With the 50-year limit on copyright for recordings in Europe, anyone can transfer a bunch of old records to the digital format and issue a CD without consulting or paying the companies that originally released the recordings, and many do. Few, however, have the pretensions of Robert Parker, who makes extravagant claims for the audio fidelity of the sound processing he applies to the old records, to the point of creating stereo. Of course, that's really the fake stereo record companies used to create by manipulating frequencies. 21 Hollywood Hits has other problems in addition to its strange sound, however. The word "Hollywood" implies that the material derives from the movies, which is about half true: 11 of the tracks were lifted directly from Judy Garland soundtracks (some of them songs she never recorded formally), and the rest from her studio recordings for Decca Records between 1936 and 1942. The word "hits" has a more specific connotation that proves false; not a single one of these recordings was a chart hit, though in some cases Garland scored hits with the studio versions of songs presented here in soundtrack renditions. A further difficulty is Lawrence Schulman's critical essay. Garland tends to inspire purple prose from her commentators, and Schulman is no exception. "City of lights, city of illusion, Hollywood was a dream and Judy Garland was a dreamer," he declares at the end of his first paragraph, and things go downhill from there. Surprisingly, however, Max O. Preeo's annotations on the individual tracks are the best part of the album. Since Universal claims copyright on the Decca recordings and Turner on the soundtracks in the U.S., and both have competing CDs, neither can be pleased with the existence of this sort of release, especially since it is so readily available domestically.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann