One of the criticisms of the movie De Lovely
was that Cole Porter's music was sung by pop stars who weren't quite up to the task of interpreting his tunes. Bluebird has wisely issued an alternative to the soundtrack with It's De Lovely: The Authentic Cole Porter Collection
, a compilation which features renditions of Porter tunes culled form the vast RCA Victor catalog, a lot of them done by people that helped make him famous.
There are some true classics here, such as Artie Shaw's Begin the Beguine and Dorsey and Sinatra's Night and Day, where the marriage of a great song and great performance produced true magic. But there are also lesser-known recordings that are a good representation of how these songs sounded when Porter first composed them, such as "Let's Misbehave" by Irving Aaronson and his Commanders, and "Easy to Love" by Ray Noble & His Orchestra (and featuring vocals by the talented but obscure Al Bowlly). The producers really had to blow the dust off of some of these performances, and many of them sound appropriately dated, but more recent tracks from Lena Horne, Dinah Shore, and Rosemary Clooney still sound fresh today.
As an added bonus, there are two tracks featuring Porter singing his own compositions. Originally released as just Porter accompanying himself on piano, Vince Giordano has spiced up the tracks with new orchestration, which is not a bad idea since the composer was neither a great singer nor a great pianist. Thus, these aren't great performances, but still manage to be oddly charming.
In addition to the vocal numbers, there are straight-ahead jazz tracks from Sonny Rollins, Coleman Hawkins, and Shorty Rogers that show how many artists loved to work through the changes of Porter's songs. However, if there's one weakness in the collection, it's these tracks. While the performances are good, they just don't fit in with the rest of the selections. The pop tunes are much shorter and focus on the genius of Cole Porter's lyric writing and compositional skills, but the jazz tunes tend to focus more on the improvisers and thus dilute the purpose of the project.
Still, though, Bluebird has wisely crafted a disc that's a better find than the soundtrack to the movie, filled with great performances of Porter's songs the way he wanted them done.