Personnel: Big Maybelle (vocals); Leroy Kirkland, Danny Mendelsohn (conductor); James Cannady (guitar); Paul Ricci (alto saxophone); Sam "The Man" Taylor, Maurice Simon (tenor saxophone); Dave McRae, Leslie Johnakins, Heywood Henry (baritone saxophone); Alfred Cobbs, Eli Robinson, Billy Byers (trombone); Fletcher Smith, Lee Anderson, Al Williams, Ernie Hayes (piano); Grachan Moncur, Lloyd Trotman, Norman Keenan (bass); Charlie Smith, Marty Wilson, Jimmy Crawford, Hervie Lovelle (drums).
Recorded in 1952-1955. Includes liner notes by Peter Grendysa.
Digitally remastered by Vic Anesini (Sony Music Studios).
This is part of the Legacy Rhythm And Soul Series.
There's very little that's subtle about the room-shaking music of Big Maybelle. Decades later, the power in these 26 tracks is still palpable. With her bold, gritty sound, she comes off like nothing so much as a female Howlin' Wolf, and one can't imagine her not being an influence on the full-throttle blues of Janis Joplin. "So Good to My Baby" features typically microphone-distorting belting from the singer, and an appropriately blazing horn section. The hit "Gabbin' Blues (Don't Run My Business)" is a humorous tete-a-tete between Smith and a scorned female cohort. It recalls similar devices frequently employed in late-'90s R&B.
One of the most stirring cuts here is "Ocean of Tears," a percolating, minor-key tune in which Maybelle bemoans her sorrowful state with an unforgettably cathartic angst. Also impressive, though, are ballads such as "You'll Never Know," "Ain't No Use," and "You'll Be Sorry," which show a pleasant, softer side to Maybelle's craft. "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," which she took to the top of the R&B charts before Jerry Lee Lewis turned the song into a rock & roll anthem, is another standout.