Lorelei

Reviewed by mojo

Being the sheltered, ignorant lass that Mojo has always been, it turns out I don't think I've ever heard of the Lorelei until I first heard this song and looked 'em up. Which I believe was THIS version, since I don't think I sprung for the voluminous Gershwin collection until slightly later in life. The Lorelei is both a giant rock in the middle of the Rhine River, and a legendary Siren-type lady who would sit upon said rock and lure sailors to their watery graves. (Although, to be perfectly honest, a shipwreck on a river just doesn't have the same sort of DRAMA as one 'way out at sea--I find a river shipwreck rather comically reminiscent of that old stormy-Erie-Canal shipwreck song that has the chorus, "The Ee-ri-ee was a' risin' / And the gin was a gettin' low / And I scarcely think we'll get a drink / 'Til we get to Buffalo..." Of course, people HAVE died in river accidents and Mojo should not pooh-pooh them. But Mojo is also mostly Irish, if I may indulge in the most hideous of stereotypes, so any excuse to belt out a drinking song is fine by her.)

Of course Lorelei is NOT a drinking song, but more along the lines of a strip tease, at least as Ella has always sung it. A highly amusing strip tease, with witty lyrics and interesting visuals. There can't be too many rhymes for "Lorelei" but good ol' Ira comes close with "immoral eye", ya gotta admit. The entire song--don't really know it in context, since I'm not familiar with the play it is from; Wikipedia says it only ran for 43 performances (ouch!) and it had the dual charms of being a political statement against Prohibition as well as it being a lighthearted romp of a farce set in Germany juuuussst as the Nazis were assuming power (the day the play, "Pardon My English", closed was the day the Reichstag mysteriously caught fire)--seems to be some mousy woman's yearning to break free of her mousiness and vamp about workin' it for once. Maybe Mel Brooks could have gotten it to work, but aside from Lorelei and a song in a remarkably similar vein--"My Cousin in Millwaukee", another song Mojo rather likes--it's a fairly forgettable score, as well. Judging from the brief description on Wikipedia the whole thing sounds like one big stupid mess.

But standing by itself--and forgetting the Nazis standing in the wings and the horrible goofy plot points apparently turning on people getting hit in the head and suffering amnesia for most of the show--Lorelei is an awfully fun song, and Ella just has a blast singing it. Forgive me for even bringing Nazis up in the first place. Lorelei stands as firm as the rock plunked there on the side of the Rhine, a clever, witty thing that deserves twirling feather boas and those long gloves that go up to the elbows. And yes, it deserves the Ella treatment, and she redeems it wonderfully, both here and in the earlier studio version, which appears rather late in the Gershwin collection, so we probably won't see it again until sometime next year at this rate. So enjoy it for now, and go ahead and bit your initials on a sailor's neck if you're so inclined....

Lorelei (1960)

in
Click below to hear a sample--or scroll down for associated media: 
From What Album(s)?: 
Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife
Disc Number: 
1
Composer: 
George Gershwin
Lyricist: 
Ira Gershwin
Time: 
3:27

From Wikipedia:

 

"Lorelei" is a song composed by George Gershwin, with lyrics by Ira Gershwin; it was written for their musical Pardon My English (1933).

It is about the Loreley legend.

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