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5.0 out of 5 stars Big Maybelle...Big Delight, December 31, 2011
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This review is from: Complete Okeh Sessions: 1952-1955 (Audio CD)
The music of Big Maybelle bridges great African American female singers from the early days of the recording industry to the giants who dominated the entire pop industry after her contributions like Aretha Franklin. She, along with Ruth Brown, Big Mama Thornton, and Lavern Baker recorded some of the most incredible, witty, soulfull passionate music but were largely unnoticed by the big audience since black singers were relegated to low powered stations that played "race" records.

There is so much to enjoy here not simply because she set the stage for artists who followed, but this is really cool music. This compilation is especially interesting capturing her recordings for the Okeh label, her work from 1952-1955, a time period when the music of the majority culture was stagnating in the doldrums leading right up to the dawn of rock n' roll and also the beginning of R&B starting to gather a broader audience. At a time when white female singers were singing sugary fluff like "How Much is That Doggy in the Business," Big Maybelle was providing fun, passionate, and soulful singing. Take "Gabbin' Blues (Don't Run My Business)" as an example, could mainstream pop ever present something so brutally honest that goes right for the throat? "My Country Man" sounds a lot like early rock n' roll only it's rougher and louder than what would be allowed in the mainstream until the mid 60's. "Way Back Home" is much closer to showing music that hooks up directly with the style of music that delighted millions when Aretha Franklin recorded songs like "Chain of Fools."

One of the most interesting songs on the album is "I'm Gettin' Long Alright" which presents a style of music that could be cleaned up and given pretty lyrics to gentler voices like Nancy Wilson, but it's hard to image such rough lyrics anywhere today outside of the blues. "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show" harkens back to the early days of Ray Charles, but what a shame a wonderful song like this is largely burried in a historic context. It also boasts a sassy saxophone screaching to be heard.

While its historical role might draw listeners in, it's the gusty powerful music that will make this a most enjoyable album with loads of passionate, blues, joy!
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