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Friday, 27 June 2014

Judy Garland Week: Favourite Songs

At first I thought this list would be ten songs. But that was too constricting. So I bumped it up to twenty. Then that was too constricting. Even at twenty five I've had to miss out some gems including 'I Got Rhythm', 'Just You, Just Me', 'I Am Loved', 'Carolina in the Morning' and many others. It's astounding when you look at Judy's career how many brilliant renditions of songs she produced. Before anyone starts panicking, that song was included in another list so it won't be here. A few of these I hope you'll never have heard of - I do love introducing people to gorgeous Garland songs.

25. 'Just One of Those Things'

The reason I love this one is that Judy's humour shines though, along with the story that emerges as the song progresses. I can see her performing this if I close my eyes, it's such a quintessential Garland performance, and, listening to it now, I'm chuckling to myself.

24. 'San Francisco'

Once again, it's the humour that gets me here. She practically made this a signature song and it's another one that makes me smile frequently. I particularly love her duet with Liza (when she forgets some of the words) but every version's a delight. It's one of those songs I get the impression she really enjoyed singing. 

23. 'Come Rain or Come Shine'

The arrangement of this is just luscious but, letting the bongos and Judy's voice do the majority of the work at the beginning. When it picks up, it becomes a standard brilliant rendition from Judy and the ending is magnificent.

22. 'Do It Again'

I actually prefer the slower version of this song, the one Judy sings with such yearning. It's such a delicate. The swifter version is good for toe-tapping but the emotion in this one is undeniable. 

21. 'Day In, Day Out'

The orchestration on this is gorgeous, melding perfectly with Judy's voice. It's a delight to listen to, not too heavy but it tells that story that we're all aware of - wanting someone so much that it's all you think of. As with most subjects, Judy sings it best.

20. 'Me and My Shadow'

There aren't words to describe how difficult this song is to listen to. It's Judy at her most potently heartbreaking. The little chuckle at 'we never knock because nobody's there' sums up the song. There's nothing but pain and the loneliness it evokes is palpable.

19. 'On the Sunny Side of the Street'

From loneliness to optimism. I adore the clarity of Judy's voice in this number, along with the message of the song as a whole. The little swing towards the end makes it downright perfect.

18. 'Friendly Star'

Originally in Summer Stock, with or without the context this is a gorgeous song. It's another one of those wishful numbers, of a similar vein to 'Over the Rainbow', that Judy did so brilliantly. 

17. 'Stormy Weather'

I remember thinking how good this song would be if Judy sang it - then I discovered the recording. As good as I thought it would be. If anyone can sing this song with the requisite amount of heart, it's Judy. 

16. 'Get Happy'

I'm sure many will think this deserves a higher ranking and maybe it does but it's tied up with connotations of Judy's split with MGM for me. Throughout Summer Stock she looks reasonably comfortable, the extra weight suiting her because it looked as though she was healthy. Knowing the crash diet she was put on to get her in shape for this number pains me and, despite it being a brilliant song, it's coloured by that.

15. 'Mean to Me'

It's probably Judy's tone throughout this song that makes me love it so much. She's playful and the melody's playful but there's a serious undertone about being led round in circles. How it marries both of these things is still a mystery to me but, with Judy's voice, you can do most things.

14. 'After You've Gone'

Originally from For Me and My Gal, this song more than stands alone and it's gorgeous. 

13. 'But Not For Me'

I think this one is just so wistful yet full of longing. Judy's young, pure voice puts it across wonderfully but it doesn't lose any of its power in later renditions.

12. 'I'm Confessin''

'Stunning' would be too simple a word to describe this one yet it's pretty much the only one I have. If I ever have the need to confess my love in future, I'm just going to play this song and let Judy say it for me. 

11. 'Judy at The Palace Medley'

Listening to Judy's collection of Capitol recordings, this was one of the ones that captivated me. The arrangement by Roger Edens is superb and the songs chosen are beautiful. 'My Man' gives me shivers and it was in this song that I first got my tantalising taste of 'I Don't Care' and I loved it. That the song ends with Judy claiming her place amongst the greats is gorgeous, particularly the lines 'And so with deep humility I stand in front you / I'm proud to play The Palace, it's like a dream come true'. And you really get the feeling it is.

10. 'Love'

I have to say, I disliked this song for a few years. I think I needed time to understand it fully and maybe you only get there with life experience. It's now become one of my favourites, early or later versions. I adore the way Judy's voice slides around, mimicking what she's singing about.

9. 'Do I Love You?'

Another one of those swinging Capitol recordings where voice mingles perfectly with orchestration. The changes in tempo and volume work brilliantly and the ending is exquisite. I can never stop myself conducting along. 

8. 'The Trolley Song'

Made famous by Meet Me in St. Louis, this is another song most identifiable with Judy and it really is one of her best. Energetic and beautiful, it never fails to make me smile.

7. 'It Never Was You'

From Judy last film, I Could Go On Singing, this is a haunting number about wanting real love and realising you haven't got it. Poignant, captivating, even heartbreaking, it is one of the highlights of Judy's career as far as I'm concerned.

6. 'I Concentrate On You'

Yet another of those brilliant Capitol pieces, this one swings and displays Judy's mature voice at its best, sliding around the scales as the song dictates. It's a gorgeous number and she concludes it in a fantastically strong manner - as usual.

5. 'Just in Time'

I believe this version of the song came from a concert recording when Judy had a sore throat or something similar. You can certainly hear that in the first half of the song but When the audience breaks out into applause I always smile. It's like Judy's bursting into life in front of me. And the little discussion with the audience at the end just seals my adoration. Of course her audiences stick with her - she's magical, sore throat or no.

4. 'I've Confessed to the Breeze'

I probably like this song so much because Judy liked it so much. Over the years, I've grown to love it, the gentle lilt of Judy's voice throughout plus the message of loving someone so much and finally telling them is a potent mixture. It's such an undervalued song that the only Judy version on YouTube is as accompaniment to a music video I made myself a few years ago in celebration of Fingersmith. Anybody adverse to lady love probably shouldn't click the video below.

3. 'How Long Has This Been Going On?'

Carnegie Hall. Wow. This is my my joint favourite song to come out of that concert, mainly because Judy's voice puts the emotion across so brilliantly. She tells this story so well that I feel as though I've lived through it every time I listen to the song. 

2. 'If Love Were All'

This Noel Coward song is one of the most beautiful Judy ever performed and is also part of the Carnegie Hall concert. Perhaps I love it so much because she conveys so much wisdom into the rendition but perhaps it's just because of the final lines she delivers so well - 'But I believe that since my life began / The most I've had is just a talent to amuse / Hi-ho, if love were all...' 

1. 'I Could Go On Singing'

A strange number one or the natural choice? Whether intentionally or not, this song characterises Judy's career for me. She gave herself to her audience, singing and singing, giving us hour after hour of beautiful recordings and films. The emotion she piles into her music is found in this one as surely as any other and it's how I chose to remember her vocally. She could go on singing and we can go on listening. That's the kind of legacy she deserves. 

Thank you, Judy. So much.

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