Various Artists

The Songs of Cole Porter

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Cole Porter's credo as a songwriter may well have been that no one is immune to heartbreak, and his songs paint characters right at the edge of falling in love, but still struggling with it, as if there actually were a choice to be made. These joyous-sounding songs feature, more often than not, a protagonist singing about what love will be, can be, or should be, but seldom what it actually is. Porter's songs sound bemused, conflicted, astounded, amazed, but seldom devastated, because his characters are generally at the front end of love, when everything gives off the illusion of possibility. Whatever the spin, Porter's compositions are true national treasures, and this three-disc, 60-track box set gives plenty of examples, from Fran Warren's "What Is This Thing Called Love?," Bing Crosby's "Don't Fence Me In," and Ann Miller's "I Get a Kick Out of You" to Doris Day's "Just One of Those Things" and Mary Martin's "Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love," each catching the protagonist at the precipice of love. If hearing these selections doesn't necessarily help sort out the myriad complexities of what love is or isn't, they're at least wonderful to hum along with while you're wrestling with the matter.

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