Al Jolson was born as Asa Yoeldon, in Lithuania and was brought to the New World as a young boy, his father became a cantor in a Washington synagogue. Rather than following in his father's footsteps Al teamed up with his brother and with the comedian Joe Palmer to tour the vaudeville shows. He adopted a black face and specialised in singing in minstrel shows.
Jolson had a good singing voice, but adapted a style which was partly song and part declamation and later developed a nasal edge which gave his voice a unique sound. He called himself "The World's Greatest Entertainer" and there is no doubt that he soon became extremely popular. He made history by appearing in the world's first talking picture in 1927. This CD however covers the earlier part of his career and it includes the complete recordings from 1911 to 1914, including two versions of the song "Back to the Carolina You Love".
My dictionary defines 'nostalgia' as (a yearning for the past things or) which evoke a former era. For me this CD did not fall into this category. Although I am not young, these recordings were made long before I was born (in fact a person would have to be 90 years old or more to have been able to remember the originals being issued). In any case my guess is that few, if any, of the original 78s (80s?) had a wide or any circulation in the UK. The only two tracks which evoked any kind of nostalgic feeling in this reviewer were the songs "The Spaniard who blighted y life" and "Sister Susie's Sewing shirts for soldiers" and both were originally British numbers. I would suspect that for most British listeners this CD would be of historical interest ( a kind of musical archaeology) rather than nostalgic. Nonetheless it is interesting to hear Al Jolson as he sang in his early music hall days.
Most of these songs were comedy numbers and none disfigured by the extreme sentimentality which is found in many of Jolson's repertoire in the 1940s. The parody of the showpiece for bass voice "Asleep in the deep" is very amusing as also is "Movin' man, don't take my baby grand". Several songs rely on repetition to gain their effect eg. "Rum-tum-tiddle" and "That little German Band". There is a strong resemblance between American and British Music Hall songs but there is no doubt about Jolson's US character.
In the days before microphones, music hall performers had to have voices with strong projection and Jolson would have had no difficulty in singing into the recording horn - possibly too strong as although there is good volume, in many songs it is hard to understand all the words. There is little discernible record hiss or rumble in the material as presented on the CD which is remarkable for pre-electric recordings of this era. However the vocal tone leads to the suspicion that perhaps too much filtering had been used in some cases.
Overall this is an interesting historical record which Jolson fans will find interesting although it will probably be more successful in America than in the UK.