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Releases capture the soul of Cole

Published September 12, 2004

DE-LOVELY (COLUMBIA); IT'S DE LOVELY: THE AUTHENTIC COLE PORTER COLLECTION (BLUEBIRD) - It's compare and contrast time with these two releases, the soundtrack to this summer's Cole Porter biopic, De-Lovely, and a compilation of vintage Porter performances, including the technological hookup of the songwriter on vocals with a modern-day orchestra.

De-Lovely, starring Kevin Kline, is awkwardly scripted, with a musical production within the movie and an aged Porter looking back on his younger self in conversation with a director portrayed by Jonathan Pryce. Still, it takes an enterprising stab at deconstructing musical theater a la Moulin Rouge, and Porter's divided life as a homosexual in a marriage of loving if sometimes tormented convenience (to Linda Lee Porter, sweetly played by Ashley Judd) is handled well.

The movie's musical appeal is the inclusion of pop and jazz artists testing their mettle on Porter's deceptively taxing music. Results range from the swoony It's De-Lovely of Robbie Williams to a painfully flat rendition of I Love You by Mick Hucknall of Simply Red. Alanis Morissette's Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love) is a kicky treat, but Elvis Costello is bombastic in Let's Misbehave.

It's De Lovely: The Authentic Cole Porter Collection comes from the vaults of RCA, Porter's label, and some of the tracks are fascinating to hear next to the movie versions. Most striking is the difference in tempos. Many of the older performances take their cue from the bubbly dance rhythms of the 1930s, as in Artie Shaw's flowing clarinet solo in Begin the Beguine. Sheryl Crow, on the soundtrack, takes an almost trancelike approach to the same song.

Frank Sinatra pretty much owned Night and Day, recording it numerous times, and the version on the compilation is one of his earliest, from 1942. As a bonus there is a performance of the song by Fred Astaire, who, in his immaculate way, may have been Porter's perfect interpreter. Broadway's John Barrowman has the honors in Night and Day on the soundtrack, and it's beautifully ardent.

Kline has a good time as Porter in Be a Clown, but there's nothing like the great man himself, singing the brilliantly witty lyrics of You're the Top, included on both CDs. The compilation's producer has joined it and Anything Goes in Porter recordings from 1934 with modern tracks by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, and the result is delightful.

De-Lovely: B-plus

It's De Lovely: B-plus+

[Last modified September 9, 2004, 13:42:08]

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