Sunday, May 07, 2023


Kat: I happen to like New York.

Well . . .

I don't.  California born and bred.  But when Judy Garland sings Cole Porter's "I Happen To Like New York" on THE GARLAND TOUCH, I'm at least interested in it.  Bobby Short did the definitive version of the song.  Or so I thought for years before hearing Judy's version.


"Comes Once In My Lifetime" is a nice revelation of Judy just joyfully going along with the music.  Upbeat songs and Garland?  We expect that when she's singing in a film.  The soundtrack will contain a plaintive song or two [see SUMMER STOCK which features "If You Feel Like Singing Sing" and "(Howdy Neighbor) Happy Harvest" early on] but it will also include (usually early on) an upbeat number that reminds you she wasn't just America's finest torch song singer, she was also something big on the upbeat (not just the downbeat) of jazz singing.  

But she was the finest torch singer.  She was.  Not even Frank Sinatra came close, not even during his brilliant recordings of the fifties.  And she drives that home with "Judy At The Palace Medley" -- a studio recording which opens with the special material written by Roger Edens for her 1951 engagement at The Palace in Manhattan -- her Tony award winning engagement, a twice-a-day performance that went for 19 weeks:

I played the state,
The capital,
And people said
Don't stop,
Until you play the Palace,
You haven't played the top.
For years I had it preached to me,
And drummed into my head,
Until you play the Palace,
You might as well be dead.
A team of hoofers was the headline,
At the Majestic, down in Dallas.
But they canceled the day,
Their agent called to say,
You can open the bill at the Palace.
So, it became the Hall of Fame,
The Mecca of the trade.
When you had played the Palace,
You knew that you were made.
So, I hope you understand my wondrous thrill,
'cause Vaudevilles back as the Palace,
And I'm on the bill.

After that original material, the medley features "Shine On Harvest Moon," "Some Of These Days," "My Man" and "I Don't Care."  And she's amazing.  

Even more so on "Sweet Danger" as she brings to life "There is danger in my loving you."  And is rude to point out that she gives so much love, tenderness and humanity to Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg's "Happiness Is Just A Thing Called Joe" because she's clearing thing of her former lover -- as opposed to a more recent recording which found an actress-singer stumping for Joe Biden and delivering her worst vocals since BITTERSWEET WHITE LIGHT?  

Sorry, Cher, but on that album -- the worst of your career artistically -- you covered 11 songs, nine of which were  performed by Judy Garland and it was wretched.  For those who don't remember, before Cher made that album, she'd been in America's homes every week doing these and similar torch songs on THE SONNY & CHER SHOW and doing them in amazing voice and selling them.  What happened on BITTERSWEET WHITE LIGHT?  (My guess is Sonny's poor production which found Cher off-key at times and buried in gunk at others.)  

"More Than You Know" is one of those songs Cher failed with on that album.  (Again, she did it fine on TV -- click here for one example.)  And Judy does it wonderfully here.  Here?

Here and there.  But, sorry Beatles fans, no everywhere.

I recommend THE GARLAND TOUCH.  I praise much of it.  But this studio album released in 1962 by CAPTIOL isn't all new material.  This version of "More Than You Know" was already available on 1958's JUDY IN LOVE -- this same version.  Same with "Do I Love You."  Both are here and both were there.

This is a good time to bring in Buffy Sainte Marie.  We were talking about 2017's MEDICINE SONGS in the roundtable for the gina & krista round-robin.  And I got e-mails Friday and Saturday about that:   How much did I pay?  Used copies are outrageous.  And there are no new copies.  

Yes, there are new copies.  I bought a new copy.  I've told you before that when AMAZON is sold out and TOWER is sold out and everyone is sold out, I gave up.  And whined later to C.I. who said, "Kat, I'm sure it's not sold out at WALMART."  And it wasn't.  (That's also how I got my Nick Jonas' vinyl copies but, warning, they're out of Nick Jonas now.  When I mentioned that last time, everyone snapped them up, I guess.)

But why I want to bring in MEDICINE SONGS is because it's Buffy's most recent studio album.  And she did something she's been doing on other albums.  She does new songs and she does her old songs.  These aren't the same recordings -- the way the two on THE GARLAND TOUCH are.  No, these are new recordings.  And my point here is, by re-recording them, she gives them new life.  She reminds us of these songs -- Buffy's not a radio star (see LBJ and Nixon for how they banned her).  But more than reminding us of these earlier songs (like "Little Wheel Spin and Spin" and "Universal Soldier"), she also makes the new songs like "The War Racket"  and "You've Got To Run (Spirit of the Wind)" more powerful because the ones she includes touch on the same themes as her newer material like "No No Kenshagesh" (which first appeared on 2008's RUNNING FOR THE DRUM).

The reason I bring that up is Carole King.  While Buffy is celebrating her work, Carole's degraded her own for nearly 20 years now -- and, no, I just don't mean the way she 'sweetened' (destroyed) "Sweet Seasons" to serve politicians -- as opposed to serving the song or the people who loved that song.  As a performer, she's had 20 songs make the top forty in the US on the pop or adult contemporary charts (or, in most cases, make both the pop and the ac charts).  Only four of those were from TAPESTRY but, over and over, on new live albums and live albums newly issued from the vaults, she has emphasized TAPESTRY at the expense of her other 16 hits.  She'll include songs that she wrote for others but didn't record herself but she'll ignore, for example, "Only Love Is Real" to the point that most people no longer know it exists and it's one of her finest songs.  I've written about this several times before.  Didn't plan to write about it again.

But at the end of this month, or maybe right now, she will have, or does have, a new album.  Why the confusion?  Supposedly it was released April 26th but anywhere you go order it tells you it will be out on May 26th.  It will be a double disc vinyl release entitled HOME AGAIN and it's a recording of her Central Park concert from May 26, 1973.  

Only seven tracks are songs from TAPESTRY -- one song, "You've Got A Friend," shows Carole's awful judgment by appearing twice and sadly this is no the first of her live albums to feature two performances of "You've Got A Friend."  One time in a concert, I'll enjoy it.  Second time, I'm picking apart all of its faults.  Seven tracks is a lot -- and, please note, the seven do not include "I Feel The Earth Move" (a song Carole always needs to include to ensure the audience isn't falling asleep -- as a solo artist, she didn't do a lot of fast songs) or "So Far Away";  however, there are 25 tracks so she's only going to the stagnant well for about 1/3 of the album.   Or so I thought.  Apparently, AMAZON has the tracks wrong.  I'm going to assume that Carole King's own online store has them right -- in which case "You've Got A Friend" only appears once.  And there are only 18 tracks -- five of which are from TAPESTRY.

Because she's promoting 1973's FANTASY, you get the hits from that album "Corazon" and "Believe In Humanity."  You also get her non-FANTASY hits "Sweet Seasons" and "Been To Canaan."  The rest of the album is all the tracks from FANTASY.  Yes, boys and girls, in the 70s some artists felt the need to perform the full album when they went out on tour to plug a new release.

2019's LIVE AT MONTREUX 1973 is from the same Carole King tour but, obviously, not the same concert.  On that release, she has seven songs from TAPESTRY (including "I Feel The Earth Move") and 12 from FANTASY.

FANTASY is not my favorite Carole album by any means.  (After TAPESTRY, it's WRITER, THOROUGHBRED, TIME GONE BY, WELCOME HOME, CITY STREETS, SPEEDING TIME, COLOUR OF YOUR DREAMS, RHYMES & REASON, WRAP AROUND JOY, ONE TO ONE and PEARLS -- and any album that didn't make the list is one I don't like.)  But thank goodness, Carole's latest blast from the past will include something other than TAPESTRY, TAPESTRY, and more TAPESTRY.  She's reduced a career of over sixty years into one album in the minds of most people and that's because she keeps going to the TAPESTRY well over and over.  On 2017's LIVE AT THE TROUBADOUR, for example, every song she sang was from TAPESTRY with the exception of "Up On The Roof" (the old Drifters' hit). 2017's BEST OF LIVE IN LONDON 1975 also contained only TAPESTRY songs plus "Up On The Roof."  2017 also saw the release of CAROLE KING LIVE! THE LIVING ROOM TOUR ESSENTIALS ONE WAY -- a twelve track live album -- twelve tracks and six were from TAPESTRY.  Please note, this is a cheapo best of from her 2005 live album THE LIVING ROOM TOUR -- that was a double album with 8 tracks featuring TAPESTRY songs but with 21 tracks in all.  Time and again, Carole keeps putting out TAPESTRY and that's all she's going to be known for as a singer because she does nothing to promote her other work.  Again, only four of the 20 hits she had as a singer are from TAPESTRY.   Do we need to note 2013's live album IN INTIMATE PERFORMANCE which finds Carole performing six tracks from TAPESTRY and one non-TAPESTRY track (you know it, come on, say it with me, "Up On The Roof").  Strangely enough, when TAPESTRY was new and an actual hit, Carole King performed at Carnegie Hall -- in 1993, the concert was released as THE CARNEGIE HALL CONCERT: JUNE 18, 1971.   Back then, she performed 19 songs.  She was promoting TAPESTRY, her newest album, but she still managed to perform 9 songs that weren't on TAPESTRY.

I fear that, in fifty or so years, someone will have to do for Carole what I've tried to do for Judy Garland in the last years.  The point of this review is the same as the previous reviews I've done of Judy's studio albums on CAPITOL:  - "Kat's Korner: JUDY IN LOVE -- an artistic masterpiece,"  "Kat's Korner: Give Judy her due," "Kat's Korner: Judy does JUDY" and  "Kat's Korner: Judy's good -- but not great -- album."  What's that?  Note the artist.

Judy was a wonderful actress and I'd rank her as one of the ten best film actresses (and ten best film stars) of the 20th century.  Her movies are always on: THE WIZARD OF OZ, A STAR IS BORN, SUMMER STOCK, THE CLOCK, JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG, FOR ME AND MY GAL, EASTER PARADE, IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME, MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, THE PIRATE, A CHILD IS WAITING, I COULD GO ON SINGING, BABES IN ARMS, LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY, PRESENTING LILY MARS . . . On and on. So we are reminded of her incredible contributions to film.

But I grew up with a grandmother who loved music.  And when our grandparents moved in with us and I was a young girl, I heard all the greats but she loved great singing.  So she'd play Frank Sinatra and she'd play Billie Holiday and she'd play Dinah Washington and she'd play Judy Garland and she'd . . .

Stop.  Because of what she played, I assumed Judy's singing was as applauded online as Frank Sinatra's was.  I made an ass out of myself.  The online world is not a fair and equal world.  Check out reviews of any female led TV show or film and you'll see just how much sexism exists.  (A film or TV show that's female led can be criticized without it being sexism.  GHOSTBUSTERS deserved the criticism and deserved criticism that many failed to note: The sexless lives of four adult women.  The original GHOSTBUSTER didn't shy from dating or sex.  But when you've got four women apparently everyone of them selected Doris Day as their role model.)  THE JUDY ROOM is one of the few sites that notes Judy's music albums.  

Again, she's up there with Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday.  She's one of her finest torch singers -- and was actually far better than Frank.  Frank had a greater range but Judy had greater skill.  Check out "Why Was I Born?" on THE GARLAND TOUCH before you try to argue with me on that.  

So what I've tried to do with these reviews is give a starting point for a discussion of Judy's vinyl output.  Her musical artistry and accomplishments need to be celebrated but I can find several websites for every minor male talent while Judy is largely ignored and forgotten.  She was an album artist and she became that in her years with CAPITOL.  It's not her fault that the format didn't exist when she started recording.  Then it was 78s and abridged film soundtracks.  The album as an art form was developed by Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole and Doris Day and others -- and those others include Judy Garland.  

I grew up loving Judy and think I read my first biography about her when Christopher Finch's RAINBOW: THE STORMY LIFE OF JUDY GARLAND came out in paperback.  It was when the NBC movie based on it was airing so that must have been 1978. See "Judy Garland (the biographies)" and "HEARTBREAKER: TWO MONTHS WITH JUDY" for my reviews of books about Judy.  And the Judy bios cover Judy the actress.  They usually cover Judy the concert performer as well.  But search in vain for the ones that cover Judy the singer.  Search for the anecdotes about when she recorded this album or that album and grasp that there really aren't any in these books.  

So we've got print letting her down and we've got the online world letting her down.

So I'm not just complaining and whining, I'm trying to do my part to make a difference here.  There are two more studio albums (CAPITOL is where she did her studio albums) to review.  I may review her live albums after that. THE GARLAND TOUCH?  I'd give it a B+ for Judy.  I could do without two songs on the album being two songs -- two recordings -- already on a previous album.  THE GARLAND TOUCH is not Judy's best studio album as a result.  But a B+ Judy album is still far better than an A+  album by Mel Torme (if there were such a beast) or any other jazz 'stylist' that really wasn't much of a singer when it came to actually making an audience feel something.