This generally excellent album makes a strong case for Cole Porter as perhaps the best of the Great American Songwriters. lrving Berlin thought Gershwin was the best. 'We were just songwriters, George was always a composer,' he opined. And, of course, Cole Porter couldn't have composed Porgy And Bess or any of Gershwin's symphonic music.
But what the 20 songs in this album prove, time after time, is that Cole Porter was unique because he didn't just create memorable tunes, but lyrics of genius, full of clever wordplay and acute social observation. almost worth of PG Wodehouse. He could also write deeply romantic lyrics, as in Night and Day and True Love.
In Thank You So Much, Mrs Lowsborough-Goodby, Porter pens the first-ever honest thank-you letter: 'Thank you so much/For the clinging perfume/For that damp little room! For the cocktails so hot! And the bath that was not …'
And few couplets are as clever as this one, from Brush Up Your Shakespeare: Just declaim a few lines from Othella/ And they'll think you're a helluva fella.'
I could go on but I won't. OK, maybe just one more, from The Tale Of The Oyster: 'He murmured, "l haven't a single qualm/ 'Cause I've bad a taste of society/ And society has had a taste of me."'
In his own time, plenty of people thought he was a better lyricist than a tunesmith. But so many of Porter's great melodies are as popular today as they ever were. Stuff like Anything Goes, I Get A Kick Out Of You, In The Still Of The Night, So In Love and, of course, Night And Day. In fact. everything on this album is melodically memorable.
Sarah Fox is an accomplished opera singer who has always done this sort of stuff, so there's no condescension here. Instead, she totally commands Porter's idiom.
In most respects she is fortunate to have the services of her long-time musical partner, James Burton, whose piano-playing is one of the great joys of this CD.
However, he sings quite a lot too, and that's a mixed blessing. His light baritone would be fine for an evening at, say, the Stockport Glee Club, but frankly lacks the quality for permanence on CD. His account of Night And Day has little vocal polish, and his intonation in places here is also suspect. In I Get A Kick Out Of You, he certainly deserves a kick out of me for letting some higher-pitched singing escape from the privacy of his bath, to which it should henceforth be confined.
But don't let that put you off. Most tracks here I shall return to often.