Natalie Cole has been out of the music scene for too many years, but now she's back with a vengeance. Her latest album, "Everlasting," has gone gold and spawned several hits - "Jumpstart," "I Live For Your Love" and especially "Pink Cadillac." And Utahns have a chance to catch this class act in person when Cole performs at the Salt Palace Saturday in conjunction with the U.S. Olympic Trials.

"The songs this time are the best I've ever had," she says. "What was missing on some of my last few albums were strong ballads - and there are several of them on "Everlasting," which certainly makes me happy. At the same time, the uptempo material isn't predictable, musically or lyrically."The new album seems to be a real milestone for Cole. It is her first with EMI-Manhattan records, and marks her return to recording after a several-year hiatus.

"Everything is flowing well," Cole says of her career at present. This was not the case in 1982, however, when Cole's mother asked a Los Angeles court to give her control over her daughter's assets, because a drug addiction left her daughter "not able to take care of herself." Since then, however, Cole has sought treatment and turned things around.

Cole first hit the big time in 1975 with the album "Inseparable," which earned her Grammys for Best New Artist and Best R & B Vocal Performance. She got another Grammy for Best R & B Vocal Performance in 1976, Grammy nominations in 1977 and 1979, and a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, where her father, singer Nat "King" Cole, has two stars (one is for television).

Cole's version of "When I Fall in Love," one of her father's biggest hits, is a high point on her latest album. "We didn't go with the lush strings - instead we went for a smooth, contemporary sound," she said.

The hip, danceable "Pink Cadillac" was some thing of an artistic stretch for Cole. "That song is a real different direction for me, but at the same time I feel real comfortable with it and have fun."

Cole also seems very comfortable on stage - her live performances have brought her as much acclaim as her recordings. From the Metropolitan Opera House to the Kool Jazz Festival, she's delivered memorable concerts coast-to-coast. In the 1981 production of the latter, Cole filled in for Aretha Franklin at the last minute, and though some critics had their doubts, her "dynamic performance" was a "remarkable moment," for an Los Angeles Times critic who almost didn't attend.

The live aspect of music matters to Cole. "Whether it's a ballad or an uptempo song, I want quality and thought put into it," she says. "A record should capture a real human energy - that's what's important to me."

Aside from her music, Cole has devoted time to raising her son Robbie. Her husband, songwriter/producer Marvin Yancy, died several years ago.