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The World's Greatest Entertainer

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Album Review

After staying away from the recording studio for 13 years, Al Jolson signed to Decca Records in 1945. A year later, the label's faith was justified by Jolson's career resurgence in the wake of the success of the film biography The Jolson Story, and from then until his death in 1950 he recorded successfully, often remaking his earlier hits in a deeper voice and accompanied by Morris Stoloff's orchestra in new arrangements in keeping with late-'40s pop styles. European copyright law allows recordings more than 50 years old to pass into the public domain, and this British compilation consists of 28 of those Decca recordings, which have been transferred from 78 rpm records, not from the original masters in the Decca vaults. (Universal Music, which controls the Decca catalog, still claims ownership of the material in the U.S.) Extensive sound restoration has been performed on these admittedly inferior source materials, and the annotations even claim that "stereo recreations" have been derived from the monophonic discs. The truth is more akin to the "reprocessed stereo" of the 1960s, in which certain frequencies have been emphasized to give the illusion of a wider sound field. Still, the sound isn't bad. This is hardly a comprehensive collection of Jolson's recordings in general or even of his late-'40s work, but his always enthusiastic performing style comes through clearly enough, and a music fan curious to know what the man who called himself "the world's greatest entertainer" sounded like in his still-vibrant later years will get a good sense of it here. Labelmates Bing Crosby and the Mills Brothers put in guest appearances.

Biography

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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