Judy Garland – The London Studio Recordings, 1957-1964 – First Hand Records

by | Dec 6, 2011 | Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews

Judy Garland – The London Studio Recordings, 1957-1964 – First Hand Records FHR12 (Mono/Stereo, 2 CDs), 149:09 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ***½:
(Judy Garland – vocals; with orchestra and chorus conducted by Mort Lindsey, Geoff Love, Norrie Paramor and Harry Robinson)
Judy Garland sang “You Made Me Love You to a photograph of Clark Gable in Broadway Melody of 1938, and a star was born. Despite imposing personal issues, Garland (nee Frances Ethel Gumm) would capture the hearts of the American public. Her turn as Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz, led to a substantial film career. Two Oscar nominations (A Star Is Born, Judgment At Nuremberg) established a successful film legacy.
However, it was her phenomenal singing that connected with audiences. The visceral, emotive timbre of her voice set this singer apart from her contemporaries. Judy At Carnegie Hall (1961) won four Grammy Awards and has never been out of print. She was capable of interpreting songs in her own style. The idiosyncratic mannerisms and soaring voice were unique.
Judy Garland The London Studio Recordings, 1957-1964 is a comprehensive look at what turned out to be the latter stages of her recording catalogue. Over fifty tracks on two CDs are included in this set. The first disc includes several Garland classics. Her ability to “belt out” numbers can be heard on “Swanee”. Like Al Jolson and Sophie Tucker, she can bring all of the Broadway show flamboyance to bear. Like great interpreters of music, she can reinvent a song. The up temp version of “Come Rain Or Come Shine” with percussive bongo and horns is jazzy and unexpected. “You Go To My Head” awakens from its prior sleepy incarnations and is expressed in a lively, rhythmic, latin mode.  “After You’ve Gone” reflects her considerable vaudeville roots with swagger and halting brakes. She is very capable of fronting an orchestra.
Where Garland transcends popular singing can be found on the ballads. The hushed vocals on “Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe” give way to accents of higher modulation. Her association with composer Harold Arlen is documented on several tunes. “The Man Who Got Away” (also covered in A Star Is Born) is quintessential in its heartfelt urgency and bluesy expression. The take on “Stormy Weather” is as expressive as any other. The ability to shift from jazzy chanteuse to big band vocalist is extraordinary. Like many popular artists, she chooses to perform hits in medley (“You Made Me Love You/For Me And My Gal/ The Trolley Song”), albeit with positive results. But she delivers a moving rendition of “Over The Rainbow”. Perhaps the weariness in her voice adds to the lyrics’ poignancy.
The second disc includes selections from the soundtrack of I Could Go On Singing and the musical, Maggie May. “I Could Go On Singing” is vintage song stylization.
Judy Garland The London Studio Recordings, 1957-1964 is a revelatory glimpse of a singer as a mature artist. The sound quality is excellent, and captures the range of vocal tones. While it contains an accessible compilation of songs, there is superfluous material. There are no less than fourteen tracks of early takes or intro chat. This is excessive, and in present day technology might have been edited to bonus DVD material. The CD book is incisive and provides insights into the sessions. Judy Garland was one of the greatest American singers, and her talent will never fade.
Disc One: It’s Lovely To Be Back In London; Lucky Day; I Can’t Give You Anything But Love; Stormy Weather; Medley (Judy At The Palace/You Go To My Head); Rock-A-Bye Your Baby (With A Dixie Melody); Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe; It’s A Great Day For The Irish; Medley (You Made Me Love You/For Me And My Gal/The Trolley Song); Why Was I Born?; Do It Again; Come Rain Or Come Shine; The Man That Got Away; Chicago; You’ll Never Walk Alone; San Francisco; After You’ve Gone; Swanee; Over The Rainbow
Disc Two: Hello Bluebird; By Myself; It Never Was You; I Could Go On Singing; The Land Of Promises; It’s Yourself; Maggie, Maggie May; There’s Only One Union; Lucky Day; Stormy Weather (take 4); Why Was I Born (take 6); After You’ve Gone (take 3); It’s A Great Day For The Irish (take 2); You’ll Never Walk Alone (take 1); It’s Yourself (intro chat); The Land Of Promises (take 4); Maggie, Maggie May (take 1); Hello Bluebird (take 9); I Could Go On Singing (take 1); It Never Was You (intro); Please Say “Ah”
–Robbie Gerson

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