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Al JOLSON (1886-1950)
Let Me Sing and Iím Happy: 58 original mono recordings 1945-1950
Swanee [1:56]
April Showers [3:05]
Ma Blushiní Rosie [2:01]
My Mammy [2:55]
You Made Me Love You [2:37]
Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody [2:52]
California, Here I Come [2:25]
Sonny Boy [3:05]
Avalon [2:17]
The Anniversary Song [3:06]
Alexanderís Ragtime Band (with Bing Crosby) [2:59]
The Spaniard the Blighted My Life (with Bing Crosby) [3:11]
All My Love [2:42]
Keep Smiling At Trouble [2:39]
Back in Your Own Back Yard [2:25]
Iím Sitting On Top of the World [1:52]
Where the Black-Eyed Susans Grow [2:48]
Toot, Toot, Tootsie, Goodbye! [2:10]
Carolina in the Morning [2:34]
Liza [2:15]
For Me and My Gal [2:06]
Waiting for the Robert E. Lee [1:57]
About A Quarter to Nine [2:37]
Golden Gate [2:02]
When You Were Sweet Sixteen [3:04]
Thereís a Rainbow Round My Shoulder [2:22]
If I Only Had a Match [2:53]
Let Me Sing and Iím Happy [2:24]
By the Light of the Silvery Moon [2:18]
I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl Who Married Dear Old Dad [2:09]
When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob-Bob-Bobbiní Along [2:37]
Someone Else May Be There While Iím Gone [2:41]
Down Among the Sheltering Palms (with the Mills Brothers) [2:42]
Is It True What They Say About Dixie? (with the Mills Brothers) [2:29]
I Only Have Eyes for You [2:49]
That Wonderful Girl of Mine [2:57]
Iím Looking Over A Four Leaf CloverÖ Baby Face [2:35]
Pretty Baby [2:36]
Chinatown, My Chinatown [2:16]
After Youíve Gone [2:53]
It All Depends On You [2:34]
Give My Regards To Broadway [2:36]
Some Enchanted Evening [3:06]
Iím Just Wild About Harry [2:17]
Godís Country [2:45]
Remember Motherís Day [3:20]
The Old Piano Roll Blues (with the Andrews Sisters) [3:04]
Way Down Yonder in New Orleans (with the Andrews Sisters) [2:23]
Old Black Joe [3:21]
My Old Kentucky Home [3:17]
Beautiful Dreamer [2:52]
Oh, Susanna! [2:21]
Massaís in de Cold, Cold Ground [3:23]
Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair [2:28]
Old Folks at Home [3:19]
Camptown Races [2:08]
Are You Lonesome Tonight? [3:09]
No Sad Songs for Me [2:43]

Recorded in Los Angeles between 10 August 1945 and 18 April 1950

Living Era CD AJS 272 [73:54 + 75:10] ADD

Crotchet Budget price

Al Jolson, the immigrant son of a Russian Jew, was best known for his starring roles in the early "talkies" such as The Jazz Singer and his 30 year Broadway career. He was the first singer to sell one million records, and was a radio star during the 1930s after leaving the stage. Although his star is generally diminished today due to his use of blackface, in his day he was billed as "The Worldís Greatest Entertainer." In 1946, when Columbia Pictures released "The Jolson Story", Al Jolsonís career was given a new life. By 1948, even with men like Sinatra and Bing Crosby in their heyday, Al Jolson was rated as Americaís most popular male vocalist by Variety Magazine. Thus, even though he made the bulk of his recordings between 1910 and 1930, this double-album collection of recordings made towards the end of Jolsonís life is in many ways captures the pinnacle of the great entertainerís career.

The collection consists of several different sources of recordings throughout the final few years of Jolsonís life. The first two presented, Swanee and April Showers were recorded for a tie-in with the movie "Rhapsody in Blue" about the life of George and Ira Gershwin. The next several recordings were made in the wake of "The Jolson Story", and include the recordings originally released on the 78 Al Jolson In Songs He Made Famous, which was the first album to sell one million records in a single year. Also included here is a collection of the songs of Stephen Foster performed by Jolson and several duets with Bing Crosby, the Mills Brothers, and the Andrews Sisters.

As is noted on the cover, the recordings are in mono and were not originally recorded in Hi-Fi. However they are well preserved and nicely restored. There is no noticeable background noise from either tapes or album masters, and considering the limitations of the original equipment, the sound fidelity is quite nice.

Al Jolson throughout the collection is also notably in-form. The compiler did a nice job of selecting recordings highlighting the best of the older singer. When performing the songs of his youth, the energy in his voice is consistent and notable. The majority of the songs are infectiously happy songs impeccably performed. There is a noticeable and enjoyable difference in the timbre of his voice when he mellows the sound for ballads. This is a collection that highlights the positive things that can happen to a vocalist as they mature musically.

The duets with Bing Crosby are particularly enjoyable. There is an ease of interaction between the two men when theyíre doing their scripted interchanges that still is entertaining. Bingís admiration for Al Jolson also seems to come through in his emulation of Jolsonís phrasing and delivery. Also notable is "The Old Piano Blues" with the Andrews Sisters doing their best imitation of Louis Armstrong.

Jolsonís career is perhaps not fondly remembered today due to what can be construed as the racist overtones of his costuming and his performing of songs from minstrel shows. Songs such as "My Mammy" and "Massaís in de Cold, Cold Ground" certainly could be used to build a case for racial exploitation, especially in the use of stereotype. That is probably an unfair characterization of Al Jolson though. He had an undeniable talent, and it tends to be forgotten that blackface was used by performers of all colors, including black men. Minstrel shows, while certainly not socially progressive bastions of equality and stereotype-bashing, were considered acceptable forms of entertainment. Al Jolson tends to be forgotten only because of the conflict of our current sensibilities with earlier social conventions. While we certainly should not feel that we need to accept these earlier practices, it is a shame that we would also denigrate a man of such undeniable influence and great talent due to his participation.

This album is quite enjoyable, and spotlights the "Worldís Greatest Entertainer" in exactly the way that he should be remembered. It neither whitewashes his career nor spends undue time focusing on the portions a modern listener might find uncomfortable. If you donít know Al Jolsonís music, then to quote the man himself, "You ainít heard nothing yet." This album does a nice job of showing what was so infectious about him as a performer. His energy and delivery are undeniable. His influence on the swing era, as well as performers such as Elvis Presley and Mick Jagger, cannot be underestimated. When all is said and done, this is a fun collection of familiar songs done well, and taken as such it is hard not to recommend it.

Patrick Gary

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