Natalie Cole was in rare form in 1977 - she had three Grammys, four No. 1 R&B hits and three hit albums. With each, Natalie showed signs of real musical maturity. "Thankful," released in the latter half of '77 is, in my opinion, the best album she ever did. A gorgeous mix of soul, R&B, gospel and jazz, "Thankful" captured Natalie at her "R&B it girl" peak. Boasting a No. 1 smash in "Our Love" and another hit in "Annie Mae," "Thankful" is the earliest evidence of Natalie's trademark versatility, as well as her skill at leaning toward jazz. The former has since become a classic, with Natalie singing the praises of love and affection in all their glory. She really wraps herself around the lyric and gives it her all, pushing the song to a level she rarely reached after that. "Annie Mae" is the emotional tale of a runaway girl, which is grim territory compared to many of Natalie's flowery tales of love from that time. A driving melody takes the song to dramatic, sweeping levels, as Natalie's wails make the song almost palpable. The singles weren't the only treats on this album. The gospelish "Be Thankful" is Natalie at her soul shouting best. The upbeat, jazzy "Lovers" is one of my favorites. Natalie breezes through the song like she's having a ball, as she scats and dips through four minutes of jazzy fun. You can almost imagine her prancing around on stage and getting into it. She really hits her jazzy stride on "La Costa," a tropical journey complete with lush orchestration, birds chirping and ocean waves. That song, as well as many others is a prime example of what made this record work - it has a true ambience to it. It moves from track to track, and brings you in for a musical experience like no other. This is long out of print, but if you track down a CD copy, snatch it up. It's beautiful, simply beautiful!