The latest Cole Porter bio-pic, De-Lovely, starring Kevin Kline, has a predictable song list on its soundtrack, but some intriguing interpreters. De-Lovely, on the Sony Music Soundtrax, opens with Robbie Williams performing the title track and Alanis Morissette doing her best 1920s coquette impression on "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love." Sheryl Crow's reading of "Begin the Beguine" is so classic, you'll never recognize the singer by her vocal style. Likewise, Elvis Costello's Dixie swing take on "Let's Misbehave" finds the usually nasal-voiced star sounding astoundingly smooth. Kevin Kline turns up on several numbers, from "Night and Day" to "Be a Clown" and "Blow, Gabriel, Blow." He also duets with co-star Ashley Judd on "In the Still of the Night." It's all rounded out by a classic recording by the genius composer himself — Cole Porter singing his own "You're the Top."
If De-Lovely takes the listener back in time, Angelique Kidjo's new album will take you to Africa, and other exotic ports.
I've written about Kidjo in this column many times over the years, and for good reason. One of the top pop singers in Africa, her melding of world rhythms with Western pop melodies has made her albums bankable all around the globe (on her last release, she even dueted with Dave Matthews). Her music is celebratory, upbeat, and can't help but leave you feeling good, despite the fact that you haven't understood a word of what she sang!
When she repeats "Africa, Africa" with an energetic background chorus in the piano-punctuated "Conga Habanera," you'll yearn to jump up and form a conga line. And the melancholy string parts of the French duet "Le Monde Comme un Bebe" will make you long to sip a steaming cup of coffee at a Paris café.
Oyaya! (which means joy in her Yoruba language) continues her exploration of the West African musical traditions of her native Benin, with elements of R&B, funk and jazz, as well European pop and Latin American music. Singing in both French and African, and melding calypso strains with the drum rhythms of the jungle, and even Spanish guitars, Oyaya! offers a marvelous, adventurous exotic soundtrack for summer.
For more information, see www.angeliquekidjo.com.
Once the front man for rock band Maggie's Dream, and best known, perhaps, as the songwriter of old pal Ricky Martin's Latin pop smashes "Living La Vida Loca" and "The Cup of Life," Robi Draco Rosa has not exactly become a household name in his own right. But in addition to having worked with Menudo, Martin and Maggie's, the singer/songwriter has just released his fourth solo album, Mad Love.
For anyone reading his resume and expecting a "La Vida Loca 2," think again. While the first track has a slinky, sexy jazzy latin vibe, it actually sounds like a Sting vehicle. Rosa's smoky vocal style is actually far closer to Sting than Ricky Martin, and the result is a nicely exotic pop album, complemented by the lush orchestrations of Van Dyke Parks on songs ranging from the romance of "Dancing in the Rain" to the funky edge of "Lie Without a Lover" to the Prince-esque falsetto yearning of "My Eyes Adore You."
Imagine The Police playing with Santana. Check out samples of the disc at www.robidracorosa.com.