Sinatra Sings Cole Porter collects Frankie's Porter recordings from his 1943-1952 era, including a large number of previously unreleased radio and TV broadcasts. All of Porter's signature songs are here, including Night and Day, I Get A Kick Out Of You, Don't Fence Me In, Cherry Pies Ought To Be You, and Begin the Beguine.
The earliest songs are from 1944 (Begin the Beguine, I Get A Kick Out Of You, Easy To Love / I've Got You Under My Skin, Begin the Beguine), and the latest from '50, so there's a fairly narrow range here. Arrangements are by the consistent, constant Columbia-era collaborator Axel Stordahl.
Sinatra's not breaking any new stylistic ground from his Columbia roots, but the many broadcast recordings capture a live playfulness, such as the sassy tit-for-tat exchange with Rosemary Clooney on Cherry Pies Ought To Be You or the exasperated "Too many words!" ad-lib on Don't Fence Me In. Sinatra allows himself more breathing room on the live tracks, and even the band sounds like they're having fun. That's important, since that element of playful spontaneity is largely lost on studio recordings. On Why Can't You Behave, the jazz backing verges on blues, and Sinatra's delivery is molasses-slow but loaded full of sultry, wistful longing.
The perfunctory liner notes by Sinatra historian Will Friedwald lack the usual in-depth tidbits of his Sinatra notes. There are several vintage photos that, again, seemed to sparkle less than usual. Finally, there is a tracklisting with original recording / release dates, and sources.
As these are live recordings, there are the predictable infatuated screams from the bobby-sox crowd, which are distracting, but not a fatal flaw. Due to the rarity and age of some of the source material (lacquer discs and tapes, glass, aluminum and vinyl transcription discs, and film elements), tracks 6, 11, 12 and 18 contain audible flaws that were not able to be fully restored, but as a historical record, they're priceless.
Verdict: Sinatra Sings Cole Porter is a must have for both fans of early Frank Sinatra and for fans of Porter and the Great American Songbook. Sinatra was at his finest when recording Porter under Columbia, and these many rare, previously unreleased performances are a testament to his versatility, subtle phrasing, and utter understanding of the material.