Al Jolson

The Very Best of Al Jolson [Prism]

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This British budget disc provides practically no annotations beyond song titles and an unsigned, generic three-paragraph biography of Al Jolson, but those titles include many of Jolson's signature songs. For the most part, the tracks turn out to be low-quality transfers of the recordings Jolson made for Decca Records in the second half of the '40s, when he recut many of the songs for which he was famous so that they could be used in The Jolson Story and Jolson Sings Again movies. The crackle of the original discs is often audible, and some tracks have an oddly murky sound. Intermingled with the studio recordings are airchecks of "Toot, Toot, Tootsie, Goodbye," "For Me and My Gal," "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Is It True What They Say About Dixie?," and "Alabamy Bound," complete with applause. The album cover displays a blackface portrait of Jolson from The Jazz Singer, deceptively implying that the recordings date back to the '20s. (The British are unabashed about using blackface images of Jolson, while American record labels usually avoid such potentially offensive photographs.) More legitimate compilations, such as those issued by MCA, present this material in better quality and enough annotations to indicate its actual sources.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:28
2 1:49
3 4:13
4 2:33
5 2:50
6 3:45
7 3:22
8 3:36
9 3:28
10 3:34
11 4:21
12 1:00
13 2:08
14 3:18
15 2:45
16 2:36
17 3:29
18 3:30
19 2:39
20 2:54
blue highlight denotes track pick