Listeners can tell that this double-CD set was a labor of love, without even noticing the presence of Eddie Cantor's grandson Brian Gari
in the credits -- the sound quality of even the earliest sides in this 44-song collection, dating from the early 1920s, is exceptionally good, and even more so for a Columbia/Legacy project of the early '90s. And when one considers the portion of the music here derived from sources that were "lost" or otherwise misplaced, the result is nothing less than miraculous. Indeed, it's easy to forget, on listening even to the earliest sides here, that this is music that was mostly 70 years old or close to it when it was transferred to CD. For that reason alone, this is one of the finest showcases of Eddie Cantor's singing talent that has been seen since, well, since, Cantor cut the original 78 rpm records represented here. Cantor's longtime friend Harry Ruby
is well-represented among the songwriting credits, as are Ted Fiorito
and Gus Kahn
, and Cantor also contributes to his own cause as a songwriter on several of these tracks. As to the music itself, it's jaunty, funny, sly, clever, suggestive, and relentlessly catchy and tuneful -- one can't listen to too much of it without suddenly visualizing a world in which men sported moustaches and straw hats, and cars chugged along city streets. It's all infectious in its appeal, and a powerful sample of the popular culture of the '20s and early '30s. Brian Gari's notes, which include comments on every song, give us an informative and loving portrait of a man who was, for a good chunk of the first half of the middle of the 20th century, one of the most popular entertainers in America. Indeed, given the existence of this collection, more's the pity that Cantor's films of the '30s aren't in print on DVD, and are barely shown at all on the vintage movie channels.