Julie London – Calendar Girl

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Calendar Girl

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This Julie London 1956 Classic makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too. Both of these mono sides have plenty of Tubey Magic – they’re fuller, more musical and more natural than most any other copy we played. Julie’s voice sounds particularly nice on this copy – intimate, rich and warm, just as the way we like her to sound.

This is a wonderful sounding record, and almost impossible to find with surfaces this quiet.

However, the original label pressing from 1956 does have better sound, at least it does on the noisy reference copy we used in our shootout. It’s the only early pressing I have ever seen in playable condition, and it’s far too noisy to be enjoyed with audiophile equipment. Julie Is Her Name survived the bad turntables and their owners from the era because they made so many of them. This album did not sell in those kinds of numbers, and the result is that the early pressings are rare and virtually impossible to find in audiophile playing condition.

We are always on the hunt for killer female vocal recordings, but I would not expect to see a good copy of this album come to the site again for a very long time.

Vintage Analog

This Liberty mono pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with Julie, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of Calendar Girl from 1956 have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1956
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above.

Midrange Magic

Get the volume right and Julie will appear right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. This early pressing also has the midrange magic that’s no doubt missing from whatever 180g reissue might be available. This one is guaranteed to be dramatically more REAL sounding. It will give you the sense that Julie London is right in front of you.

She’s no longer a recording — she’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. Her voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.

This record is the very definition of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made that sound like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There actually is a CD of this album, and YouTube videos of it too, but those of us with a good turntable couldn’t care less.

What We’re Listening For on Calendar Girl

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks for the guitars, piano and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

June In January
February Brings The Rain
Melancholy March
I’ll Remember April
People Who Are Born In May
Memphis In June

Side Two

Sleigh Ride In July
Time For August
September In The Rain
This October
November Twilight
Wram December
The Thirteenth Month

AMG 4 Star Review

Jazz critic Will Friedwald has stated that Julie London’s records were so popular in the 1950s mainly because she looked so drop-dead gorgeous on the album covers. The marketing hook behind Calendar Girl may just be the main example for those critical of London’s musical career, since its sleeve has made it a prized collector’s item. The famous wraparound cover depicts cheesecake shots of London posed for every month of the year, while original issues of the album included a more-than-suggestive insert photo of the singer stretched out in bed.

While Friedwald’s correct about London’s physical beauty, he’s wrong in suggesting that the vocalist didn’t have the talent to go along with her looks. Like Chet Baker, Julie London had an extremely limited vocal range but she did the most with what she had, possessing a special knack for torch songs that cast her in the role of a woman constantly being destroyed by love in general and by men in particular.

The cover concept of Calendar Girl is carried over from the concept album, which features a narrative of romance lost and found for each month of the year before ending with one final tune called “The Thirteenth Month” (which is illustrated by that insert picture of London in bed). Since there aren’t quality standards for every month of the year, one of Calendar Girl’s pleasures can be found in the numbers written especially for the album, particularly those penned by Bobby Troup, London’s husband.

The jazz-oriented Troup hit pay dirt with such fine compositions as “Route 66,” “Daddy,” and “The Meaning of the Blues,” but too few of his smart, witty songs have been widely recorded. Calendar Girl is a fun, if often bittersweet, ride and a must-have for fans of classic vocal pop and lounge music.