Annisteen Allen

Fujiyama Mama

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While she's largely forgotten even by R&B historians, Annisteen Allen recorded quite a bit in the 1950s, though only one of her singles, "Baby, "I'm Doin' It!," was a big hit. That single -- a risque "answer" record to the Five Royales' "Baby Don't Do It" that made the R&B Top Ten in 1953 -- is here, along with 27 other tracks, mostly or wholly from the early- to mid-'50s from the sound of things (original release info, unfortunately, is not supplied). Allen's records are emblematic in many ways of both swing jazz's transition to R&B, and R&B's transition from rock & roll. Certainly the earliest sides are as much, or maybe even a bit more, swing than R&B -- a logical connection, since Allen had been a singer with Lucky Millinder. She found a yet more impressive groove, however, with later sides with more of a funky backbeat, the best of which, the outlandish "Fujiyama Mama," was famously covered yet more explosively for a rockabilly classic by Wanda Jackson. While nothing else here is quite on par with "Fujiyama Mama," it's fine '50s R&B-cum-rock& roll, Allen delivering the songs with a satisfyingly saucy style. Though not quite on the same level as somewhat similar fellow woman early rock pioneers Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker, Allen was almost as good, and the consistent material on this compilation serves as a reminder of how overlooked and underestimated her contributions were. The liner notes are good as well, making it more of a shame that the original release info is missing; that's all this CD would have needed to be definitive.

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