Various Artists

You're Sensational: Cole Porter in the 20's 40's & 50's

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Arriving a year late for the songwriter's centenary, the Indiana Historical Society's 1992 box set You're the Top: Cole Porter in the 1930s carried no hint of a follow-up. But seven years later came this combination prequel and sequel, another three-CD/cassette collection that, like its predecessor, carries more than a whiff of idiosyncratic academia. With a first disc devoted to Porter's work of the 1910s and '20s (the title notwithstanding), and two more given over to the '40s and '50s, it takes the same approach, proceeding (more or less) chronologically by the dates of the songs' composition, but ranging back and forth across decades in terms of the sequence of recordings. Thus, it leads off with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire's 1975 recording of the 1914 copyright "I've a Shooting Box in Scotland," followed by Olive Kline's contemporary recording of the 1919 song "Old Fashioned Garden," and then Porter's own 1934 take on "Two Little Babes in the Wood," from 1924. Since Porter's songs generally are better remembered than the shows and films from which they came, a mere listener is likely to find the result aurally confusing. It is necessary to seriously peruse the 158-page, 9 x 12 booklet, with its discursive essays, to appreciate the album's organization. The producers have tracked down some interesting material that has not been issued legitimately before, particularly a couple of onstage recordings of Ethel Merman in Panama Hattie, and that is indicative of the taste for the arcane they display, which also leads them to include partial performances of some songs and ten jazz instrumentals (usually following vocal versions of the same songs). There are omissions (notably "Always True to You in My Fashion") and questionable choices, but the Porter scholar will appreciate the oddities. The Porter neophyte should look elsewhere, however.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:01
2 2:57
3 0:58
4 2:46
5 4:42
6 3:21
7 2:57
8 2:39
9 2:27
10 2:37
11 3:22
12 4:18
13 3:20
14 2:17
15 2:40
16 3:06
17 2:59
18 2:53
19 1:44
20 2:48
21 2:16
22 2:34
23 2:15
24 4:26
25 1:41
blue highlight denotes track pick