This remarkable CD has the first recordings of Bert Williams, the black comedian/actor/singer who was a pioneer in vaudeville and Broadway. The last of three Williams' CDs to be released by Archeophone but chronologically the first, this disc has extremely rare recordings (some taken from cylinders) that feature Williams during two different bursts of recording activity. The first 15 selections are from 1901 and include five numbers on which Williams teams up with his partner of the era, George Walker, and two selections that showcase Walker. These performances are primitively recorded and sometimes the speed varies but the magic of the duet and solo performances shines through despite the racial stereotypes that they sometimes had to portray. The remainder of this collection is from 1906 and, other than Williams and Walker's "Pretty Desdamone," all of the performances are solos by Bert Williams. While the 1901 recordings feature them backed by a piano (which in a couple cases is played by Williams himself), the 1906 performances have Williams accompanied by an orchestra. Among the high points of the latter are the two earliest versions of his big hit "Nobody," "He's a Cousin Of Mine" and "I'm Tired of Eating in the Restaurants." Although Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 are recommended first, this collection cannot be beat, for in some cases it includes the only copy known of a particular recording. In addition, the 32-page booklet is definitive and colorful. Now, with the release of this volume, every existing recording of Bert Williams is available, and Archeophone deserves congratulations for a job so well-done.
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