Her mountainous stature matching the sheer soulful power of her massive vocal talent, Big Maybelle was one of the premier R&B chanteuses of the 1950s. Her deep, gravelly voice was as singular as her recorded output for Okeh and Savoy, which ranged from down-in-the-alley blues to pop-slanted ballads. In 1967, she even covered ? & the Mysterians' "96 Tears" (it was her final chart appearance). Alleged drug addiction leveled the mighty belter at the premature age of 47, but Maybelle packed a lot of living into her shortened lifespan.
This 52-disc (no, that is not a typo) comp, ABC of the Blues: The Ultimate Collection from the Delta to the Big Cities, may just indeed live up to its name. There are 98 artists represented , performing 1,040 tracks. The music begins at the beginning (though the set is not sequenced chronologically) with Charlie Patton, Son House, and Robert Johnson, and moves all the way through the vintage Chicago years of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, with stops along the way in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, New York, and all points in between. Certainly, some of these artists are considered more rhythm & blues than purely blues artists: the inclusion of music by Johnny Otis, Wynonie Harris, Bo Diddley, and others makes that clear…
The blues recording industry began in New York City and for most of the 1920s, musicians travelled from all parts of the country to make their mark in the recording studio. Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey were amongst the most popular female singers but they were soon rivaled by the likes of Lonnie Johnson, Robert ‘Barbecue Bob’ Hicks, Texas Alexander and Mississippi John Hurt. Kansas Joe McCoy cut ‘When The Levee Breaks’, justly famous in its Led Zeppelin incarnation, in the city.
This is the third and final volume in the complete recordings of Lil Green in chronological order as reissued by the Classics Blues & Rhythm Series. By 1947 Lil Green was beginning to sound more than a little like Ida Cox, even when handling songs from Tin Pan Alley rather than straight up out of the tried and true traditional blues repertoire. Comparisons could also be drawn between Lil Green and Nellie Lutcher or Julia Lee. While her "crossover" performances are worthwhile, there's nothing quite like hearing this woman savor the flavor of Bessie Smith hits like "Aggravatin' Papa," "Outside of That," and "You've Been a Good Old Wagon (But You Done Broke Down)." Green's own "Lonely Woman" has a powerful undercurrent running through it – there is even a remote possibility that Ornette Coleman was inspired by this record when conceiving his own composition of the same title in 1959. Even if the link is purely coincidental, these melodies have something wonderful in common. Green's final recordings for the Victor label are strengthened by the presence of tenor saxophonists Budd Johnson, Lem Johnson, and David Young.