Al Jolson


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After the Smithsonian Institution canceled plans to release an Al Jolson box set, John Wehrman, vice president and audio tape director of the International Al Jolson Society, who had been a consultant on the project, issued his own home-made version of the package for fan club members. It is an 88-track, four-tape collection, each tape spotlighting a particular aspect of Jolson's career. "Broadway and the Early Years" presents songs from each of the 11 stage shows in which he was featured; "The Movie Years" contains soundtrack recordings from his film appearances; "The Radio Years" has airchecks from his programs; and "World War II and the Comeback" focuses on V-discs and the later recordings keyed to the resurgence of interest in Jolson brought about by the film The Jolson Story. Unlike some box sets, this is not a glorified greatest-hits album. In fact, it does not include the hit recordings of many of Jolson's best-known songs. Rather, it paints a detailed picture of his accomplishments in many media and features many rarities that will have value to collectors. Nevertheless, in the absence of major-label box set treatment for a major artist whose catalog is spread among MCA, Sony, and RCA, this collection is highly recommended. (Jolson is available to members of the International Al Jolson Society for $30 from John Wehrman, 1195 Hickory Hills Drive, Green Bay, WI 54304.)