Review of the recent HD release of Judy Garland’s 1955 LP “Miss Show Business”

This review first appeared in the Journal of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections, 2015;46(2):364-366, and is reprinted with the permission of the author, Lawrence Schulman, and the publisher of the ARSC Journal.  For information about ARSC, see www.ARSC-audio.org.

You can check out all versions of Miss Show Business at The Judy Garland Online Discography’s Miss Show Business pages.

Purchase this HD Tracks version here.

Judy Garland - Miss Show Business - Capitol Records

Judy Garland: Miss Show Business. Capitol Records, released in downloadable AIFF, ALAC, FLAC, WAV 192 kHz/24-bit and 96 kHz/24-bit high-resolution audio formats.

Mastered by Robert Vosgien, Senior Mastering Engineer at Capitol Studios, and released on 7 August 2015, Miss Show Business is the first LP by Judy Garland (1922-1969) to be made available in downloadable high resolution, without any hard copy. Having signed a five-year contract with Capitol Records in August 1955, Garland’s sessions at the Capitol Tower in Los Angeles for her first LP ever and debut album on Capitol took place on 25, 29, and 30 August and 1 September 1955. The dates were in preparation for her imminent CBS television special, The Ford Star Jubilee, which was her first prime-time outing aired live on 24 September 1955. Miss Show Business (Capitol Records W-676) was issued on 26 September 1955, thus making the LP immediately available for purchase after the telecast. Like the TV broadcast, the LP was intended to be a look-back on Garland’s MGM years and early 1950s stage appearances, as well as a celebration of the birth of her son, Joseph Wiley Luft, on 29 March 1955. In October, Variety reviewed the album as such: “Even if this album weren’t tied in with the recent Judy Garland CBS-TV special, it would be a socko item. Thrush is in top voice on this set, and shows a maturity and song selling savvy that makes her one of the standout belters in the business today. Capitol has taken a lot for granted with that Miss Show Business tag, but after hearing her belt those medleys of standards, you can’t help but go along with it.” The album peaked at #5 on Billboard’s Best Selling Pop Albums chart and was in the Top 40 for seven weeks. The LP was subsequently released in Argentina in 1955, in Australia in 1963, again in 1982, and on CD in 1989 and again in 2002; excerpts from it were also released on various compilations in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2007, and 2014. The 1989 CD (Capitol #CDP 7-92344-2), mastered by Bob Norberg, was harsh-sounding and decidedly low-res with very little bass response or upper frequency response for that matter; the far more dynamic 2002 CD (Collectables/EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets COL-CD-2846/72435-37897-2-5) on a “two-fer” along with the 1956 Judy, listed no mastering credits and contained a small tape glitch at the end of the Palace medley (at 6:03-04). Then in the 2007 3-CD compilation The Very Best of Judy Garland (EMI Records Limited [EMI Gold]) 0946-3-79219-2-0), seven Miss Show Business tracks were splendidly mastered, without tape glitch, by Dave McEowen.Judy Garland - Ford Star Jubilee - Miss Show Business

The year 2015 marks the sixtieth anniversary of Miss Show Business. At 39 minutes 12 seconds, the mono album contains ten tracks – “This Is the Time Of The Evening”/“While We’re Young,” Medley: “You Made Me Love You”/“For Me and My Gal”/“The Boy Next Door”/“The Trolley Song,” “A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow,” “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody,” “Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe,” Medley: “Judy at the Palace”/“Shine On Harvest Moon”/“Some of These Days”/“My Man”/“I Don’t Care,” “Carolina in the Morning,” “Danny Boy ,” “After You’ve Gone,” and “Over The Rainbow,” although, according to studio records, an eleventh track, “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe,” was recorded by Garland on 30 August 1955 (matrix #14366) but has never surfaced to date. The chorus and orchestra on the album were conducted by Jack Cathcart, Garland’s brother-in-law, arrangements were by Harold Mooney, and special material was provided by Roger Edens. The LP’s producer was Douglas Laurence; the recording engineer is unknown.

Despite its commercial success, the album is far from her best. Compared to her 1953/1954 A Star Is Born sessions, she is not in particularly good voice. Her vibrato is tense and timing off. Instead of offering fresh material, the disc is nostalgic to the extreme. Her schmaltzy rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” the final number on the album wherein she fakes tears in much the same way she faked crying on stage when she performed it live, overdoes the emotion in much the same way that silent film stars overplayed in order to wrench every emotion out of their acting. After Garland was fired from M-G-M in 1950, she rebooted her career on the concert stage in the early 1950s, then did the 1954 A Star Is Born to universal praise (albeit without an Oscar win). Founded in 1942 by Johnny Mercer, with whom she had had an affair in the early 1940s, Capitol was a perfect fit for Garland to enter the era of long-playing 33 RPM records. At the label, she was in good company: Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat “King” Cole, Sammy Davis Jr., June Christy, Dick Haymes, Kay Starr, among others. Instead of renewing her repertoire, Garland chose to offer a souvenir of her past successes on the album, thus giving her a retro aura from the very start of her Capitol tenure (1955-1965). She would indeed expand her repertoire in later albums, but on this all-important first one she bathes in pathos and remembrance. Sixty years on, the disc sounds strident and sentimental. The best was yet to come for Garland, but you could not tell it from this inauspicious album.

ProStudioMasters’ website (ProStudioMasters.com), which sells the 2.52 GB download, states that “This title is a high-resolution digital transfer of material originating from an analogue recording. It may be limited in bandwidth and dynamic range by the technology available at the time of its original creation, and is offered as a high-quality documentation of a historical release.” That being said, Robert Vosgien’s 2015 mastering of Miss Show Business surpasses all previous ones. Hearing it is like hearing this album for the first time. With rich bass, sparkling treble, and in surround sound to boot, the album becomes a musical soundscape into which one can immerse oneself. There is great presence to the choruses and great intimacy to Garland’s voice. The up-tempo numbers come alive in this mastering and the ballads attain a sublime intensity never before heard. Despite the fact that some tape hiss can be heard, which is a necessary evil in order not to overuse noise reduction software, the new Vosgien mastering of this sixty-year-old master tape confounds the listener by its subtle audacity, wherein, as he has stated, “less is more.” Audio restoration has made leaps and bounds since this CD was first released in 1989, and this download is a prime example of the art of great mastering.

HDtracks.com was the first online website to sell the download for $24.98, and ProStudioMasters.com and other sites followed suit. Just why this particular Garland Capitol album was chosen to issue in downloadable high resolution is a mystery. Maybe because it was her first. Who knows? There are far greater Garland Capitol albums that deserved the distinction. That Capitol, now owned by Universal Music Group, decided to release this album in high resolution is a hopeful sign that other Capitol sessions by Garland will see the same fate. Such talents as Nat “King” Cole, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Mel Tormé, Tony Bennett, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Anita O’Day, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Harry Belafonte, Elvis Presley, and Patsy Cline have by 2015 long been remastered onto hard-disc high-res, and Garland’s absence from this list is appalling. The good news is that Capitol has announced the release of Miss Show Business, Judy at Carnegie Hall, and Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli “Live” at the London Palladium on audiophile vinyl for 2 October 2015, and for this the label should be congratulated. Whether or not releasing Miss Show Business without any hard copy will be beneficial to sales will have to be seen. The audiophile market, however niche, is alive, well and expanding despite the demise of the CD, and would surely have purchased Miss Show Business on SACD or Blu-ray audio disc with pleasure and much anticipation. That music lovers will have to transfer downloaded audiophile files to a USB drive, or use Squeezebox or Sonos, in order to listen to a recording on high-end equipment is an annoyance not to be neglected. Moreover, those who seek to transfer the files to DVD-R will be blocked: they are copy-protected. The Miss Show Business download also contains no liner notes, which is another drawback for potential purchasers. In a changing market, more and more classical and pop labels and high-res websites are choosing this means of release as a way of avoiding the expense of material release, but one must question whether this immateriality is permanent. In a world of downloaded music, books, films, and television, many lovers of the arts, for whom art is not immaterial, still like to touch, to collect, to admire. They are not elitists or dinosaurs, but the future of culture, which still requires a real painting on a real wall to look at really.

This collector, who owns Garland’s first 1936 78 RPM Decca single, “Stompin’ at the Savoy”/“Swing Mr. Charlie,” will now label his lonely 2015 Miss Show Business thumb drive, and put it on its shelf.  I hope it survives. Reviewed by Lawrence Schulman

You can check out all versions of Miss Show Business at The Judy Garland Online Discography’s Miss Show Business pages.

Purchase this HD Tracks version here.

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Comments
5 Responses to “Review of the recent HD release of Judy Garland’s 1955 LP “Miss Show Business””
  1. Carolina Mornin' says:

    The complete digital download album is currently $17.99 at ProStudioMasters.com —

    http://www.prostudiomasters.com/search?q=judy+garland#x

    They also offer Barry Manilow’s wonderful “My Dream Duets” … as well as Doofus at Carnegie Hall (sadly, you can’t download individual tracks — as Lorna’s duet is the only number I’d want from the latter).

  2. Carolina Mornin' says:

    Note: the ProStudioMasters download is FLAC formatted and NOT iTunes-compatible.

  3. Carolina Mornin' says:

    Scratch that. It’s available in all formats via ProStudioMasters — in multiple formats/bit rates and at varying price points. Apologies for the confusion — and the multiple posts!

  4. Randy Metro says:

    Thumb drives, PC hard drives, & external hard drives have ALL, at one time or another, failed me.

    After losing 250 GB of music through my own fault of not having multiple, unmanageable digital back-ups, I now back up to CDR or DVD. For many years, I always made a CDR copy of my music for my car (until I retired from the workforce). One day my parked car was caught in a flash flood that went up over the seats! The car, a Nissan, survived for another 5 years after the flood. All of those CDRs were hand washed, dried, and played fine until I also retired them when my daily commutes ended.

    Great review of Miss Show Business. Now, let’s find the unreleased/lost “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.”

  5. ozianscott says:

    I would love it if someone found “On The Atchison” – that’s one of the “holy grails” of lost Garland recordings.

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