Academic journal article ARSC Journal

Judy Garland: The London Studio Recordings 1957-1964

Academic journal article ARSC Journal

Judy Garland: The London Studio Recordings 1957-1964

Article excerpt

Judy Garland: The London Studio Recordings 1957-1964. First Hand Records FHR12 (2 CDsj www.firsthandrecords.com).

Judy Garland (1922-1969) adored London. It was there that audiences welcomed her after she left Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1951, (1) and there that she died. (2) The four years she did studio recordings in London--1957, 1960, 1962, and 1964--were during her Capitol Records tenure from 1955 to 1965. (3) In London in 1957 to appear at the Dominion Theatre, Garland recorded "It's Lovely to Be Back in London" (4) as a give-away single for those attending opening night. After a bout of hepatitis in late 1959, (5) Garland did a side for the Colpix (6) film Pepe called "The Far Away Part of Town," (7) recorded the LP That's Entertainment? for Capitol, then flew to London where between 2 and 9 August (9) she recorded twenty tracks for Capitol that were intended as a musical biography. Garland returned to London in mid-1962 to do what turned out to be her last film, I Could Go On Singing, for which she recorded several tracks. (10) Finally, her 1964 recordings, her last studio session for the label, consist of four tunes from the Lionel Bart West End musical Maggie May. (11) All done at Abbey Road, these EMI/Capitol recordings are regrouped in First Hand Records' new 2-CD set. These are not, however, all of Garland's London sides. As the title states, all the First Hand tracks are studio dates, thus excluding one track Garland performed live on-camera in I Could Go On Singing, (12) as well as her redubs for the now-infamous Palladium shows from 1964 with daughter Liza Minnelli. (13) Also excluded are several alternates that have been released over the past decade. (14) One alternate was even vetoed by the Garland Estate. (15)

That Judy Garland: The London Studio Recordings 1957-1964 is incomplete does not detract from the fact that it is a splendid and noble accomplishment. The new First Hand set is divided into five sections: the first four correspond to the four times Garland recorded in London, and the fifth section, called "Garland at work in the studio," includes fourteen previously unissued tracks from 1960, 1962 and 1964. It is these previously unissued tracks that make the First Hand set an event. "It's Lovely to Be Back in London," whose words and music were written by Garland's MGM mentor Roger Edens, (16) was her first London studio side, recorded at Abbey Road on October 11, 1957, (17) just days before her 16 October 1957 opening at the Dominion Theatre. (18) Given away free to opening nighters and first officially released on CD in EMI's 1999 Judy Garland--Legends of the 20th Century, (19) the single has here been expertly remastered by First Hand and surpasses all previous releases. (20) No alternates were found.

The year 1960 could be called Judy Garland's most productive year in terms of the number of recordings she did; it could also be could called more or less the end of her recording career, at least insofar as studio dates. (21) Between her Colpix and Capitol sessions in Los Angeles and her EMI ones in London, she laid down a phenomenal thirty-three sides in all that year (22)--something she had never done in her already long career. Robust, at a healthy albeit sturdy weight, and keeping her prescription drug dependency down to a minimum, in 1960 Judy Garland was on fire and her voice a pistol. The London Sessions, as they have come to be called, reflect that vibrant health. A musical memory lane, these sessions also look ahead, for she sang six tunes--"Chicago," "Stormy Weather," (23) "I Happen to Like New York," "Why Was I Born?," "San Francisco," "You Go To My Head"--that she had never previously recorded in the studio. (24) The London Sessions, however, were never released at the time because she had just a few weeks earlier recorded the Capitol LP That's Entertainment!. (25) A few months after recording the London Sessions, Garland began her 1961 tour, including the 23 April 1961 date at Carnegie Hall, which was recorded by Capitol and released on 10 July 1961. …

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