progressed during his long career successively through vaudeville, Broadway, film, radio, and television, with some overlap. Cantor
's work in the recording studio should be understood as a complementary adjunct to his efforts in his main areas of performing rather than an equal part of that career. His biographer, Herbert G. Goldman, lists recording sessions stretching from 1917 to 1960, and Pop Memories, Joel Whitburn's book of chart recreations, lists 24 hits for him between 1917 and 1950, including three, "Margie," "No, No, Nora," and "If You Knew Susie," that peaked at number one. But this is deceptive. Cantor
first went into a commercial recording studio shortly after his transition from vaudeville to Broadway in order to produce a disc version of two songs he was singing in the Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic, and that set a pattern for his recorded work. At a time when records didn't sell all that well, his recordings tended to shadow his stage, film, and radio triumphs, not to serve as an independent source of expression.
In its usual manner, ASV/Living Era, the British archival label, has created a survey of his recording career in Makin' Whoopee with "Banjo Eyes"
by doing digital transfers of 78 rpm records and then taking, in the words of a sleeve note, "endless care...in restoration" of the sound quality. Unfettered by the legal niceties that would make such a collection impossible in the U.S. (though the import was readily available domestically upon release), the compilers include recordings originally issued by Emerson, Columbia, Victor, Melotone, and both the British and U.S. Decca labels, as well as an otherwise unrecorded song ("Yes, Yes, My Baby Said Yes, Yes!") taken directly from the soundtrack of the 1931 film Palmy Days. All of Cantor
's best-known songs are included, though the compilers have not stuck to the actual hit versions in all cases.
The compilers seem particularly embarrassed by the low sound quality of the recordings made up through 1925, before the onset of electrical recording, and have included only six tracks from this period even though the bulk of Cantor
's hits date from this era. Thus, the versions of the hits "That's the Kind of a Baby for Me," "Margie," and "Oh! Gee, Oh! Gosh, Oh! Golly, I'm in Love" are re-recordings, as is "Makin' Whoopee," even though its original recording was done in 1928. In a bow to the album's U.K. origins, several recordings made and released only in Britain in the 1930s are included. The overall result is a collection that covers a lot of ground without being completely satisfying, though in one version or another it features all of the songs most closely associated with Cantor
. [Note that many of the recording dates listed in the CD booklet are incorrect. Someone seems not to have realized that Americans and Britons differ on how to read numerical abbreviations of dates. For example, to an American, 9/12/24, the day on which Cantor
recorded "Doodle-Doo-Doo," is September 12, 1924; to an Englishman, it is December 9, 1924, and that's how it has been rendered, erroneously, here.]