Red Hot + Blue
1990: Chrysalis D106216
The Neville Brothers
The Fine Young Cannibals
Debbie Harry & Iggy Pop
Kirsty MacColl & The Pogues
Les Negresses Vertes
k d lang
The Thompson Twins
The Jungle Brothers
This was a good idea that has a little something for everyone, but thats not to say that *I* like it all. Some tracks on this are absolutely excruciatingly to hear (Neneh Cherrys and Tom Waitss, in particular), while others range from thoughtful to amusing. With twenty tracks to consider, Ive concluded that I like the album overall despite the painful ones: every track contributes something and explores the possibilities of Cole Porters songs, even if I dont 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 hadnt 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 dont 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 dont listen to U2, and the written song is lost somewhere under all the bombast. Erasures turn was similarly problematic for me Ive 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 Stansfields Down In the Depths and the FYCs Love For Saletheyre not bad, theyre just not great singers. Stansfields voice is nice, but her enunciation is mangled, and the steamy coolness of this Love for Sale context is squandered by Roland Gifts usual sloppy squawking. And then theres Jimmy Somervilles 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 hes bad, or that that much consistency is bad, I just dont care for it). Jody Watleys contribution, on the other hand, was a nice eye-opener (she can SING?!) that fit perfectly atop the slinky and excellent instrumentation.
Some performances werent surprising at all because I was accustomed to excellence from the people involved: Annie Lennox, k.d.lang, and Sinead OConnor were for sure in that category, although I like Sineads best of those three because it bristles most interestingly and seems always on the verge of exploding into something else. k.ds is gorgeous but even more so after youve seen the heartbreakingly sad video that accompanied it. And Annies well, its just lovely (especially as its placement here comes as a salve to the ears after what Tom Waitss voice does to them); she fluffs a couple of the higher notes, so its not perfect, but its 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 Reds Men and Women four years earlier).
The fun ones still crack me up: in addition to the aforementioned Thompson Twins dance-throbber, David Byrnes Dont Fence Me In is a zany cultural mix along the lines of Talking Headss 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 theres stuff thats 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 isnt Porters song) and Neneh Cherrys boring rambling-rap (which, bizarrely, kicks off the album and thus nearly sinks it from the first moment).
Comments © 2005 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.