Complete details from audio engineer Richard Moore (as originaly published on the Mint Audio website):
Judy Garland’s career in film musicals began in the era of direct to disc on set recording and continued right through to multitrack tape recordings spanning all technologies in between. Her soundtrack recordings have been issued over the years on everything from 78 rpm disc to CD and the quality of these recordings has always been restricted by the technology available at the time of release. Recent advances in technology have allowed the material on this set to be restored to a higher quality than previously possible. The biggest advance has been the use of spectral editing software which allows the engineer to look at “pictures” of the audio information and paint out imperfections repair dropouts, clicks, thumps etc. accurately without harming the surrounding sound information. This set is the result of more than a hundred hours painstaking work, and all tracks – even those from tape – have been through this process, so I won’t bore the reader by mentioning it every time.
The below information will give you a flavour of what was done to achieve what we believe to be the best sounding collection of Judy Garland’s original soundtrack recordings yet released and the versions / original sources used to create the remasters. One thing that I tend to avoid using, due to the harm it can do to the sound (unless completely unavoidable), is hiss reduction. A bit of hiss does no harm as long as it’s not excessive.
Many thanks must go to Lawrence Schulman and Scott Brogan whose advice and expertise on the correct versions and cleanest sources for this material has been invaluable.
1. Blue Butterfly
From the film “A Holiday in Storyland” Recorded in November 1929 direct to disc live on set. Vitaphone recordings were 16 inch, 33 & 1/3 rpm discs that would be synchronized to the film via a turntable linked to the motor of the projector. In this case, all that survives of this film is a set of Vitaphone discs. These discs received a lot of play using steel needles, so after nearly 90 years they were never going to sound incredible and being on set recordings they could never match studio recordings. The new remasters have been able to remove more of the thumps, clicks and surface noise not previously removable. Whilst the recording doesn’t have much information above 8 kHz attempts have been made to improve clarity. More information in the Vitaphone process can be found here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitaphone
2. It’s Love I’m After
Recorded in the summer of 1936 for the film “Pigskin Parade”. By now recordings had moved from disc to optical recording onto film allowing better synchronization with the picture. This system had other advantages too. Firstly, it didn’t wear out like discs and secondly, songs could be pre-recorded in a recording studio and lypsynced on set which made life easier for everybody. The version chosen for this release comes from the pre-recording and has a higher fidelity than that of the film soundtrack. Optical recordings still suffered from noise, scratches on the film created pops, clicks and thumps. With this recording (and all other optical recordings featured on the set) all of these imperfections have been reduced and the clarity improved, although it should be noted that most optical recordings have very little frequency response above 10 kHz.
3. Everybody Sing
By 1937, when the pre-recordings for “Broadway Melody of 1938” were made, engineers had begun to edit the recordings in the same way that pictures could be edited by splicing the optical film recording. This recording, as originally recorded, had an extra section that was edited out prior to filming but still exists on the pre-recording. For this issue, we have used the original edit as featured in the final film. The surviving pre-recording for the first half of the song suffers from excessive wow and flutter. This is probably due to shrinkage in the original film element. For this release, it was decided to use a hybrid of the original soundtrack and the pre-recording. The sound of both versions has been carefully matched and hopefully, you won’t be able to spot the join!
4. (Dear Mr. Gable) You Made Me Love You
Another hybrid taking the best sections from both the film and pre-recording to create the cleanest possible version
5. Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen
This is an out-take from “Love Finds Andy Hardy” and is the take originally issued for the first time by MGM records back in 1962.
6. In Between
Technology had moved on once more by 1938 and pre-recordings were now regularly made using multiple channels or “stems”. These were multiple optical film recorders using sprocketed film that could be synchronized. These usually consisted of at least 2 tracks of the orchestra and one or more stems for vocals. These were created to allow more control over the balance of the recording. The stems for In Between do survive and a stereo mix has been made, but there is an enormous amount of pre-echo (where you can hear the sound faintly before you should do) is heard on the vocal stem, which may have been due to the copying of the film element to tape, but in this instance it is at a level I’ve never come across on even the worst cases of what is known on tape as “print through” so perhaps something happened to the original optical stem. Whatever the cause, it was therefore decided to use the original mono version taken directly from the film soundtrack.
7. Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart
The earliest stereo recording on this set comes from Listen Darling made in 1938. Whilst the clarity is stunning for the time the balance left a lot to be desired and for this remaster Garland’s vocals have been brought forward in the mix a little.
8. Over The Rainbow
Whilst multichannel recordings were becoming the norm and the majority of “The Wizard of Oz” was recorded in the format, no stems survive for the most iconic song in the score, although a clean mono pre-record exists. The pre-recording suffers from a sudden shift in volume, fixed during the final mix of the film, but for reasons unknown never fixed on almost all versions taken from the pre-recording. The problem comes from the fact that this is an edit of two takes (three if you count the orchestral introduction) and between the recording of each, levels were changed in the mix (This may have been at the recording session or during a reduction from multi-channel stems, but that information is lost in the mists of time). When the takes were spliced together just before the second “Somewhere” there is a noticeable jump in the volume of Judy Garland’s vocal. In the final mix of the film, the inconstancy was controlled using a mixture of manual correction and audio compression. For this issue, we used the clearer pre-recording and digitally fixed the problem using the same methods the engineers used in 1939 to tackle the problem – although this time retaining more of the dynamic range with less compression. It should be noted that the instrumental introduction used on previous issues of the pre-recording was the wrong take and this has been corrected here. This is the first issue of a level corrected pre-recording with a dialogue-free (and correct) intro.
9. I Cried For You
Another tricky recording. There is one pre-recording in existence (and issued in stereo), but the final version as used in the film is a composite of several takes and the stereo pre-recording is one complete take. We decided to match the original film version and this meant once again having to compromise. The final track consists of a mono mix made from the correct film version sections of the stereo pre-recording and material directly from the film soundtrack/MGM Records issued version. However, despite this, the version represented here is the cleanest & clearest presentation of the soundtrack version issued to date.
10. I’m Nobody’s Baby
A stereo recording from pre-recording stems.
11. Danny Boy
Another out-take. This time from “Little Nellie Kelly” This version is a different take to the one most commonly available but, as with Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,is the take originally issued for the first time by MGM records back in 1962.
12. Singin’ In The Rain
This song is a partial pre-recording and a partial live on set recording (opening verse). This version is a combination of the best versions of both sections.
13. I’m Always Chasing Rainbows
14. Minnie From Trinidad
15. How About You?
Mono optical pre-recordings.
16. For Me And My Gal
There are two pre-recordings existing for this duet with Gene Kelly one mono, one stereo. We chose the mono version because the stereo was missing some elements from the film version – this is probably due to a missing stem.
17. How ‘Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down On The Farm?
18. But Not For Me
19. Bidin’ My Time
20. The Trolley Song
21. The Boy Next Door
22. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
23. On The Atchison Topeka And The Santa Fe
Stereo pre-recordings. In places, the vocal and backings have been rebalanced.
1. In The Valley (Where the Evening Sun Goes Down)
This has always suffered from problems – even on its first release on the soundtrack of the film. It appears to be due to damage on the vocal track stem. The damage becomes more pronounced in the stereo version where the single channel vocal sits between a stereo orchestra. Using spectral editing I have tried to repair as much of the damage as possible, but it hasn’t been possible to solve all the problems, but hopefully – if you know the original – you will notice the improvement
2. Look For The Silver Lining
Mono optical pre-recordings
4. Love Of My Life
Stereo optical pre-recording
5. You Can Do No Wrong
For this track, we decided to use the version originally released as a 78rpm single and later on MGM Records LP’s. That version was considerably longer than the version used in the film (which was later issued as a pre-recording in stereo). On closer inspection, the long version was constructed from the shorter by repeating a few sections in a slightly new order – a 1948 version of an extended remix if you like! Some of the edits weren’t exactly subtle, but this new version features an (almost) exact copy of the single but now in stereo for the first time. I say an almost exact copy as, where possible, the edits are a little bit smoother!
6. Be a Clown
Stereo optical pre-recording.
7. I Want To Go Back To Michigan (Down On The Farm)
Time has not been kind to the pre-recordings for Easter Parade. The original optical stems and mono mixes haven’t survived and the only source for many of the pre-recordings is a number of scratchy worn acetate discs used for playback on set (even then not all songs survive). The only other source is the original 1948 soundtrack 10” LP release – thankfully made before the loss of the pre-recordings. However, I Want To Go Back To Michigan was left off the LP, so the only source for this song is the actual soundtrack, hence the applause at the end. Previous releases of this song have had a small edit at the start to remove a “breathing/sigh” sound at the very beginning which this time has been left in.
8. A Couple Of Swells
The most famous and iconic song from the score. There were three versions of this track to work with. The severely edited soundtrack album version, a really worn acetate of the pre-recording and the soundtrack version (which is covered in applause and the live footfalls etc. from on set). This track took a great many hours to get right. The first attempt was a hybrid of all three versions using the edited soundtrack album version as the basis of the reconstruction. The problem was that the soundtrack album version was a couple of generations further away from the original than the soundtrack (and on very early tape stock) which meant that it had more hiss than the soundtrack. So I had a rethink and looked at what could be done with the better sounding film soundtrack. Back to spectral editing again! Using this method I was able to paint out the majority of footfalls and extraneous noises from the recording. The first few seconds at beginning of the track come from the acetate, which thankfully was less damaged at this point and the end comes from the LP (along with a few seconds in the middle where removing all the noises was just too damaging to the sound) with hiss reduced to match the sound (the only such use on the set). This represents the best quality full-length version of the track ever issued.
9. Better Luck Next Time
Another hybrid mixing the version from the original soundtrack album with the film soundtrack.
10. I Wish I Were In Love Again
11. Johnny One Note
12. Last Night When We Were Young
13. Merry Christmas
14. I Don’t Care
15. You Can’t Get A Man With A Gun
16. If You Feel Like Singing, Sing
All the above songs originate from mono optical pre-recordings remastered and cleaned up as before from the best possible sources. It’s possible that some of the later recordings originated on tape (or magnetic film) as the industry began to adopt its use around 1948/9 (Although it would not be in general use until a couple of years later). You will notice that the fidelity of the later tracks definitely improves. In all cases, no stems appear to have survived.
17. (Howdy Neighbor) Happy Harvest
Another hybrid. The previously released version of this track used a very different mix at the end of the song (with additional chorus) but omitted the verse at the beginning. The new version features the mix from the film with the verse added, but because of various extraneous noises on the soundtrack sections of the pre-recording have also been used
18. Friendly Star
19. Get Happy
More mono pre-recordings with no surviving stems.
20. Here’s What I’m Here For
Originally deleted from the movie when it was severely edited by the studio, but restored in 1983 when the film was reconstructed. The film soundtrack was recorded using the latest technology, in this case, three channel magnetic film recording (35mm sprocketed tape) which consisted of stereo orchestra on two tracks and vocal on the third. Unfortunately, the original mag film for this song is missing. The song is cut short in the film but is the best sounding version of the song. Therefore for this version, we have used an edit of the soundtrack and the original mono soundtrack album.
21. Gotta Have Me Go With You
This song needed a certain amount of reconstruction to create a stereo mix of the version of the song issued on the original 1954 mono soundtrack album. The 1954 mix was clean – i.e. no extra effects or audience noises and included a short section of the song not featured in the film. For this version, the three channel music track was used as the basis of the recording, but this only matched the film edit, not the LP. Inserting the missing material would have meant a jarring switch to mono. The next step was to reconstruct the backing track, 99% of which was intact with a short section taken from elsewhere in the song to cover the gap. Laying the mono version into the reconstructed stereo track was still an obvious change in sound. The Mono LP mix was then filtered to reduce the backing track but keep the vocal sounding the same as the isolated vocal track. The mono vocal & the stereo backing were then synchronized and re-mixed creating the first release of the effects (and on set noise) free LP edit in stereo.
22. The Man That Got Away
23. It’s A New World
Both of these songs were re-mixed from the three channel source, with The Man That Got Away retaining the clean trombone intro originally featured on the mono 1954 soundtrack album. For reasons unknown, the vocal booth Judy Garland sang in (or perhaps more likely an echo chamber) gave the sound the quality of her singing in a tin bath! These new mixes minimize this effect and make the vocal and backing track sound like they belong to each other.
24. The Far Away Part Of Town
25. Little Drops Of Rain
These two tracks originate from standard tape recordings so needed minimal restoration.