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A Star Is Born

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Album Review

The 1954 remake of A Star Is Born, starring Judy Garland, marked a major cinematic comeback for the actress, her first film since being dropped by MGM in 1950 and a major box-office hit that earned her an Academy Award nomination. The soundtrack album, which, its initial release, consisted solely of Garland vocal performances (two of them, "Here's What I'm Here For" and "Lose That Long Face," cut from the film shortly after it opened), marked another kind of comeback for her. As with her film career, it was her first recording since 1950's Summer Stock soundtrack to achieve commercial success; it peaked at number four on Billboard's LP chart and never went out of print over the next 50 years, with an expanded version released in 1988 and this even longer one in 2004. In its original version, it consisted of seven tracks, six of them written by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin. Five of those are good tunes, but one, the Oscar-nominated torch song "The Man That Got Away," became a standard and a signature song for Garland. The other highlight of the album is the 15-minute "Born in a Trunk" medley, a virtual musical autobiography that seems to refer as much to Garland herself as to the character she plays in the movie. Leonard Gershe and an uncredited Roger Edens (Garland's longtime associate who had written much special material for her in the past and could not be named because he was still under contract at MGM) assembled it and wrote connective material, resulting in a tour de force. The 1988 reissue added an "Overture" and sound effects, and it was the first version released in true stereo. For this 50-year anniversary release, the reissue producers have gone back to the drawing board, adding more than 35 minutes of material, largely consisting of instrumental tracks in which musical director Ray Heindorf (who earned an Oscar nomination for his trouble), probably with the help of orchestrator Skip Martin (who goes unmentioned in the album credits) used the Arlen melodies to create background music for the film. There are also alternate takes, outtakes, and a longer edit of "The Man That Got Away" (with an instrumental introduction) to pad things out to a CD-filling 78 minutes. It's really more than anyone but film buffs would want, but that's what's come to be expected in the later CD era. What would have been revelatory, but apparently do not exist, are takes of the Arlen/Gershwin songs "I'm off the Downbeat" and "Green Light Ahead," written for the film, but not used and, presumably, never recorded.


Genre: Classics

Singer/actress Judy Garland had a varied career that began in vaudeville and extended into movies, records, radio, television, and personal appearances. She is best remembered as the big-voiced star of a series of movie musicals, particularly The Wizard of Oz, in which she sang her signature song, "Over the Rainbow." But unlike most other film stars of her era, she also maintained a career as a recording artist, and after her movie-making days were largely over, she was able to transfer her stardom...
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A Star Is Born, Judy Garland
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