on 4 November 2003
This two-CD musical anthology of early Judy Garland film performances is nothing short of an absolute treasure to be loved and adored and, most importantly, played by all fans of Miss Show Business: 46 songs, over two and a half hours of music, restored beautifully in terms of sound quality, packaged with a most impressive and informative booklet. But wait – there's more. Of these 46 tracks recorded between 1936 and 1949, 41 had never been released whatsoever at the time, and the remaining five had never before been released on CD. Many of these are songs that were –gulp- cut from the final print of Judy's early films. Cutting Judy Garland songs from a movie strikes me as anathema if not a sin, but it happened quite frequently in the old M-G-M days. Fortunately for us, most of these "lost" recordings can still be heard and enjoyed right here in this collection. Although I know nothing about music technology, the digital restoration of these songs is almost miraculous; a significant number of them were actually remixed to stereo. Many are, of course, monaural, but given the states of existence of these recordings (all magnetic tape except for the Annie Get Your Gun songs, which existed only in acetate form) the sound quality of every single one of them is superb.
I would dearly love to go through and expound upon every single song in this collection, but that is impossible to do here. The booklet, in addition to offering a nice summary of Judy's career, does an excellent job of describing each and every track and the movie from which it came. It tells you which songs were actually cut from each film and why, providing important details about each movie in turn. The movies from which these songs are taken, I should point out, are Everybody Sing (1936) which was a one-reel short featuring Judy and Edna Mae (soon to be Deanna) Durbin; Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937) in which Judy's crooning over Clark Gable's picture helped her gain prominence; Thoroughbreds Don't Cry (1937), the first film to pair Judy with Mickey Rooney; Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938); Listen, Darling (1938); Andy Hardy Meets Debutante (1940); Little Nellie Kelly (1940); Life Begins For Andy Hardy (1941), a film from which all four of Judy's musical numbers were cut, including the wonderful song Easy to Love available on this CD; Ziegfeld Girl (1941); Presenting Lily Marrs (1943); Thousands Cheer (1943); Till the Clouds Roll By (1946) wherein Judy performed while pregnant with Liza; The Pirate (1948) with Gene Kelly; and Annie Get Your Gun (1949). As any Judy fan knows, Judy's health problems and a number of other factors led to her exit from the Annie Get Your Gun production, but she did not leave before recording the entire score of the film – none of these rare Annie recordings had been available until the release of this very special compilation album.
This two-CD set is not packed full of true classics by any means, as many of the songs from Judy's earliest films - while beautiful and entertaining - are not works of musical art. A few of the tracks will be familiar to fans, songs such as In Between and It Never Rains, But What It Pours from Love Finds Andy Hardy, Alone from Andy Hardy Meets Debutante, and A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow from Little Nelly Kelly, but by and large this album offers you music you have really never heard before. Several tracks, such as Why, Because? From Everybody Sing (and, several years later, Annie Get Your Gun) suffer from the lack of visual context from the film. This is especially true in the case of Voodoo, one of the numbers cut from The Pirate; this song and dance number featuring Judy and Gene Kelly seems highly unusual in and of itself; it would be especially interesting to see the actual film, though, as the first shot was deemed too erotic by Louis B. Mayer. I probably stand at odds with many Judy Garland fans on the subject of Annie Get Your Gun. I am actually pleased that Judy did not make this film because it does not seem to suit her at all. Having said that, it is still a great and thrilling privilege to be able to finally hear the songs Judy recorded for that role that was not to be.
If you are a Judy Garland fan, you simply must own this collection. These are rare tracks you will most likely have never heard before; even if you've seen all of her movies, there are plenty of deleted songs that were simply unavailable for listening before this collection was released. Truly, this is an invaluable treasure trove for Judy Garland fans.