This month's Album Of The Month is Jonathan Summers exquisitely crafted
JUDY GARLAND THE LONDON STUDIO RECORDINGS 1957-1964
Above is Jaycub Howard's charming video created for the album's Please Say Ah track.
Below is my original review of the album, it explains exactly why this recording deserves to be AOTM.
Mea Culpa. I owe Judy Garland, and Jonathan Summers, an apology, a big one.
When I first heard that Summers was producing a double CD set of Garland's Abbey Road recordings I thought it was a great and long overdue idea, and my first question was "Will it have any outtakes?"
Hearing the answer that there would be over a dozen never before heard tracks included in the set was enough to send this Garland afficianado over the moon. I was satisfied and didn’t give much additional thought to the other (already released) tracks, which in my mind had already been regulated to being “filler” material.
Well, as it turns out I was being shortsighted because now that I have heard this wondrous set in it’s entirety I find myself just as thrilled by the previously released material as I am by the tracks that are making their public debut. The remixed, refreshed, and remarkable sound on these discs is nothing short of miraculous.
Ian Jones, who is responsible for the editing and remastering of the tracks, has managed to make Judy sound vibrant, current, and present. From the opening track of Roger Eden’s It’s So Lovely To Be Back Again In London to the final track of the recently discovered Please Say “Ah” the clarity of the sound and the immediacy of Garland’s performances make this very special album sound like it was recorded yesterday using state of the art equipment.
Additional kudos go to Peter Mew for his brilliant remixing of the I Could Go On Singing and Maggie May sessions. Again, these recordings, and Judy’s performances on them, have never sounded better.
Almost all of the major Garland standards are included on the two discs, the obligatory Over The Rainbow, The Man That Got Away, Rockabye Your Baby, Stormy Weather, Swanee, By Myself, I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, and lesser known material like There’s Only One Union and It’s Yourself. Also included are a few false starts and studio chatter that give insight to Garland the musician who is seeking perfection, as well as some general silliness such as when Judy outs one of her pot smoking musicians “I make tea, Dougie smokes it!”
The outtake material is fascinating in that you can hear how Garland approached songs differently everytime she sang them, sometimes even rewriting the arrangements on the spot! You will hear different tempos, different note choices, and different intonation on various takes of the same song. For example, the four songs from Lionel Bart’s Maggie May change drastically from take to take. Some versions have different endings, some have sections that are slow in one take and fast in another, but the common denominator is they are all great fun to listen to.
Unlike her daughter, Liza Minnelli, who admits that she needs to find a character to play while singing a song, Judy Garland sings straight from the heart and without artifice. The listener can hear Judy's own unique joys and sorrows in each and every song. Sometimes the power and the glory of the Garland voice is overwhelming, sometimes her quiet vulnerability is heartbreaking. But whether she is belting or crooning, in great voice or weak voice, she always sounds sincere. And much like the great Billie Holiday, Judy makes lesser material better and better material great. And again, like Holiday, she uses the occasional vocal deficiency to make her performances that much more compelling.
Probably the most anticipated track on the album, Please Say “Ah” is a bit of fun fluff that was written for Judy and Dirk Bogarde to sing in Garland’s last film, I Could Go On Singing. Garland sings it here with the film’s musical supervisor, Saul Chaplin, and despite the charming nature of the song it is easy to see why it wasn’t used for the final film, which was more of a drama with concert sequences as opposed to a light, legitimate musical (which this song who have been perfect for).
First Hand Records deserves praise not just for taking the chance on releasing this material, but for doing it with such aplomb. The CD’s are packaged exquistiely and obvious care was taken every step of the way in regards to design and execution. Even the paper the photos and liner notes is printed on is of a better quality than one usually sees in mass produced compact discs.
First Hand not only shows their respect for Judy, but for the consumer as well. Thank you.
The brilliant liner notes by the set’s producer, Jonathan Summers, offers not only an overview of Judy’s time in, and relationship with, London, but helpful and informative notes are included for each and every track. And if that isn’t enough, the Judy Garland fan community’s favorite son, Emmy award wiinning author and producer, John Fricke, wraps things up with an essay that gives us even more insight into the recordings, including some “you are there” type commentary on the actual events as well as descriptions of Garland's demeanor and condition at the recording sessions.
And in his usual succint way Fricke ends on an up and perfect note “ You can’t get better than that’ And that’s the story of Judy Garland in seven words. You can’t get better than that”
And that is the story of Judy Garland The London Studio Recordings 1957-1964, you can’t get better than this.
Also available from First Hand Records:
Judy Garland The London Studio Recordings 1957-1964 is available for purchase at: