ARSC Journal review of “Judy Garland: Greatest Hits Live” by Lawrence Schulman

Judy Garland News & Events Note:  For details on the track listing, read the original post about this release here.

Judy Garland: Greatest Hits Live. Savoy Jazz, SVY16073 (1 LP, available in black or lavender-colored vinyl).

Judy Garland - Greatest Hits LIve on LPThe Judy Garland Show was a series of 26 hour-long variety shows that ran on CBS during the 1963/1964 television season. It was Garland’s (1922-1969) last major effort before her untimely death. Although canceled by the network after one season (it was opposite NBC’s Bonanza), the show received largely excellent reviews at the time, albeit without excellent ratings, and its stature has only grown since then. The day after the last episode of the series was broadcast on March 29, 1963, Capitol Records, to which Garland was still contractually bound, was the first to release songs from it on the 1964 LP Just for Openers.

Upon the series’ demise, the masters were “lost” for a number of years, during which Garland’s once husband and manager, Sid Luft, released audio and video based on low-quality dubs. Excerpts from the series were released by Luft on LP in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s based on these dubs; these releases were a result of licensing agreements between him and such labels as Radiant, Telebrity, and Audiofidelity Records. Miraculously “found” by Luft in a New Jersey basement and garage (see: Schulman, Lawrence. ARSC Journal [2000;31(1):129-133], endnote 3), the masters were eventually purchased by Classic World (ibid., endnote 1), which licensed them to Pioneer, which restored the audio and video, and released them integrally on DVD to wide acclaim.

But it was in the CD era that multiple labels began issuing the shows. While Luft was the owner, he came to an agreement with Laserlight Digital to release excerpts from the series. The Luft-backed discs, all of which exploited Garland for a quick buck, were usually quite short on content with limited, if any, audio restoration (see: Schulman, Lawrence. ARSC Journal [1996;27(2):256-258]). They were largely dismissed by most as being sloppy and unworthy of the historic content that was The Judy Garland Show. Through the years, other labels, usually foreign, all minor, entered into licensing agreements with Luft to exploit the series: On the Air, SRI Records, Eclipse Music Group, San Juan Music Group, Déjà Vu, Audio Book & Music Company Limited, etc. Once Classic World, and no longer Luft, was the rightful owner of the series (see: www.wallacecollins.com), more serious labels, such as Newsound2000 and Hip-O, licensed the shows and released excerpts from them with restored audio. Starting in 2005, Savoy Jazz acquired the rights, and to date, it has released eight CDs derived from the Garland show, including a prior one entitled Judy Garland: Greatest Hits Live, which is the longest of the Savoy lot in audio content. The other Savoy CDs have short total times, and the audio restoration on all the Savoy CDs is, at best, spotty.

The 2007 Savoy CD, Judy Garland: Greatest Hits Live, and the 2016 Savoy LP, Judy Garland: Greatest Hits Live, although sharing the same title, are not the same in content. Timing at 79:03, the 24-track CD could not be fit onto an LP. The result is that Savoy deleted a large number of tracks – 17 in all – from the original CD while adding 5 tracks from various other Savoy CDs devoted to the singer. With these imported additions, there are 14 tracks in all on the LP. As Scott Brogan, founder and editor of The Judy Room, The Judy Garland Online Discography, and Judy Garland News and Events, writes: “The additions are obviously an attempt to increase the appeal (sales) of the LP by featuring not just Judy Garland but also Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, and Ethel Merman.”

The LP Judy Garland: Greatest Hits Live is likable enough, even if the songs on it are far from hits in the commercial sense. Garland sings solo on ten tracks and duets with Streisand, Merman, Bennett, and Ray Bolger on the remaining four. Side A opens with “I Feel a Song Comin’ On,” a 1935 song by Jimmy McHugh, Dorothy Fields, and George Oppenheimer that Garland first sang on her 1956 Capitol LP Judy. She opened with the song on her last major American tour in 1967, and it makes a rousing opening to the LP. Track 2, called Judy’s Olio, is a medley of “You Made Me Love You,” “For Me and My Gal,” and “The Trolley Song,” all songs Judy sang during her MGM tenure. The arrangement is signed Roger Edens, who was Judy’s mentor at MGM, and she had been singing it, at first adding “The Boy Next Door,” since the 1950s. Next up is the classic medley of “Get Happy” and “Happy Days Are Here Again” with Barbra Streisand, who at the time was still unknown. The former, written in 1929, was composer Harold Arlen’s and lyricist Ted Koehler’s first big hit. It was revived by Garland in the 1950 MGM film Summer Stock and remained part of her repertoire until the end of her life. The latter, a song written in 1929 by Jack Yellen for the lyrics and Milton Ager for the music, became part of Streisand’s repertoire as soon as she recorded it on the 1963 LP The Barbra Streisand Album, which was her first album for Columbia. Garland got the idea for the duet while listening to the record, and the result was a duet for the annals, often replayed in the decades since. Hugh Martin’s and Ralph Blane’s “The Boy Next Door,” a song Garland was the first to sing in the 1944 MGM film Meet Me in St. Louis, follows. Garland next does “The Man That Got Away,” a song by Ira Gershwin and Harold Arlen, which, again, Garland was the first to sing in Warner Bros.’s 1954 A Star Is Born. Side A concludes with “Smile,” a song whose music was composed in 1936 by Charles Chaplin for the film Modern Times and whose words were written in 1954 by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons. Side B opens with “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” Irving Berlin’s classic written in 1946 for the Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun, here sung by Merman, who sang it first, Streisand, and Garland. The three divas turn the song into another moment of pop music history, and it is often played in retrospectives. Garland next does “Swanee,” a 1919 song written by Irving Caesar (words) and George Gershwin (music), and one she first recorded at Decca Records in 1939. Tony Bennett, whose artistry Garland much admired, is then heard with her in the duet of Bennett’s signature song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” written in 1953 by George Cory and Douglass Cross. The touching Irving Berlin song, “What’ll I Do?” from 1923, is sung by Garland alone, with Mort Lindsey accompanying her on piano. It is a song she never recorded in the studio. Garland first sang Ira and George Gershwin’s 1937 “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” on the radio in 1937 when it was a new song, but also never recorded it in the studio, making this version precious. Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Jule Styne’s “Just in Time” was first introduced by Judy Holiday and Sydney Chaplin in the 1956 Broadway musical Bells Are Ringing, and, in a multi-keyed arrangement signed Mort Lindsey, Garland takes delight in delivering this bombshell of a song, one she sang until her death. In the next track, Ray Bolger, with whom she starred at MGM in the 1939 The Wizard of Oz and the 1946 The Harvey Girls, reunites with the singer on a reprise of the wonderful E.Y. Harburg-Harold Arlen song “If I Only Had a Brain,” which Bolger was the first to sing so many years earlier in The Wizard of Oz. The LP fittingly closes with E.Y. Harburg’s and Harold Arlen’s 1939 “Over the Rainbow,” which Garland taped for her Christmas 1963 broadcast. Although Garland sang the song countless times on the radio in the 1930s and 1940s, on television she only sang it three times: here, and in 1955 and 1968, the latter two of which are far superior to her 1963 interpretation here.

The audiophile 180-gram vinyl mono LP has rich sound, with good bass and treble despite that it was sourced from two-inch videotape masters that are over a half-century old. Still, the audio does not compare to the extraordinary sound – in 5.1 surround to boot – on the Pioneer DVDs of the series issued between 1999 and 2003. My pressing was silent, despite just a few clicks and pops. It is regrettable that no remastering engineer is marked on the LP. The lack of any liner notes, nor mention that it is Mort Lindsey conducting and on piano, are also disappointing. The back of the LP does, however, contain the show number as well as the date of taping and telecast listed below each song title, which is useful information to know. Finally, Savoy uses the same photo of Garland that was on the CD of the same name, and it is great to see this splendid photo blown up to larger-than-CD dimensions.

Insofar as content, the selection of songs is questionable. There are other, more exceptional solo moments from the series than those offered here. Still, the duets are charming and show what a skilled partner in song Garland could be when paired with others. Garland’s voice in 1963 and 1964, although not quite comparable to her 1961 Carnegie Hall voice, is still a thing of wonder, with all the clarity and innocence of younger years, now shaded with maturity.

In the end, though, the Savoy LP is just more recycling of material that has been available for years. So, why now on LP? There can be no other response than that the current resurgence of vinyl has pushed Savoy onto the bandwagon. But does Savoy believe that there are enough LP-focused audiophiles to buy the album? They must. I don’t. The LP adds nothing to the Garland discography and will soon be forgotten. Reviewed by Lawrence Schulman

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ARSC Journal Vol. 47, No. 2,  Fall 2016.  ©Association for Recorded Sound Collections 2016. All rights reserved. Printed in USA. Republished at The Judy Room with permission.

This review was first published in the Fall 2016 issue of the ARSC Journal (Volume 47, No. 2). The paper edition of the ARSC Journal can be purchased at the ARSC Journal page (http://www.arsc-audio.org/journal.html) of the ARSC website (http://www.arsc-audio.org/index.php).

Judy Garland News & Events Note:  For details on the track listing, read the original post about this release here.

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Comments
4 Responses to “ARSC Journal review of “Judy Garland: Greatest Hits Live” by Lawrence Schulman”
  1. Suzanne says:

    Long live Lawrence Schulman who keeps Judy Garland alive for us!

  2. ozianscott says:

    I agree! He’s the only person out there who’s still working hard to get previously unreleased material out there to the fans.

  3. Thanks, Scott, and thanks Suzanne. Might I add that without Scott Brogan’s The Judy Room, many of us would be lost. Here, in the last hours of 2016, may I raise a toast to Scott for all the hard work he has done in establishing his websites as the most authoritative, the most objective, and the most complete in all things Judy Garland.

    LAWRENCE SCHULMAN

  4. ozianscott says:

    Thanks Larry. Same to you. Here’s to a better year. Fingers crossed!

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