The first three reviews of “Retrophonic Gershwin” have been posted just in the last two weeks — a “’S wonderful” antidote to our bleak-midwinter blues. I am doubly grateful that the reviews were overwhelmingly positive, since we are hardly old hands at the whole recording process. As I detailed in a previous blog post, the album took over three years from first recording session to the finished CDs’ arrival in a big box on our doorstep, and that doesn’t include the many months of researching and choosing, then arranging and transcribing the music, or the time spent in pre-production. I certainly learned a lot, and when I’ve recovered enough (or, like in childbirth, forgotten the pain of labor) to think about a next album, there are certainly things I’d do differently, starting with making sure that I’m isolated in a booth and not in the same room with the piano behemoths. It’s also unlikely we’ll do another CD with duo-pianos, as the logistics were very difficult here in Cleveland, from rehearsal to recording — although those Steinways in the Oberlin studio did end up sounding gorgeous, so I’m glad we did it once!
Here are a few of the highlights, with links to the full reviews:
“Though she’s no Miniver Cheevy, soprano Joan Ellison is fond of revisiting what many regard as the golden age of popular song. Her live show, “Gershwin on the Radio,” and her new CD, Retrophonic Gershwin, take her fans back to what she calls in her album notes “a more glamorous age than ours…”
Thus Retrophonic Gershwin draws on the content and vocal stylings preserved on vintage recordings, “everything from inspiration to note-for-note transcriptions,” but also enjoys the state-of-the-art studio amenities of Clonick Hall at Oberlin….
Ellison’s partners-in-time-travel are vocalist Mark Flanders and duo-pianists Jason Aquila and Jodie Ricci, who collectively channel the spirit and style of such Gershwin landmarks as “I Got Rhythm,” “A Foggy Day,” and “The Man I Love” in a twelve-track performance that’s on the short side in duration …but packs in a lot of fine singing and piano playing. The songs may be retro, but Ellison and Flanders make them sound fresh and new.”
— Daniel Hathaway, ClevelandClassical.com
“[Ellison] has done an admirable job bringing these songs back to their original arrangements [and] has a...real feel for this music.
In addition to that song from GIRL CRAZY…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…"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.
...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.”
—Roger Hall, Film Music Review
"Just found a great new CD for anyone who loves Broadway and the Gershwins, and who doesn't? The lead artist is singer Joan Ellison who Michael Feinstein called 'A rare combination of artist, archivist, and arranger.' This album also features singer Mark Flanders and duo-pianists Jason Aquila and Jodie Ricci. This talented group of musicians has created some authentic and unique arrangements based on original Gershwin recordings of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. In order to make the sound historically correct, the CD was recorded on a RCA-44 reproduction microphone and a pair of 9-foot Steinways at Oberlin Conservatory's Clonick Hall and then mixed and mastered by Grammy-winning audio engineer Robert Friedrich of Five/Four Productions.
Joan Ellison has been praised for her vocal skills and her crystal-clear voice. All well-deserved compliments as you will hear…"
— Bob Nicosia, MusicManBlog.com
Our heartfelt thanks go out to these reviewers, and to all of you, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. (No worries, I had to look up “Miniver Cheevy,” too!)