Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Cole Porter: A Centennial Celebration [RCA, 1991]
Capitol's swinging Anything Goes survives incursions from the likes of Gordon MacRae. But any solon who disses Red Hot and Blue had better not try and tell me schlock kings like Andre Previn, Skitch Henderson, Robert Shaw, Norman Luboff, and Arthur Fiedler--none of whom even bother with lyrics, for God's sake--do him justice. At least Al Hirt's "I Love Paris" is a travesty, not unlike Les Negresses Vertes'. And then there are the vocalists. Better Arthur Fiedler than opera dropout Mario Lanza, and if Dinah Shore or Alfred Drake understand the material as well as Sinéad O'Connor or Jimmy Somerville, they don't let us in on the secret. From Mary Martin to Patti Lupone, actresses let the songs do the talking, and the two convincing male singers here have the "worst" voices. One is Fred Astaire. The other is Cole Porter, whose three demo-style vocals-with-piano are so alive that I'm praying some solon exhumes a whole album's worth. If Porter found them insufficiently musical, he was wrong. Now he belongs to the ages. B-