Various Artists

From This Moment On: The Songs of Cole Porter

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Assembled to commemorate Cole Porter's centenary in 1991, this four-CD/cassette box set has an advantage over other such collections in that the Smithsonian was able to license recordings from all the major labels and quite a few small ones. Compiler Dwight Blocker Bowers cites only two examples of recordings he wanted but couldn't get: "True Love" by Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly from the soundtrack of High Society (for which he has substituted a version by Margaret Whiting) and "I Love Paris" by Frank Sinatra and Maurice Chevalier from the soundtrack of Can-Can (for which he has substituted an earlier recording by Chevalier). In "A Word About the Program" in the 60-page, 6 x 9 booklet that accompanies the box, Bowers explains that he began by creating a list of Porter songs to include, then used recordings of them by the performers most closely associated with them, auditioning several choices when a song lacked a definitive performance. He then arranged the selections in chronological order by recording date. This last statement turns out to be roughly, though not exactly, true. But the result is that, early on, the tracks tend to be hit recordings, many of them by the people who introduced the songs on stage or screen, such as Ethel Merman, who is heard on five selections. Gradually, this gives way to the late-'40s/early-'50s period when Sinatra and others revived Porter in post-swing arrangements. Finally, Porter music becomes the province of jazz and supper club artists like Bobby Short, who gets four selections on the final volume. Porter wrote so many great songs that some are inevitably left out (where is "Where Is the Life That Late I Led?"?), but it's hard to argue with what's here, or with the presentation of it. That's a big accomplishment.

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