazz standard stuff, this is definitely a pop/rock album. (with a prominent sticker on the front that says "FILE UNDER: ROCK/POP" I of course found it stuck in the ghettos of jazz vocals). There are certainly jazz undertones (especially evident in the way Holly vocalizes her words and a few specific song instrumentation) but on the whole the songs reflect a definite move away from the standards of earlier, to a rock and pop song feel that Temptation showed. from covering Joni Mitchell (who hasn't these days?) to a couple of songs by Mary Margaret O'Hara and several songs that feature looping and programming, Holly could be breaking ground into a new range of audience, without alienating her old one. A clever move, but who knows if it will work, since everyone knows how hard it is to get out of a ghetto.
     stand outs for me include the first track "i've just seen a face," "onion girl," "World seems to Come and Go," "River," and "I told him that My Dog wouldn't Run." "River" being the Joni Mitchell song. "I told him that my Dog wouldn't Run" is a Patty Larkin song, not a Jane Siberry song (though the title could easily be something that Jane would write) and "onion girl" has nothing to do with Tori's "cornflake girl." Though i have to admit that onion girl used as an analogue makes a lot more sense literally than cornflake girl does. but go figure, its like apples and pineapples isn't it? they share similar names, but that's about it.
     So my recommendation is that everyone run out and get it. oh yeah, the packaging is really nice too. Great use of typography (for all you design fiends). (iflin@speakeasy.net)

Overall a great album and Holly's first foray into true pop territory (though of course, it's very jazz-influenced). There were a few tracks that left me cold for a while, but over the years I've grown to love them all. Standouts are "Make It Go Away" (which was rerecorded for Romantically Helpless; I prefer the Dark Dear Heart version), "Onion Girl" (a song sent to Holly by a fan), and a cover of Patty Larkin's "I Told Him That My Dog Wouldn't Run." (JoAnn Whetsell)

Great interpretations of contemporary and classic pop tunes without the imperiousness. (beckwith@ime.net)


Romantically Helpless

Release info:

2000—Alert Music—6152-81037-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Holly Cole—lead and backing vocals

Guest artists:

Aaron Davis—piano, organ, synthesizer, theremin, prepared piano, Fender Rhodes
George Koller—acoustic bass, electric bass
Mark Kelso—drums; 2nd line groover (7); percussion (9); backing vocals (2, 8, 10)
Kevin Breit— acoustic and electric guitars, dobro, guitars
Tory Cassis—backing vocals (1, 2, 8, 10)
David Piltch—acoustic bass, native groove
David Gray—guitars (2, 3, 6); acoustic guitar (5, 8); electric guitar (8, 10)
Mark Ferguson—piano, trombone
Luc Boivin—percussion; 2nd line groover (7)
Stephen Ferrera—2nd line groover (7)
Gerry Leonard—electric guitar (8, 10)
Kim Ratcliffe—guitars (9)

Produced by:

Stephen Ferrera

Comments:

I am listening to (and enjoying) Holly Cole's latest, romantically helpless, a collection of covers or romatically helpless tunes.
     First of all, what a riot, Holly covers her own tune, "Make it go away". And it is a cover indeed, with quite a different flavor than her original rendition. Could it be true that "the second time is always better"?
     At first listening, the album is jazzy (as some of Holly's earlier work), torchy (reminiscent of some of Diana Krall's work), and all aroundromantically helpless...
     In a way I am a bit sad to see Holly depart from the fuller sound she created in her prior album, Dark dear heart. But, on the other hand, Holly seems to be aiming for a happy middle point between her earlier, jazzy, nearly a capella work and her latest, rock-n-roll, one. It makes for nice music for those moments when less is better, when one wishes to be sung to, or when jazz colors with a silky voice is what the doctor ordered. (bill@wagill.com)

Holly's Romantically Helpless is a superb continuation of her smoky, jazz style. She takes a slight step back toward the traditional jazz after her foray into pop with Dark, Dear Heart, but doesn't forsake it entirely. As my boyfriend said during "If I Start to Cry," "Boy, Holly almost sounds upbeat!" Also, I love the in-joke of Holly covering herself with "Make It Go Away." I've even enjoyed the video which you can view on her website. If you're a Holly fan, you won't be disappointed with this album. (colford@chlotrudis.org)

This album really has grown on me. I still don't like it as much as Treasure, but it is a great collection of songs. It takes a few listens though to fully appreciate the nuances of Holly's delivery of the lyrics. While I really enjoy it, I kind of miss the more jazzy sound of her earlier works—this one just seems a little bit too smooth—but her voice is in fine form, and the arrangements are all interesting. My favorite tracks so far are probably "Dedicated to the One I Love" and "Same Girl", but none of the tracks clearly stand out from the others as being real "wow"ers.
     Overall I found it pretty similar to the feel of Dark Dear Heart—a nice collection of pop tunes from all different eras each imbued with Holly's distinctive interpretative style. (jjhanson@att.net)

I was slow to warm up to this album, but I don't really know why. It's got a lot of great material on it. I think the songs are more deeply rooted in their genres; the pop songs are poppier than on Dark Dear Heart, and the jazz songs are jazzier. They're all good. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Baby, It's Cold Outside

Release info:

2001—Alert Music—6152810382

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans

Group members:

Holly Cole—voice, shakers

Guest artists:

Aaron Davis—piano, celeste, orchestral arrangements, string conducting
David Piltch—bass, bass percussion
Brian Barlow—cymbals, chimes, percussion
Ed Robertson—voice (2) Mark Kelso—drums, snare drum
Johnny Johnson—alto flute, soprano saxophone,
George Koller—bass
Guido Basso—flugelhorn
Roberto Occhipinti—bass
Audrey King, Kirk Worthington—cello
Fujiko Imajishi, Vera Tarnowsky, Jayne Maddison, Julia Wedman, Debbie Kirshner, Mark Fewer, Hyung-Sun Paik, Young Dae Park—violin
Camille Watts—flute, piccolo
Cynthia Steljes—oboe, English horn
Ray Luedeke—clarinet
Kathy MacLean—bassoon
Gary Pattison—French horn
John Johnson—sax, winds
Vern Dorge—sax
David Dunlop—trumpet
Guido Basso—trumpet, flugelhorn
Terry Promane, Gord Myers—trombone
Janice Linskoog—harp
Brian Barlow—percussion

Produced by:

Holly Cole and Aaron Davis

Comments:

The new Holly Cole Christmas CD is great—features a duet with one of the guys from Barenaked Ladies, and is overall one of the better Christmas CDs I've heard (next to Count Your Blessings, which is my all-time favorite). (jjhanson@att.net)

I like Holly Cole rather a lot. And I enjoy her participation on Count Your Blessings very much. But her new album, Baby, It's Cold Outside is a big disappointment. I think it's terrible. Which is sad. Holly is so great at taking songs and making them new, different, really making them her own. Maybe this album takes the songs too far away from their classic forms for my taste and that's why I don't like it. The songs I like are ones that are new (at least to me) such as "If We Make It Through December." "'Zat You Santa Claus" is pretty fun and "Christmas Is" (also new to me) and "Wildwood Carol" are pretty good. Her version of "What Is This Fragrance" is lovely, and quite different from any other versions I've heard, adding a steady drumbeat under the song. The rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is okay. But her version of "Sleigh Ride" is atrocious. I know that's not a critical reaction, just a visceral reaction to what I consider the worst recording I've ever heard of one of my very favorite holiday songs.
     But even the songs I like don't blow away; it's mostly that they're simply okay or not bad. I'll save them and make a decent EP out of it. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Shade

Release info:

2003—Alert Music—6152810392

Availability:

Wide in Canada

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Holly Cole—voices, xylophone, glockenspiel, vocal arrangements

Guest artists:

Aaron Davis—piano, string and horn arrangements
George Koller—bass
Mark Kelso—drums, bongos, percussion
Johnny Johnson—flute, alto and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet, clarinet
Guido Basso—trumpet, flugelhorn
Terry Promane—tenor and bass trombones
David Piltch—bass
Kevin Breit—guitars, loops, national guitar, national mandolin, acoustic guitar
Dylan Heming—organ
Davide Direnzo—bongos
Douglas Perry, Daniel Blackman, Nick Papadakis—violas (2, 3, 11)
Adele Armin, Annalee Patipatanakoon, Fujiko Imajishi, Carol Fujino—violins (2, 3, 11)

Produced by:

Holly Cole

Comments:

I generally prefer Holly's poppier side, and I'm not a big fan of standards. That said, I love this album. It's a return to the sort of material Holly Cole Trio recorded, but not so much in style. It's definitely jazzier than earlier solo efforts, but not Holly Cole Trio style. "Heatwave" and "Too Darn Hot" are fun; the up-tempo "Almost Like Being in Love" and the jaunty "A Cottage for Sale" are a kick, but the best here are the ballads— the sultry "Something Cool" and "The Midnight Sun," the longing-filled "We Kiss in a Shadow," and a beautiful cover of "God Only Knows." Excellent musicianship and vocals throughout and slight changes of style that individuate the songs make this album enjoyable from beginning to end. (JoAnn Whetsell)

The Holly Cole Collection Vol. 1

Release info:

2004—Alert Music—6152810402

Availability:

Wide in Canada

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans

Group members:

Holly Cole—voices, xylophone

Guest artists:

Aaron Davis—piano, organ, keyboards
David Piltch—bass, percussion, nautical percussion
Dougie Bowne—drums (3)
George Koller—bass
Mark Kelso—drums, background vocals
Johnny Johnson— bass clarinet (5); alto and tenor saxophones (5, 12)
Guido Basso—flugelhorn (5, 12)
Terry Promane—tenor and bass trombones (5, 12)
Kevin Breit—electric guitar, acoustic guitar, guitars, loops
David Gray—acoustic guitar (6); electric guitar (9)
Chuck Wilson—clarinet (8)
Dwayne Burno—bass (8)
Bill Stewart—drums (8, 11)
Paul Saax—background vocals (8) Jimi Tunnell—background vocals (8) Jerry Leonard— electric guitar (9)
Luc Boivin— percussion (9)
Tory Cassis-background vocals (9)
Tim Hagans—trumpet (11)
Javon Jackson—tenor saxophone (11)
Mulgrew Miller—piano (11)
Jay Anderson—bass (11)
Art Avalos—wok base, triangle, shaker, snare drum, tambourine (13)
Etric Lyons—bass (13)
Jesse Cook—guitars, udu drum djembes, keyboards, programming (13)

Produced by:

David Was (1); The Holly Cole Trio (2); Craig Street (3, 10); Greg Cohen (4); Holly Cole (5, 12); Stephen Ferrera (6, 9); Peter Moore (7, 14); Bob Belden (8, 11); Jesse Cook (13)

Comments:

This is a solid collection, focusing on Holly's solo career, but showcasing both her jazzier and poppier sides. Highlights for me are the tracks unavailable on her regular album releases— "Shiver Me Timbers," another Tom Waits cover that's as good as anything on Temptation (a high compliment); "The Question of U," a Prince cover; the flamenco "Fragile" Sting cover (a collaboration with Jesse Cook); and the decidedly not hum-drum "Hum Drum Blues." The inclusion of these songs makes the collection as worthwhile for long-time fans as for those looking to sample Holly's music. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Holly Cole

Release info:

2007 (2008 US)—Alert Records—6152810418

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Holly Cole—vocals

Guest artists:

Greg Cohen-bass
David Piltch—bass
Gil Goldstein—piano
Aaron Davis—piano
Steven Wolf—drums
Matt Munisteri—guitar
Kevin Breit—guitar, loops
Marty Ehrlich—alto saxophone, alto flute, clarinet
Lenny Pickett—tenor saxophone and clarinet
Scott Robinson—bass saxophone, bass clarinet, theremin
John Allred—trombone
Vincent Chancey—French horn
Robert DeBellis—bass clarinet, baritone saxophone
Mark Taylor—French horn

Produced by:

Greg Cohen and Holly Cole

Comments:

A really great new release from Holly—very jazzy, with horns and strings, but still her unique interpretations. This album is really Holly at her finest. Her voice is awesome, the songs selected great for her voice, and she's got a terrific band with her (including longtime collaborators Aaron David and David Piltch, but including saxes, horns, theremin, etc.)
     I'd say it's definitely more jazzy than say Romantically Helpless or Dark Dear Heart. But it's also got the biggest band sound, so it's a bit unlike any of the previous albums. But it's not all big and loud with horns—there are also quite a few quiet songs. Usually Holly's albums take a while for me to really get into, but I loved this album from the first note—it's immediately likeable.
     The highlights are probably the kick-off track, "This House is Haunted by The Echo of Your Last Goodbye" and "Waters of March". Overall a great album that Holly fans should definitely check out. (jjhanson@att.net)

Steal the Night: Live at the Glenn Gould Studio

Release info:

2012—Alert

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Holly Cole—vocals

Guest artists:

Aaron Davis—piano, percussion
David Piltch—bass, percussion
Davide Dienzo—drums, percussion
John Johnson—horns, percussion
Robert Piltch—guitars

Produced by:

Tim Martin

Comments:

CD/DVD recorded live at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto.

A nice record of Holly Cole performing some choice songs. Tom Waits' "Down, down, down" gets a splendid reading as does the evergreen "Smile." Cole's voice is in peak condition and her band follows her lead well. "Calling You" gets a heartfelt rendition that's easy to love. The dvd features some more spirited performances and some fun extras. Definitely worth checking out. (stjarnell@yahoo.com)


Night

Release info:

2012—Alert Music—049

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Holly Cole—voice, melodeon

Guest artists:

Aaron Davis—piano, organ, background vocals
David Piltch—bass, goat shells
Davide DiRenzo—drums, brushes, cymbals; background vocals (2)
Greg Leisz—lap steel (1)
Dylan Heming—xylophone (1)
Cyro Baptista—percussion (1, 8)
Marc Rogers—bass (2, 4, 6); background vocals (2)
Johnny Johnson—baritone sax, background vocals (2); clarinet (4); saxophone (5, 9); flute, piccolo (5); bass clarinet (6, 9)
Kevin Turcotte—trumpet, flugel horn (5, 9, 11)
William Carn—trombones (5, 9, 11)
Kevin Breit—guitars (6, 7)

Produced by:

Holly Cole and Greg Cohen

Comments:

I love this album. It's more similar to her jazz/pop releases like Dark Dear Heart than her last studio album was. Great selection of songs (including an original) and, as always, excellent vocals and musicianship. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Further info:

The Holly Cole Trio recorded 2 songs for the 1995 album Color and Light: Jazz Sketches of Sondheim—"Losing My Mind" with Wayne Shorter and "Children and Art" with Oscar Castro-Neves.

Holly Cole covered "Sweet Blindness" for the 1997 tribute album Time and Love: The Music of Laura Nyro. She covered "Purple Rain" and "The Question of U" for the 1993 tribute album When Doves Cry: The Music of Prince. Covers of "I'm Only Sleeping" and "I've Just Seen a Face" appear on The Beatles tribute album Strawberry Fields (1996). Her version of "Petals in a Stream" appears on The Hanging Garden soundtrack (1997). A live version of "Jersey Girl" appears on Lounge Live from the Mountain Stage (1998).

Holly appears in both parts of the 2-part "Chicago Holiday" episode of Due South. The Holly Cole Trio's recording "Neon Blue" appears on the Due South soundtrack (1996).

Holly was also part of the Count Your Blessings (1994) group Christmas compilation with Jane Siberry, Rebecca Jenkins, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Victoria Williams, and Tim Ray, contributing vocals on several tracks and backing vocals on others.


Thanks to Anna Maria Stjärnell and JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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