"Mabel Mercer Sings Cole Porter," is one of the greatly-admired classics by the English-born, mid-20th century performer, as recorded at Atlantic's historic West 56th Studios, and engineered by Tom Dowd. Porter's songs are largely well-known; they come from ten of his shows; and all illustrate Mercer's great artistry with a great song: the flexibility of her voice, her ability to present the emotional truth of it; her intonation, her phrasing. Mind you, some modern listeners may find her piano accompaniment, as provided by Cy Walter and Stan Freeman to be a bit florid, but it really does not detract from her fine soprano voice.
The disk opens on an "It's Delovely," that truly is, delightful, delicious and delovely. "Every Time We Say Goodbye," captures the song's implicit heart break. "Experiment" is not well-known, but extraordinarily jaunty and flavorful. "After You," just lovely. On "Where Oh Where," the diva delivers the yearning of the song. "It's All Right With Me" is deservedly famous, and Mercer makes a sexy, playful joy of it, as she does with "Ace in the Hole." "So In Love," "Looking At You," and "When Love Comes Your Way:" Porter has never sounded so tender. "Just One of those Things" and "From This Moment On," are Porter at his peak, again, and Mercer delivers them with what lyricist Lorenz Hart called her "unfelt clasp of hand." Nevertheless, I've long had problems with "I Am Ashamed that Women Are So Simple," which Porter wrote for the Broadway show "Kiss Me Kate." Even in context, especially in context, it has got to be read as pretty darn sexist, and, whereas I try hard not to be politically correct, I just can't help resenting the beautiful, gossamer treatment Mercer gives it.
However, there are very few records that I love enough so as to have bought them on vinyl, on audio cassette, and on compact disk, and this is one of them. I'm sitting here looking at the vinyl right now. What an artistic achievement it was.
on February 2, 2016
Intoxicating performances! Does she have the vocal beauty or perfection of a Streisand or a Barbara Cook, no.[ Many of her best recordings were made when she was well past her vocal prime.] But does she imbue every note and every syllable with wit, intelligence and life? Yes! Like no one else! Pour yourself a Manhattan and enjoy a recording that I am confident Cole Porter would have loved!