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Jolson Jams

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Album Review

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.)


Born: 26 May 1886 in Seredzius, Lithuania

Genre: Vocal

Years Active: '10s, '20s, '30s, '40s

In addition to releasing a string of successful records between 1912 and 1949, Al Jolson achieved pre-eminent stardom on Broadway, hosted several radio series, and became the first important figure of the sound-era of motion pictures. His performing style was brash and extroverted; he billed himself as "the world's greatest entertainer," and he was known for his slogan, "You ain't heard nothin' yet!" He popularized a large number of songs that benefited from his shamelessly sentimental, melodramatic...
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