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Talk, Talk, Talk (11/09/2001) Write to CD Shakedown
Judy Garland Very Best of Judy Garland: The Decca Years (MCA 2001) - Gathered here are twenty songs recorded by Judy Garland during the period from 1937 to 1945, before her serious personal turmoils (including five marriages) and comebacks. This is the bright, cheery, powerful Judy, a glorious and mature voice.

The Judy Garland story is the stuff of Hollywood legend. She was signed to MGM Studios when her mother brought her to an audition. Recalls top studio hand Roger Edens, "Her mother played the piano and she sang 'Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart.' I knew instantly, in eight bars of music. The talent was that in-bred."

Judy Garland"I fell flat on my face, I really flipped. I called Ida Coverman, L.B. Mayer's secretary, and she called Mr. Mayer, and he called the lawyers and she was signed to a contract that day. It was like discovering gold at Sutter's Creek. Mayer took her all over the lot that day and made her sing to everyone."

The album opens, smartly, with her version of "Over the Rainbow," consistently ranked as one of the best songs of the 20th century. Yet you'll also delight in "(Dear Mr. Gable) You Made Me Love You," in which Judy's voice blossoms.

Judy GarlandJudy soon became a top box-office draw; her 1944 film, Meet Me in St. Louis, remains MGM Studio's second-biggest box office hit (trailing only Gone With the Wind). Among the cuts drawn from her 90 Decca sides are "The Trolley Song" and "On the Atchison, Topeka and The Santa Fe."

You'll also delight in the two alternate takes: "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," and a playful duet with Bing Crosby, "Yah-Ta-Ta-Ta, Yah-Ta-Ta-Ta (Talk, Talk, Talk)."

Judy GarlandJudy Garland was found dead in her London apartment in 1969, the victim of an apparent drug overdose at age 47.

My list of top twenty female singers of the 20th century would probably begin with Patsy Cline. But the recordings on Very Best of Judy Garland would find her clamoring for second place, with a lovely and expressive voice. Don't miss this collection.

CakeCake, Comfort Eagle (Columbia 2001) - The boys from Sacramento are back. With their fourth album (and follow-up to such oddities as "Sheep Go To Heaven" and the remake of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive"), Cake puts its best foot forward, with a fuller, more guitar-oriented sound. To me, it's the best since the stripped-down pop absurdity of their debut, Motorcade of Generosity (1995).

Cake has always bent the rules of pop, using odd instrumentation to create quirky but compelling songs. On their earlier work, songs like "I Bombed Korea" rose to the level of poetry, sometimes as gently twisted haiku.

CakeComfort Eagle still draws from the David Bryne school of songwriting, yet delves into white boy rap - the guitars are bigger and more accessible, but the words are moving backward. See "Long Line of Cars" for reinforcement. And while McCrea may continue to lament "big, wide-load American culture," he is now releasing songs like the instrumental "Arco Arena." Comments McCrea, "I used to have almost a sickness about big dumb rock. Now I'm realizing that it's a force that can be used for good or evil."

CakeCake consists of original members John McCrea on vocals, guitars, and keyboards, and Vincent DiFiore on trumpets and keyboards. Since the split of the band (which resulted in the splinter group, Deathray), the band has been rounded out by Xan McCurdy on electric guitar and Gabriel Nelson on bass. The album was recorded with Todd Roper on drums. Roper left after the album was completed, and was replaced by Pete McNeal.

McCrea wants to keep people a little off balance. "It's like people use music as this tribal identifier, and I think that just drains the actual listening enjoyment out of the music. There are all these tiny stylistic signals that say, 'This is or isn't our tribe.' Cake would prefer to circumvent and avoid these strict demarcations."

The eleven songs clock in at 37 minutes, which means that there is no extra weight on Comfort Eagle. I respect Cake for its sense of Central Valley absurdity, as opposed to the Valley darkness reflected on such groups as Grandaddy. Tracks like "Meanwhile, Rick James . . ." (written by McCrea while he was in high school) and "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" have a bouncy, rock feel.

CakeWhile Cake has moved past some of the stark dynamic of its earlier records, McCrea acknowledges, "We're still a little wrong with Party Town U.S.A. We don't know how to 'produce' an album that well."

Comfort Eagle avoids being pigeon-holed. It's just good, idiosyncratic rock. Adds McCurdy, "Take it on the stairmaster. It's good motivational music."

Love as LaughterLove As Laughter, Sea To Shining Sea (Subpop 2001 ) - This one makes me feel good. Subpop, a Seattle-based label that rose to prominence during the 90s grunge age, continues to release damned good music. So it is with Love As Laughter, a loud, jangly guitar outfit that shows that pop and thrash and punk remain vital and important.

Love As Laughter consists of core member Sam Jayne on guitars, vocals, and other instruments, Brandon Angle on bass and guitars, and Zeke Howard on drums and other instruments. Also appearing is Ryan Davidson with guest bass.

Love as LaughterSam Jayne has plenty of rock 'n roll attitude, as shown on the mini-opus, "Miss Direction." Says Sam, "It seems there's a huge wave of mediocrity being heralded as new and amazing. It's the same shit I've been hearing for 10 years. Something needs to blow up. I'm constantly on edge, hoping for something to explode, and I hope that comes out in the music."

You go, girl. Sam continues, "There's a blandness going around and everybody's catching it. There's no fever. Kids aren't amped, they're not psyched to see new things . . . Good music isn't in the popular consciousness. Like, bands aren't even loud anymore! What's up with that?"

I'd like to know where the band found the scrawl font that was used for the liner notes. Someone should throw it off a cliff, because it's indecipherable.

Love as LaughterLove As Laughter have no pretensions, throwing down the guitar riffs on "My Case" and "Coast to Coast." While "French Heroine" has plenty of jams in it (says drummer Zeke Howard, "Volume always makes up for lack of musicianship"), the ten-minute concluding track certainly could have been trimmed.

Proclaims Sam, "We're loud. And love songs are cool but, God, doesn't anyone hate the government anymore?" Sea To Shining Sea is not about spit and polish. This is raw and edgy, with enough guitar pop hooks to bring you back. Spank that monkey.

- Randy Krbechek © 2001

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