Various Artists

Cole Porter Revisited, Vol. 3

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In his typically lengthy and amusing liner notes, Ben Bagley, whose album cover credit reads, "Cast & Material Assembled & Directed by," complains that, since the appearance of his first Porter collection in 1965, "an enormous amount of untalented individuals have attempted the sport that I play best." That sport is what he calls "Cole-mining," i.e., putting together recordings of little-known songs by Cole Porter (or, in other "revisited" collections, George Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart, etc.). The popularity of the sport is easy to understand. Like his peers among the major Broadway songwriters of the 20th century, Porter wrote a lot of songs for a lot of shows and films, some of which became standards when first introduced or later, in the hands of pop singers like Frank Sinatra, but many of which virtually disappeared after those shows and films left the theaters in which they were playing back in the '30s, '40s, and '50s. Especially in the case of the witty Porter, those songs tended to reflect his lyrical talents just as well as the songs that achieved a life outside the vehicles for which they were composed. So, even though this is Bagley's third collection, he has no trouble finding gems, songs originally heard over a range of nearly 40 years, from 1918's "Baby Let's Dance" (which premiered in the Paris nightclub act La Revue des Ambassadeurs) to 1957's "Prize Guy of Guys" (cut from the movie musical Les Girls). The cast assembled by Bagley to sing these songs includes such Broadway veterans as Elaine Stritch ("Find Me a Primitive Man," "When Love Beckoned"), Dolores Gray ("You're Too Far Away," "Who Would Have Dreamed?"), and Helen Gallagher ("Make a Date with a Great Psychoanalyst," "Prize Guy of Guys"), plus Lynn Redgrave ("A Lady Needs a Rest," "Her Heart Was in Her Work," "I Want to Be Raided by You," "What Am I to Do?"), all of them heard on previous "revisited" albums, and a welcome addition is breathy Georgia Engel (a featured actress on TV's The Mary Tyler Moore Show), who handles "I Like Pretty Things," the medley "I'm in Love/You're in Love," and "Pretty Little Missus." This list gives the accurate impression that the album's suggestive songs are mostly sung by women; only Arthur Siegel, another Bagley favorite, breaks the distaff dominance, duetting with Redgrave on "Her Heart Was in Her Work" and singing "I Wrote a Play" alone. But there is also a chorus of men and women singers who augment the arrangements along with many unknown musicians, making this recording a more elaborate one than some previous "revisited" collections. Still, the relatively small cast of singers and the consistency of the material gives the album the feel of a cast recording for an Off-Broadway revue, an effect that is surely intended.