Al Jolson

The Great Al Jolson

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Although Jolson was America's first great pop star, finding his original recordings -- the ones that set the pace for modern singing and performing -- is extremely problematic; most compilations out on CD simply regurgitate the later re-recordings he made of his old hits, most of them done with one lung and sung four keys lower than the originals. So this budget 16-track collection would seem to be a nice addition, as it heralds the recordings as done between 1925 and 1934. The track listing is superb, a nice cross section of hits and old favorites, kicking off with "Sonny Boy" (generally believed to be the first record ever given gold record status), and including "My Mammy," "Swanee" (generally perceived as the first record to sell a million copies), "Avalon," "Easter Parade," "There's a Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder," "Carolina in the Morning," and "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Unfortunately, a quick spin in the CD player shows that these are the later Morris Stoloff-conducted re-recordings Jolson made for Decca, all dubbed off of old vinyl. While the performances still show a bit of the old Jolson magic, this thing's a rip, so save your money and buy any of the MCA reissues instead.

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