If you are the type of theatre lover who has a copy of every recording of every Cole Porter musical and every biography of the man who gave us “Anything Goes,” “Kiss Me, Kate” and “High Society” – not to mention “I Love Paris,” “What Is This Thing Called Love?” and “In the Still of the Night” – then you need to add this disc to feed your completism.
If, on the other hand, you know little about the musicals of the man and even less about his life, you need this disc as an elementary primer: a sampler of his song writing skills and an entertaining summary of his life story as seen through the eyes of the beautiful, rich and loyal woman he married and who stuck with him through infidelity, homosexuality and the pain and suffering of injury.
However, if you are in between those two extremes – a theater lover with a fair awareness of the story, you may want to skip this one.
In any case you are not likely to listen to the disc often, but you will enjoy it a few times through. Stevie Holland is a jazz vocalist with a real affection for the classic show tunes that add so much to the great American pop songbook. She takes the personal story of the most distinctive composer/lyricist of the world of Broadway and Hollywood in the late 20s through the mid 50s and uses it as frame for some of his best songs.
Porter was a wealthy, Yale-educated bon vivant from Peru – Peru, Indiana, that is – who married an even wealthier beauty in 1919. Together they lived the charmed life of elegance while Porter pursued his interest in songwriting in between grand soirees. In the 20’s, they rented a different palazzo in Venice each season, giving legendary parties.
The success of his songs, and the musicals in which they were heard, drew them to the London/New York/Hollywood circuit. Their marriage survived many pressures, although there came a time when Linda was on the verge of divorce. As it happened, however, Cole took a tumble while out riding with a countess and a duke and his horse rolled over his legs. It was Linda who refused doctors permission to amputate and she abandoned any thought of separation to stick with him through the pain of recuperation.
As it turned out, that was a lifetime commitment because the rest of Cole’s life was a bout with pain fought with consummate style. The Porter’s refused to let the world see the pain. As Holland tells us, Cole dismissed it with the line “Fifty million Frenchmen can’t be wrong: They eat their horses instead of riding them.” There were over a dozen Broadway shows yet to come, not to mention four movie scores and even a TV musical.
The glittering world of the Porters is presented in this bio-sketch in which Holland sings as Linda, relating the outlines of their lives while delivering nineteen of his songs as a sampling of delights. She’s accompanied by a trio in arrangements that emphasize the nature of the piece as a themed club act. It’s a fun listen – two or three times.