The applause started even before Mort Lindsey lifted his baton to conduct the Overture. By the time Judy Garland took the stage at Carnegie Hall on April 23, 1961 for "When You're Smiling (The Whole World Smiles with You)," it didn't seem too far-fetched that the whole world was smiling, even beyond the corner of New York's 57th Street and 7th Avenue. Such was the power of Judy Garland. Only the greatest of live albums, in any genre, can translate the grip of a performer on his audience. Judy at Carnegie Hall is one that unequivocally can, but what's all the more remarkable is the notion that the electric charge generated on disc by Garland must have been even greater in person.
The United Kingdom's JSP Records has received considerable and deserved acclaim for two recent anthologies of the singer's material, 2010's Judy Garland: Lost Tracks and 2011's Smilin' Through: The Singles Collection 1936-1947. With the original 1961 Capitol LP having fallen out of copyright in the U.K., JSP has now brought that mono album to compact disc for the first time as the slipcased, 2-CD Judy Garland: The Historic Concert Remastered (JSP 4232, 2012), adding another wrinkle to the saga of this seminal recording. John Stedman and Lawrence Schulman have produced this reissue, following their work on those previous sets. Scott Brogan, founder of The Judy Room and webmaster of Liza Minnelli's official website, provides four pages of historical liner notes.
In 1987, Judy at Carnegie Hall made its CD debut in an unfortunately abridged single-disc version (Capitol CCDP 7 46470 2). This disc omitted that famous overture (!), plus "Do It Again," "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "Alone Together." Capitol's next CD issue in 1989 (CDP 7 90014-2) presented the LPs in full on two discs and even added some of Garland's patter as a bonus for the first time. Yet this reissue was hardly definitive; Capitol couldn't locate the concert performance of "Alone Together," and replaced it with the artist's studio version recorded for the That's Entertainment! LP. Capitol was unaware that while tape ran out on one of the two recorders in use during the concert, the song was preserved for posterity on the second recorder's backup tape.
Mastering guru Steve Hoffman of the DCC label located this tape in the EMI vaults, and persuaded Capitol's powers-that-be to allow DCC to release the first-ever complete Judy at Carnegie Hall, from curtain-up to curtain-down, with all of Garland's stories and talk intact, and in the correct sequence. 2000's 24K Gold release (DCC GZS (2) 1135) quickly became a highly sought-after collectible as it featured "every second of this legendary night," according to the mastering engineer. Capitol based its own complete release in 2001 (72435-27876-2-3) on this edition, though reissue producer Paul Atkinson brought in Bob Norberg to remaster the album yet again. Norberg liberally added reverb and other "enhancement" to the more "pure" Hoffman master in an attempt to capture the "hall sound," and that version remains the standard edition available from Capitol. Oddly the label didn't mark the album's 50th anniversary in 2011 despite its place in history: Judy at Carnegie Hall spent 95 weeks on the Billboard chart, 13 of them at the top. At the Grammy Awards, Carnegie Hall reaped five trophies, including Album of the Year (the first by a female artist) and Best Female Vocal Performance.
How essential is JSP's new Judy at Carnegie Hall? Hit the jump!
The chief attraction of JSP's reissue is the preservation of the original album sequence in its punchy and powerful mono mix. Here, as in any edition, the music is - put simply - thrilling. Judy Garland brought a near-unparalleled honesty to her vocals, regardless of the material. So when combined with some of the greatest works of the American songbook, as at Carnegie Hall, the results were even more magnificent. There's an utter lack of artifice in these performances. Garland has been credited with introducing the two-act, solo, one-woman pop concert format, but it's clear that by 1961, she had already perfected it, too.
The two-CD set (26 tracks on two LPs) includes heartbreaking ballads and uptempo, often-swinging displays of "pow!" that Garland's fans expected. The entirety of the emotional spectrum is marshaled by the singer, whether via the high drama of "Alone Together," the smoldering intoxication of "You Go to My Head" or the wistful reflection of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love." That latter song is one of the most potent examples of Garland as a jazz singer. She's attuned to the orchestra, giving the musicians room to breathe even as she reinvents the song. The applause virtually drowns out the orchestra in this original album mix, and the ebullience of Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz's "That's Entertainment!" sounds correct following it. Yet "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" actually followed "That's Entertainment!" as the second song of the concert's second act! JSP's reissue is the first compact disc to replicate the original 2-LP presentation as released in 1961, alterations and all.
Much has been written of Garland's rapport with her audience, and indeed, it so often appears that the performer is speaking directly to her fans: "Who cares? As long as I care for you, and you care for me!" Despite the high level of intensity sustained throughout the concert on such songs as Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin's "The Man That Got Away," humor is very much in evidence, too, especially on a crowd-pleasing "San Francisco." Garland brought a stunning intimacy as well as vulnerability to that beloved Arlen/Gershwin torch song (which she introduced in 1954's A Star is Born), and indeed, her connection with Arlen, the composer of "Over the Rainbow," is prominent throughout the set. A true exponent of the blues and the unrivaled master of the torch song, Arlen has been admired by the likes of Stephen Sondheim and Bob Dylan, and he never found a more sympathetic voice for his compositions than that of Judy Garland. He was in attendance on that April night, surely savoring her swinging "Come Rain or Come Shine" (with its insistent bongos and deeply affecting vocal that gets to the heart of Johnny Mercer's lyric) and impassioned "Stormy Weather," a bravura, theatrical performance on which the singer's voice floats on a bed of strings. The quieter moments register, too, including a hushed reading of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's "You're Nearer" and a sensitive take on Noel Coward's "If Love Were All," on which Garland's voice is joined by piano.
So many songs are greeted with the "recognition applause" with which dedicated concertgoers are familiar. Garland fans long marveled at the changing nature of her performances, taking songs she had mastered as a child and reinventing them with a newfound and altogether different depth. Her mature "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart!" is brash and definitive, and "Over the Rainbow" touchingly rendered. When she invites the audience to sing along to another remnant of her MGM days, "For Me and My Gal," they're clearly all too happy to acquiesce to her request!
The original Judy atCarnegie Hall, as heard here, lacks the charming and funny between-song patter added for the complete, official Capitol and DCC compact disc editions. JSP's The Historic Concert Remastered has been remastered by Peter Rynston at Tall Order, who has been doing fine work of late for the Edsel label. The JSP edition cannot compete with the stunning clarity of the Hoffman remaster, and many modern ears might miss the spatiality of the stereo mix present on both Hoffman and Norberg's editions. The latter is still available from Capitol Records. Rynston has done an accurate and clean job based on the non-master tape sources he had available. With Judy at Carnegie Hall in the U.K. public domain, the floodgates are open, and another release by a competing label has already been scheduled. JSP's edition has been produced by a team with a long association with the music of Judy Garland, and that care and attention to detail in this labor of love does show through.
Near the end of that historic Sunday evening in April 1961, Judy Garland announced, "I'll sing 'em all and we'll stay all night!" She didn't quite stay all night, but if she had chosen to, it's doubtful that a single one of the 3,165 people in attendance would have minded one bit.
You can order The Historic Concert Remastered here!