Music From The Motion Picture
As songwriters of his generation go — Kern, Berlin, Hammerstein, some kid called Gershwin — Cole Porter is my favorite. And William McBrien’s book on his life is one of the best biographies I have ever read.
Despite this, I have not yet seen the film De-Lovely, which aimed to tell his story in a more truthful fashion than the bearded Night And Day. That 1946 movie starring Cary Grant “sweetened” Porter’s life considerably, leaving out details unpalatable to ’40s audiences — such as his sexual preference. De-Lovely took that on with Kevin Kline in the lead role, while still interpolating over a dozen of Porter’s evocative songs. But reviews said those songs only enlivened a film that otherwise fell into clichés of the biopic, which is what scared me away.
I’m telling you all this to establish that I am reviewing this not as a souvenir of the film experience, but as a multiple-artist record of Cole Porter songs. Sheryl Crow’s “Begin The Beguine” is one of the best things on it, to my surprise, because I usually find her performances pretty wimpy. Also in the category of pleasant surprises is a jazzy “Love For Sale” by Vivian Green, an artist who is new to me. Ashley Judd, who plays Porter’s wife and great platonic love in the film, does her mother and sister proud with a light, beguiling performance of “True Love,” in duet with supporting player Tayler Hamilton.
Unfortunately, that’s just about it, although “What Is This Thing Called Love” by new R&B boy Lemar has its moments. The rest of the CD is taken up almost entirely with bombast, performers who can’t be judged in this context, those who are overrated and those who should just never sing Cole Porter music (Lara Fabian, Kline, Diana Krall and Alanis Morissette, respectively).
Biggest disappointment? Well, Mick Hucknall performed a charming version of “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” on Simply Red’s underrated second album, so I can’t explain the pompous “I Love You” he turns in here. Maybe it makes sense in the context of the film, in which the singers appear as actors in a film-within-the-film of Porter’s life.
From Artie Shaw to the Red, Hot and Blue album, too many artists to name have done fine things covering Porter’s cool, romantic tunes, including one or two of those included here, like Hucknall. That’s why it’s such a disappointment that so many tracks on this disc add so little to the canon.