Al Jolson

20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Al Jolson

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After recording successfully in the 1910s and being the top solo artist of the 1920s (according to chart researcher Joel Whitburn), Al Jolson stopped making records for 12½ years between 1932 and 1945, when he was lured back into the studio by Decca just prior to the comeback he scored due to the film biography The Jolson Story in 1946. He cut 71 sides for Decca up to his death in 1950, many of them re-recordings of his early hits, now sung in a deepened voice over new arrangements. And he had considerable success, nearly topping the charts with "Anniversary Song," composed for the movie, and reportedly enjoying million-sellers with it and two remakes, "April Showers" and "My Mammy." This midline-priced compilation assembles 12 of those late recordings in a disc running just over 32 and a half minutes, hardly a comprehensive collection, but one that hits the highlights of Jolson's late career. In addition to the three titles named above, "Swanee," "California, Here I Come," "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody," "You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want to Do It)," "Liza (All the Clouds'll Roll Away)," and "Toot Toot Tootsie! (Good Bye)" were all major hits of the 1910s and '20s also heard in The Jolson Story; "When You Were Sweet Sixteen" is a vintage song not previously recorded by Jolson, but featured in the film; "Sonny Boy" was a major 1920s hit heard in the sequel, Jolson Sings Again; and "Alexander's Ragtime Band," Irving Berlin's 1911 standard, is an engaging duet with Bing Crosby. All told, that makes for a good selection of some of the songs most closely associated with Jolson, performed with his usual vibrancy and in much better fidelity than the original recordings from the sonically challenged early decades of the 20th century.

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