From the spring of 1951 on, Judy Garland's reputation rested on her abilities as a live act, but it took another eight years before her first commercially recorded live album was issued by Capitol Records, demonstrating to people unable to make it to venues like the Palladium what all the fuss was about. In this case, Garland's set at the famed Cocoanut Grove nightclub in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles was recorded in August 1958 for release six months later. Accompanied by Freddy Martin & His Orchestra, Garland performs many of her best-known songs from the movies, including, of course, "Over the Rainbow." A significant part of the song list is given over to material from the 1910s and '20s, some of it associated with Al Jolson -- "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody," "Swanee," etc. Selections such as "When You're Smiling," the rock & roll novelty "Purple People Eater," and a medley of "You Made Me Love You," "For Me and My Gal," and "The Trolley Song" boast extra musical sections, the special material probably written by longtime Garland associate Roger Edens. The audience is enthusiastic, especially toward the end, when, coming out for her encores, Garland asks for requests and gets plenty. Even without the visual complement (and said to be suffering from laryngitis, which is only occasionally evident), she is clearly a powerful performer with a strong connection to her listeners.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann