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Disc review: Cole Porter Songbook


The Cole Porter Songbook

Sarah Fox, soprano

James Burton, piano

[Signum Classics]

Three and a half stars

Like the songs of Cole Porter, this album is a real mixed bag. Among these 20 Porter songs are the famous and less known, the gently humorous and the flagrantly arch, the sultry and the moving.

“The Tale of the Oyster” is well done, with pianist James Burton chiming in on occasion as the voice of the oyster. Sarah Fox sings “You Do Something To Me” as a kind of nod to Ella Fitzgerald, whose spirit also shines in “Don’t Fence Me In.” Fox is a British soprano (born in a North Yorkshire town with the unforgettable British name of Giggleswick). She sings a lot of Mozart and Beethoven, and even on this album she sings with classical sensibilities. “In the Still of the Night” could be an aria, the way she sings it. But she has a lilt to her voice and also lowdown blues inflections.

Burton can also play like a blues pianist, and plays rocking accompaniments to “Anything Goes” and “What Is This Thing Called Love?” The arrangements are Burton’s. They’re mostly simple, and for the most part very effective. The only “fail” is “Night and Day,” which just doesn’t make much sense. It’s as if they didn’t know when to stop the experimentation. But heck, that just makes me suspect that alcohol was involved – a plus, at least to a degree, if you are singing Cole Porter. And it’s nice that all the songs don’t have the same flavor.

– Mary Kunz Goldman

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