Red Hot & Blue: Re-Recordings Of Cole Porter
If anyone had ever told me that I would be going crazy over the latest album of Cole Porter songs, I probably would have laughed and changed the subject.
But just out of curiosity about three weeks ago I bought an extraordinary new album called “Red Hot & Blue,” a compilation of Porter songs re-recorded by artists such as Sinead O’Connor, Neneh Cherry, Aztec Camera, and David Byrne. The album contains 20 songs, each one different from the last and all very enjoyable.
This compilation contains an incredible variety of musical styles. The interpretations range from the traditional (O’Connor’s version of “You Do Something to Me,” for example) to the bizarre (Tom Waits’ rendition of “It’s All Right With Me”) to the passionate (Aztec Camera’s “Do I Love You?” and k.d. lang’s “So In Love”), to the startlingly contemporary (U2’s “Night and Day,” Jimmy Somerville’s “From This Moment On,” and The Thompson Twins’ “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”).
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There is even a little rap thrown in (The Jungle Brothers’ “I Get a Kick”). There is truly something for everyone.
But why produce such an album? Well, it was created for two reasons: first, as a tribute to Porter, one of the pre-eminent songwriters of the Twentieth Century and one of only a few who wrote both the words and the music to his songs. Second-ly, this album was produced to raise money for AIDS care and research.
Each recording comes with two booklets: one which gives a brief biography of Porter and the other with the lyrics to the songs not necessarily as they were recorded on the album, but as they were originally written by Porter. The booklets also contain information about AIDS, including statistics, information on how the disease is spread and preventive measures.
The theme of the album is taken from a line from one of Porter’s songs. The line, “Use your mentality; wake up to reality,” can be found in the song “I’ve Got U Under My Skin,” which is on the album and sung by Neneh Cherry. The mixture of AIDS-related anecdotes with the song itself creates a poignant statement about the disease.
But even considering the seriousness of its message, the album is also a lot of fun. I especially liked David Byrne’s energetic version of “Don’t Fence Me In,” Erasure’s version of “Too Darn Hot,” Les Negresses Vertes singing “I Love Paris,” and Kristy MacColl and The Pogues singing “Just One of Those Things.”
Perhaps the best aspect of the album is that while the songs remain basically recognizable as Porter’s, each one bears the distinctive signature of the artist who recorded it.
I’m sure there is something about this album to appeal to everyone. Even if you don’t know anything about Cole Porter, this album can be a wonderful way to be introduced to his music. Or, for those for whom this compilation represents a re-acquaintance with Porter’s work, it might be interesting to hear old favorites rerecorded. Either way, “Red Hot & Blue” is a winner. n