Various Artists

Cole Porter Revisited, Vol. 5

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Eleven years passed between the releases of Cole Porter Revisited, Vol. 4 in 1979 and Cole Porter Revisited, Vol. 5 in 1990, but one suspects the lengthy gap had more to do with the challenge of continuing to finance organizer Ben Bagley's recordings for his Painted Smiles Records label than with any problem in coming up with a fifth set of Porter's rare and obscure songs. Working mostly in an era that pre-dated the cast album, Porter wrote for show after show and several films. Many of his songs were cast aside for one reason or another (a casting change brought in a performer unsuited to the material, a scene was rewritten, etc.), and even if they were used, all but the hits disappeared after the show closed or the film left movie houses. That is not to say, however, that the songs were not worthy. In fact, Porter shows a remarkable consistency in quality in addition to a constant point of view, that of the wealthy, sophisticated, somewhat decadent aesthete of the interwar period, commenting wittily on life and love. Using a cast of familiars -- Ann Hampton Callaway, Arthur Siegel, Sandy Stewart -- a grande dame (Julie Wilson), and a Broadway legend (Tommy Tune), and returning to piano/bass/drum accompaniment, Bagley presents little-known Porter compositions that cover more than 30 years of work, from 1924's independent song "Love 'Em and Leave 'Em" to 1955's "Under the Dress," written for, but unused in Silk Stockings. Even among the usual rarities, there are some surprises here, none more so than "I Gaze in Your Eyes," actually written as a poem and set to music for the first time by Callaway, which results in a lovely ballad that recalls the style of Melissa Manchester. Wilson is particularly accomplished, which is no surprise since she makes a career of singing Porter songs and other material of the same sort in nightclubs. Five albums on, Bagley's Porter series seems as inexhaustible as it ever did. (This, however, turned out to be the final volume.)