CD Review/Pop: LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY (Alexis Gershwin)

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by Tony Frankel on December 26, 2013

in CD-DVD

ISN’T IT A PITY?

Alexis Gershwin not only comes from a family of Show Biz royalty, but royalties: The song catalog of her uncles George and Ira Gershwin—according to Los Angeles Times—generates about $8 million a year. The treasure-trove of tunes created by the Gershwin brothers between the early 1920s and 1937, when George died, include “Our Love is Here to Stay,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” and “Summertime.”

Soon to be 80, Alexis is the daughter of Frances Gershwin (the youngest sibling of brothers George, Ira and Arthur) and violinist Leopold Godowsky, Jr., who co-invented Kodachrome color photography. With a lineage like this, cabaret appearances, and two previously released CDs—Gershwin Sings Gershwin (2009) and The Man I Love (2011)—it seems strange that I’ve never heard of her before. Her new album, Long Ago and Far Away, a collection of the Gershwin brothers’ best-known tunes and the titular ditty by Jerome Kern, elucidates with jaw-dropping vacuity why it would have been best to keep it that way.

LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY - Alexis Gershwin CD reviewWhile I appreciate her heartfelt optimism, diction and usage of rarely heard original lyrics, her attempts at interpretive phrasing and jazzy updates (bossa nova, mambo madness) come off as saccharine, silly, sunny, and soulless. It’s great to be reminded of the genius that made these tunes so timeless, but we’ve heard them sung so much better so many times before. The arrangements sound alike, mostly utilizing piano, sax, drums, canned strings, and milquetoast Andy Williams-esque backup singers. It appears to be a multi-channel recording: The instruments are clear, but her gentle vibrato and sex-kittenish, breathy drop-offs sound as if they are being sung from a shower stall.

About the selections, her liner notes perplexingly state, “We recorded them several years ago and only recently discovered they had never been released commercially.” As for her style, it can be summed up thusly: On the way to Nelson Riddle arrangements for Eydie Gormé and Annette Funicello, she had an accident with Ann Margret on a Wurlitzer, crashed into The Manhattan Transfer on a synthesizer, and is now recuperating as Ginger from Gilligan’s Island doing a lounge act/talent show at Del Webb’s Sun City.

Will she be any different in person? Ms. Gershwin will be appearing at Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 8:30 PM.

CD cover portrait by Harry Langdon

Long Ago and Far Away
Alexis Gershwin
Rhapsody Records / 13 Tracks
release date: January 14, 2014
for more info, visit www.AlexisGershwin.com

{ 1 comment }

janina January 1, 2014 at 9:47 am

This is ONE vicious review.
Perhaps the author needed to get “A Kick” out of something…..

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