Song writers




CD Review: Retrophonic Gershwin

12 tracks (playing time = 35:00)

Joan Ellison, vocals; Mark Flanders, vocals;
Jason Aquila, primo piano; Jodie Ricci, secondo piano

Recorded at Oberlin Conservatory's Clonick Hall
Mixed and Mastered by Robert Friedrich
Musical arrangements by Joan Ellison.

Circa 1939 Ltd, 2015

Rating: Very Good

1. Syncopated City Overture:
Swanee/That Certain Feeling/Do-Do-Do/
Someone to Watch Over Me/ Fascinating Rhythm
2. I Got Rhythm
3. Where's the Boy? Here's the Girl
4. Who Cares?
5. Boy! What Love Has Done to Me!
6. Treat Me Rough
7. But Not For Me
8. Do-Do-Do
9. A Foggy Day
10. The Man I Love
11. They All Laughed
12. They Can't Take That Away From Me

As a longtime admirer of George and Ira Gershwin, it was a pleasure to hear these
marvelous songs from Broadway shows and Hollywood films.

I wish it could have been longer since CDs in our day can be an hour or more. At a bit over 30 minutes this is on the short side. The album was apparently inspired by the stage show by these same Cleveland-based artists titled, "Gershwin On the Air".

This CD has music in note-by-note transcriptions from vintage recordings by Joan Ellison and she has done an admirable job bringing these songs back to their original arrangements. It is too bad the vintage recordings are not listed though the pianists and arrangers are mentioned in the CD notes. She sings seven of the Gershwin songs on this CD and has a duet with Mark Flanders on two others.

The opening piano duet "Symphony City Overture" is a lively number with five Gershwin songs in the medley, as mentioned in Joan Ellison's notes, based on the stage pit pianists, Phil Ohman and Victor Arden, who played in five Gershwin shows on Broadway.

George Gershwin reportedly said on radio back in 1932 that "I Got Rhythm" was his favorite song and he even wrote some variations on it for concert performances he performed. The version on this CD sung by Joan Ellison is appropriately rhythmic and full of pep.

In addition to that song from GIRL CRAZY (1930), there are other songs from that Broadway show which was later released as an M-G-M musical from 1943 starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, including the songs "Treat Me Rough" (sung by June Allyson and Mickey Rooney with Tommy Dorsey Orchestra) and "But Not For Me,' sung by Judy Garland, and that song is especially appropriate to this CD since Joan Ellison has done a very impressive rendition of Judy Garland's singing style in her stage show performances.

Joan Ellison has a nice voice and has a real feel for this music. She is joined by Mark Flanders, and his singing sounds a bit stiff, such as on "Who Cares?" and "A Foggy Day (in London Town)" from the film, A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS (1937). They also have several duets on "Treat Me Rough" and "They All Laughed" from one of the best the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers RKO musicals, SHALL WE DANCE (1937).

Unfortunately, as with many pop albums these days, the mixing and mastering does not bring the voices forward enough and the duo pianists are often too loud. If this recording is meant to evoke the sound as well as the notes from the past, then the voices should be more prominent. Having listened to many vintage recordings as a onetime radio disc jockey who played music from the 1930s, '40s and '50s, I believe there should be more up front vocals
and less piano duo, though that is a matter of personal taste.

"They Can't Take Away From Me, " which was the only song by the Gershwins to be nominated for an Oscar and was originally sung by Fred Astaire in SHALL WE DANCE. On this CD it is nicely interpreted as the finale by Ms. Ellison and the duo pianists. She enters in a tempo from the film. Then an instrumental break for the duo pianists before she returns to sing the song again with a lovely ending to this melancholy song -- one of my favorite Gershwin songs.

My minor reservations aside, this CD should provide an enjoyable listening experience for anyone who enjoys the great songs of George and Ira Gershwin in these fine Retro-phonic transcriptions by Joan Ellison.

The album is available on Amazon and iTunes.


-- Roger Hall, Film Music Review




For more about singer, Joan Ellison,

click here

You can also listen to Ms. Ellison's singing -- click here












Music, By George!



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