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The Very Best Of

Cole Porter

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Album Review

Contrasts, whether ironic or not, were continually at the heart of Cole Porter's timeless songs, as befits a man who greeted the world as the very definition of a sophisticated New Yorker, but was actually born in Peru, IN. Porter's careful studies of people in love are filled with obsessive characters who express hope but are frightfully desperate, who appear casual but are dangerously deliberate, seem joyous but are secretly sad, and in general muddle around in the continual conflicting emotions that tangle together in this thing we call love. Porter's credo may well have been that no one is immune to heartbreak, and the characters painted in song after gorgeous song are right at the edge of falling in love, but still struggling with it, because everyone knows the potential for pain that trails in the wake of love. Is the protagonist in "Just One of Those Things" (sung here by Anita O'Day) really that resigned? Doesn't he or she really wish it wasn't just one of those things? It's a riddle that isn't answered in the lyrics, and like the question of who Daddy is in "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" (sung here by Peggy Lee), the answer really has to be supplied by the listener, and that answer will inevitably vary from person to person. Appearances are continually deceiving in Porter's amazingly precise songs. "I Get a Kick Out of You" (done here by Dinah Washington) feels like an upbeat song with a playful wink in its eye, but a close inspection of the lyrics reveals tremendous sadness, and the kind of prolonged depression only the absence of joy can bring. Louis Armstrong may sing "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)" like it's a matter of two people making a decision, but to Porter love is not a decision, its inevitable, and reluctance only prolongs the inevitable, and to fight against it leads to exhaustion, as Shirley Horn's breathless, atmospheric version of "Love for Sale" shows. Not that Porter's songs paint landscapes of desolation and loss; it's just that underneath those gorgeous, uplifting melodies and artfully simple lyrics are scores of hidden conflicts, which is why different versions of his tunes by different artists so often yield different results and possibilities. "I give to you and you give to me," Dean Martin sings in the opening lines of "True Love," and its difficult to say by following the lyrics whether Porter felt that such a balance is the real nature of true love or an impossible ideal. Again, its up to the listener, and at different times Porter's songs lead to different conclusions. This is a marvelous selection of Cole Porter songs, and if hearing them doesn't necessarily help sort out the myriad complexities of what love is, they're at least wonderful to hum and sing while you're wrestling with the matter.

Customer Reviews

The Very Best of Cole Porter

For once we Australians do better than the Septics: in the US iTunes store the album of this name has only 16 tracks, for the same price. We get 86 tracks for $9.99 - sweet! Still, the US iTunes store does list the performer of each track, whereas the Australian iTunes Store lists "COLE PORTER as the Artist. Anyway, what a selection! Each rack seems to be the original performance from the movie or whatever where the song first appeared, with classic performers, such as Satchmo, Danny Kaye, Ethel Merman, Marlene Dietrich, Fred Astair, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, etc. (You can go to the US iTunes Store to get some of them from the Artist field.) Was Cole Porter the W. S. Gilbert of the mid-twentieth century? You be the judge.


Born: 09 June 1891 in Peru, IN

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '10s, '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s

Many arguments could be generated over whether Cole Porter or Irving Berlin should be considered America's greatest tunesmith. Both wrote music and lyrics; it's clearly a pick 'em situation. Porter had violin and piano lessons as a child, pursued undergraduate studies at Yale (where he penned fight songs that endure to this day such as "Bulldog"), and studied law and music at Harvard, all courtesy of a rich grandfather. His grandfather was appalled Porter would consider music as a career and never...
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The Very Best Of, Cole Porter
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