Red Hot + Blue

1990: Chrysalis D106216

  1. I’ve Got U under My Skin

    Neneh Cherry

  2. In the Still of the Night

    The Neville Brothers

  3. You Do Something to Me

    Sinead O’Connor

  4. Begin the Beguine

    Salif Keita

  5. Love for Sale

    The Fine Young Cannibals

  6. Well, Did You Evah!

    Debbie Harry & Iggy Pop

  7. Miss Otis Regrets
    Just One of Those Things

    Kirsty MacColl & The Pogues

  8. Don’t Fence Me In

    David Byrne

  9. It’s All Right with Me

    Tom Waits

  10. Ev’rytime We Say Goodbye

    Annie Lennox

  11. Night & Day


  12. I Love Paris

    Les Negresses Vertes

  13. So in Love

    k d lang

  14. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

    The Thompson Twins

  15. Too Darn Hot


  16. I Get a Kick

    The Jungle Brothers

  17. Down in the Depths

    Lisa Stansfield

  18. From This Moment On

    Jimmy Somerville

  19. After You Who

    Jody Watley

  20. Do I Love You?

    Aztec Camera

This was a good idea that has a little something for everyone, but that’s not to say that *I* like it all. Some tracks on this are absolutely excruciatingly to hear (Neneh Cherry’s and Tom Waits’s, in particular), while others range from thoughtful to amusing. With twenty tracks to consider, I’ve concluded that I like the album overall despite the painful ones: every track contributes something and explores the possibilities of Cole Porter’s songs, even if I don’t like the individual results.

And actually this was a lovely way to get re-introduced to the versatility (or lack thereof) of some musicians I hadn’t given much thought to before, or had heard and disliked. The Thompson Twins version of “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire,” for example, is so close to perfect (its ending is weak, and some of the spoken lines don’t quite “land,” to my ear), which was a pleasant surprise to me; U2 on the other hand sounded like U2 always sounds to me, which is why I don’t listen to U2, and the written song is lost somewhere under all the bombast. Erasure’s turn was similarly problematic for me…I’ve never been able to get into their sound, but at least they made a sultry kicker out of “Too Darn Hot” that I do enjoy. And Aztec Camera provide a mostly faithful (if spacey) “Do I Love You” to close the album on an appropriately triste note.

There are some nice arrangements which feature vocals not quite up to the promise of the orchestration here, such as Lisa Stansfield’s “Down In the Depths” and the FYC’s “Love For Sale”—they’re not bad, they’re just not great singers. Stansfield’s voice is nice, but her enunciation is mangled, and the steamy coolness of this “Love for Sale” context is squandered by Roland Gift’s usual sloppy squawking. And then there’s Jimmy Somerville’s track, whatever it is…not that it matters, every Jimmy Somerville track sounds exactly the same as the others because so does he (not that he’s bad, or that that much consistency is bad, I just don’t care for it). Jody Watley’s contribution, on the other hand, was a nice eye-opener (“she can SING?!”) that fit perfectly atop the slinky and excellent instrumentation.

Some performances weren’t surprising at all because I was accustomed to excellence from the people involved: Annie Lennox, k.d.lang, and Sinead O’Connor were for sure in that category, although I like Sinead’s best of those three because it bristles most interestingly and seems always on the verge of exploding into something else. k.d’s is gorgeous but even more so after you’ve seen the heartbreakingly sad video that accompanied it. And Annie’s…well, it’s just lovely (especially as its placement here comes as a salve to the ears after what Tom Waits’s voice does to them); she fluffs a couple of the higher notes, so it’s not perfect, but it’s a song that was practically made for her otherwise (although I must note that the arrangement and tone are very similar to the one Mick Hucknell did on Simply Red’s Men and Women four years earlier).

The “fun” ones still crack me up: in addition to the aforementioned Thompson Twins dance-throbber, David Byrne’s “Don’t Fence Me In” is a zany cultural mix along the lines of Talking Heads’s True Stories album, and the Debbie Harry/Iggy Pop “duet” verges on being almost embarrassingly bad but manages to be funny in the final tally (self-conscious smuggery is tricky territory).

And then there’s stuff that’s all about the performer and to hell with the song or the composer or the melody or anything but the performer. Tops in that reprehensible group: the Jungle Brothers track (which bears the title of “I Get a Kick” but isn’t Porter’s song) and Neneh Cherry’s boring rambling-rap (which, bizarrely, kicks off the album and thus nearly sinks it from the first moment).