Judy Garland at the Grove

By Fisher, James | ARSC Journal, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Judy Garland at the Grove


Fisher, James, ARSC Journal


Judy Garland at the Grove. DRG 19107.

The first appearance of a Judy Garland recording on Compact Disc is cause for celebration among "Judyphiles," and despite the fact that many of her greatest studio, soundtrack, radio, television, and live concert recordings have long since found their way on to remastered CDs, obscure items have been slower in seeing the light of day. Among these, a few overlooked gems from the 1950s recently surfaced. Thanks to DRG Records, the last of Garland's unreleased Capitol Records albums of the 1950s (following a series of studio albums), Judy Garland at the Grove, a live concert recording, is available for the first time in a complete, digitally remastered disc taken directly from the three-track master tapes of the performance (within the past year, DRG also released Garland's collaboration with Gordon Jenkins on a "concept" album The Letter [7369583], recorded for Capitol Records in 1959 (sometimes titled Our Love Letter, in this case replete with alternate takes and original LP cover art).

This is the complete, unedited concert which, unlike the original LP released in 1958, includes three numbers and complete versions of others truncated on the original LP to fit a single disc. Although the three missing numbers were previously issued as single tracks on Classic Judy Garland--The Capitol Years, 1955-65 (Capitol CDP 7243 5 39281 2 4) in 2002, DRG has put all of the pieces back together to offer listeners Garland's first nightclub act, a fifty-minute solo concert eliminating the supporting cast of male singers/dancers who had accompanied Garland in her stage act. Capitol Records, for whom Garland had already recorded several studio albums, decided that the enthusiastic critical response to Garland's Grove opening merited recording the closing performance live in its entirety on 5 August 1958. This comparatively novel decision was unfortunate only in that Garland's voice was tired after her two-week stint at the Grove.

Otherwise, there is much to relish in Judy Garland at the Grove, beginning with the fact that this was the first commercially-released "live in performance" recording Garland made, paving the way for what is arguably the greatest recording of her career, Judy at Carnegie Hall (available in several variations, including a 24-carat gold set [GZS (2)-1135/1 & 2], a two-disc set [CDP 7 09913 2], and the fortieth anniversary edition [7243527876-2-3]). This Grammy-winning two-record album of a 23 April 1961 Carnegie Hall concert captured her in the best vocal condition of her later-day career. Garland skillfully performs a long and demanding program for an audience whose enthusiastic response reaches almost orgiastic proportions (admiration for this performance is such that Garland's Carnegie Hall program was recently repeated by Rufus Wainwright (and recorded under the title Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall [Geffen Records, B000XMZJX8]), who toured it to many of the U.S. and European venues Garland played in the early 1960s. The comparatively brief Cocoanut Grove show does not by any means equal the titanic Carnegie Hall program, nor does it intend to, for here Garland performs a small scale program in a more intimate setting. It is also worth noting that in 1958 Garland's career was at its lowest ebb--alarmingly overweight and physically exhausted, within a year she was hospitalized with a near-fatal bout with hepatitis. Doctors urged her retirement, but after a few months rest Garland took on a grueling European tour prior to returning to America for a series of some forty concerts culminating at Carnegie Hall and leading to a major career revival in movies (Judgment at Nuremberg, A Child Is Waiting, and I Could Go on Singing), two acclaimed television specials, and a year-long (1963-64) CBS-TV variety series. The cancellation of the series led to mounting financial debts and unfortunate personal woes climaxing in Garland's death from an accidental drug overdose at forty-seven in 1969. …

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