cream of the crate: cd review #28 – red hot and blue: cole porter tribute

cream of the crate: cd review #28 – red hot and blue: cole porter tribute
CD Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]
 

 

  This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.

 

"This album represents an attempt to rediscover and reinterpret classic pop songs of the pre-Rock era in order to rejuvenate contemporary pop music" - [Liner notes]

Cream Of The Crate Reviews 1 to 50 were vinyl album reviews.  
The following fifty reviews (51 - 100) were originally marked as CD Reviews 1 - 50
and this numbering has been kept to keep consistency with the published CD reviews.

 

This is number twenty eight in the series of albums I’m featuring as part of an on-going retrospective of CD’s in my personal collection.

The series is called, “Cream of The Crate (CD’s)”, and they represent CD albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because their is something unique about the group or the music.

There are many, many CD compilations available as the technology made such compilations easy to produce.

However, this compilation stands out from the rest as it is not a compilation of work from various other releases, but rather, a compilation of artists.

These artists have used the work of one of the worlds greatest modern day composers, to not only pay die homage to his genius, but to raise awareness of one of the most insidious modern day diseases – Aids!

The CD is entitled Red Hot and Blue and was released in 1990 on the Chrysalis label (CCD 1799).

cream of the crate: cd review #28 – red hot and blue: cole porter tribute
CD Label – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

It has twenty tracks all written by Cole Porter and interpreted by twenty of the top artists of the day.

Before delving into the music itself, it is vitally important to make mention of the man himself, Cole Porter.

Born in June 1881 (almost 100years before this CD was released), as a Yale Student he began writing songs and despite the wishes of his family he took up music as a profession and although classically trained he moved toward music theatre.

This was not an unusual move as American music at that time was completely dominated by that form.

There were almost no records of his music played at that time, and where recordings existed the fidelity was almost non existent, and so music theatre became the mainstay for the American public to meet their musical needs, and Broadway was the ultimate platform.

Broadway success meant excellent royalties at a time where pianos and thus sheet music in the home, were as popular as the internet is now.

By the late 1920’s Cole Porter emerged as one of the most important composers of the new American generation celebrating the sophistication that the “Roaring Twenties” bought.

Yet, when that era came to an end it was replaced by the Great Depression and incredible hardship and global political turmoil, all leading inevitably to WWII.

cream of the crate: cd review #28 – red hot and blue: cole porter tribute
Booklet Cover – [CLICK to enlarge]

 

Porter continued to strive for success but his life was incredibly complicated by his having to hide his homosexuality in order to continue to work professionally.

The American public while accepting many things as long as they were hidden, were not ready to tolerate their “idols” having homosexual tendencies.

If this was not enough burden to carry, after a serious horseback riding accident in 1937, Porter was left disabled and in constant pain, but he continued to work.

His music continued to lift the spirits of a depressed public and he was able to do that without pandering to the lowest common denominator.

His music celebrated the power of love and provided meaning in a world where little else made sense. His music presents love as a personal almost subversive force, that enabled all who listened to rise above life’s hardships.

In an era that was dominated by the strict and overwhelming Victorian repression, Porter through his music, and his generation overturned many oppressive values in a similar way that the 1960’s generation overturned the conservative attitudes and values that hung over from the post WWII era.

As the liner notes declare, “In fact, a direct parallel can be drawn between the simple power of Porter’s “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love”, and John Lennon’s “All You Need Is Love”.”

As Rock music began to evolve, the sophistication of Cole Porter’s compositions proved to be far too polished and his music began to loose favour.

History shows the roots of Rock and Roll looked toward bluesmen like Robert Johnson and other bluesmen for inspiration and to the myriads of other similar forms of music for its development and evolution.

Then as history shows, the pop sophistication that eventuated out of the development of Rock and Roll failed to continue to evolve, and rather devolved into cliche and what might be best described largely as electro-pap!

Searching for forms that might help rejuvenate modern pop music artists looked toward all forms of “world music”, but it was inevitable that somewhere along the way the music of Cole Porter would be “re-discovered”.

Cole Porter

 

About the time that artists were looking at the work of porter and other earlier composers, the world was struck by the tragic and terrible AIDS epidemic.

Looking for a way to get an effective message out about the necessity for safe sex while at the same time fighting the stigma of being HIV positive or having AIDS, the need for an affirmative, reassuring message underpinned by love, led artists to the conclusion that the work of Cole Porter.

It seemed indeed to be a most appropriate platform from which a series of anthems for life in the nineties and beyond could be provided.

So the music on this CD not only revives Porter’s work, for the first time in any serious way post WWII it not only reinvigorated “commercial music”, but it contained that important message of hope and love that is needed in difficult times.

It also challenged the inflexible conservative morals that were constantly being poured down our throats, in much the same way that porter had to face because of his homosexuality.

As the liner notes state, “WE MUST SUPPORT EVERYONE’S RIGHT TO LOVE.”

From the accompanying booklet

 

The booklet accompanying this CD could easily be ridiculed as it spends very little effort in talking about the artists and makes almost no mention of the tracks.

It has 12 double sided pages in colour and focuses on Cole Porter and the issue of AIDs and that is what the project was about!

How can I complain about that? I can’t, but, it would have been nice if the producers had just provided a little info on each artist that contributed.

Track Listing

1. “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” performed by Neneh Cherry
2. “In the Still of the Night” performed by The Neville Brothers
3. “You Do Something to Me” performed by Sinéad O’Connor
4. “Begin the Beguine” performed by Salif Keita
5. “Love for Sale” performed by Fine Young Cannibals
6. “Well, Did You Evah!” performed by Deborah Harry & Iggy Pop
7. “Miss Otis Regrets / Just One of Those Things” performed by The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl
8. “Don’t Fence Me In” performed by David Byrne
9. “It’s All Right with Me” performed by Tom Waits
10. “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” performed by Annie Lennox
11. “Night and Day” performed by U2
12. “I Love Paris” performed by Les Negresses Vertes
13. “So in Love” performed by k.d. lang
14. “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” performed by Thompson Twins
15. “Too Darn Hot” performed by Erasure
16. “I Get a Kick” performed by The Jungle Brothers
17. “Down in the Depths” performed by Lisa Stansfield
18. “From This Moment On” performed by Jimmy Somerville
19. “After You, Who?” performed by Jody Watley
20. “Do I Love You?” performed by Aztec camera

There is not a dud track on this CD, and why would there be?

This is some of the best compositions ever written and here we have them interpreted by artists who are widely acclaimed for their talent.

The interpretations are quite brilliant and at times we have subtle but important changes to the lyrics such as Neneh Cherry has done in the opening track, “Ive Got You Under My Skin.”

Neneh Cherry

 

Neneh Cherry has a wonderful voice and she works hard in this track to both pay appropriate homage to the ‘man’, as well as to strongly push her message.

Spreadin faster than an eye can blink
So I had to sit down and take time to think
Of how to spread the word to people all across the land
To make sure they putting out a helping hand
Neneh Cherry notice hurry so it must be told
About a group of people left in the cold
Caught by a plague slowly they fade
From immune deficiency you see called “AIDS”
No knowledge of the facts, kept in the dark
Scolds my soul and it hurts my heart
The young and elderly just running blind
Hurts so bad they denied their own kind
Papa turned around and said that ain’t mine
It just made it hard for life on the line
And it’s a shame to see a little child mature
Growing up knowing that there ain’t no cure
I’ve got you under my skin
I’ve got you under my skin
… Pure pain they give me…
I had a friend once by the name of MARY JANE
Out with the guys and getting high was her only game
And now the tears in her eyes, there she lies
It drove her crazy, all the boys say that’s it
I told you so but you reached the point of no return
Instead of pride you take the hardest way you had to learn
Oh mommy dearest, don’t you know that I miss her so
That’s why I sing this song
Just to let her know
I’ve got you under my skin
I’ve got you under my skin
I’ve got you deep in the heart of me
Down so deep in any part of me
I’ve got you, got you, got you under my skin
I’ve got you deep in the heart of me
Down so deep in any part of me
I’ve got you, got you, got you under my skin
Use your mentality, wake up to reality
I’ve got you deep in the heart of me
Share your love, don’t share the needle.

I’ve Got You Under My Skin

Salif Keita uses his unique vocal style to provide an interpretation of Begin the Beguine that may have caught the attention of Cole Porter had he been alive.

Salif Keita

 

Focusing on his background of being born in Mali, his arrangement whilst being of a western idiom, the interpretation certainly has an ‘Afro” feel, and he makes use of his reputation of being “The Golden Voice of Africa.”

Begin the Beguine

Track # 8 features that well known music ‘Geek” David Byrne, who puts his own unique style on Don’t Fence me In.

David Byrne

 

I think Byrne’s own description of his interpretation of this track, as being “Brazilian” describes it beautifully and the heavy use of percussion is fantastic.

Don’t Fence Me In

The final track I chose, and it was very hard because all tracks deserve mention, is track # 9 – Its All Right By Me, by Tom Waits.

Tom Waits

 

Using his own droll/dry style of delivery somehow fits this track perfectly. His musical interpretation of Porters music is both weird and beautiful.

Waits “sings” and grunts his way through this track and some folk might pillory me, but I’m not a Tom Waits fan.

I seriously love this track.

It’s Alright By Me

 

Red Hot and Blue is a magnificent piece of work as it did bring the work of one of the 20th Centuries greatest composers back to life, both reminding us of the mans remarkable talent, whilst introducing to new generations his music.

This alone would have been sufficient reason for the CD coming into being, but when it supported such a vital campaign as HIV/AIDS awareness it took the work into an even higher level of desirability.

Rear of the booklet

 

Who ever chose the artists is also to be congratulated because each and every one have provided a fresh new interpretation which in turn proves that quality compositions can be made relevant to any era.If you have heard this work, or indeed if you have it in your collection I hope this retro-review has reawakened your love for the work.

If you have not heard it, I hope you will want to hear more, and I urge you to buy it and add it to your collection.

This is a MUST in any collection. It is readily available on Ebay for between $15.00 and $35.00, but a word of warning, there is also a CD available called “Red Hot & Blue the Music of Cole Porter”, which is the music as Porter wrote it and was originally recorded.

That may be a righteous purchase, but it is NOT this CD!


VIDEOS:

There is a good selection of material from this CD on YouTube and I have located five tracks for your consideration.

 

The Neville Brothers – In The Still of the Night

 

Debbie Harry & Iggy Pop – Well Did You Evah

 

U2 – Night and day

 

 

 


The Jungle Brothers – I Get a Kick

 

Erasure – Too Darn Hot

Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:

 

To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –

cream of the crate cd review #2 : robert johnson – the complete recordings

 

Click to open the following CD reviews:

#1. The Fugs: The Fugs First Album

#2. Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings

#3. Bob Dylan – Biograph

#4. Robin Trower – Essential

#5. Various Artists – Sixties Down Under Compilation

#6. Various Artists – The Big Ol’ Box of New Orleans

#7. Hugh Masekela – African Breeze: 80’s

#8. The Last Poets – The Very Best of the Last Poets

#9. Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Down By The Riversiide

#10. Various Artists – Sixties Down Under: Vol. 2

#11. The Beatles – On Air: Live at BBC Vol.2

#12. The Rolling Stones – Singles Collection: The London Years

#13. Compilation: Girl Groups Of The Sixties

#14. The Byrds – There Is A Season [Boxed Set]

#15. Various Artists – Sixties Down Under: Volume 4

#16. Howling Wolf – The London Sessions

#17. The Who – Thirty Years of Maximum R&B

#18. Thomas Dolby – Hyperactive

#19. Various Artists – Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965 – 1970

#20. Various Artists: 60’s Down Under – Volume 4

#21. 2nu – Ponderous

#22. The Great Eric Clapton and The Yardbirds [Boxed Set]

#23. The Sue Records Story: New York City – The Sound of Soul

#24. Various Artists – The Encyclopedia of Boogie Woogie

#25. Cam-Pact – Psychedelic Pop ‘n Soul: 1967 – 1969

#26. The Clash – The Singles

#27. Arthur Brown – Fire: The Story of Arthur Brown