Playful Baby contains a cross section of Wynonie Harris sides from 1945-1954, covering his early Aladdin and Philo years through the hugely successful run he had at King. Even though his big King hits are not included, there still are plenty of fine, obscure cuts here. Of special interest are the early tracks from 1945; the jump blues numbers "Playful Baby" and "Everybody's Boogie" already show the kind of vocal drive that later would make Harris' version of "Good Rockin' Tonight" a smash, and the slow blues cuts "I Gotta a Lyin' Woman" and "Papa Tree Top" reveal the influence of blues shouter Big Joe Turner. Another highlight from the '40s material is Harris' very convincing rendition of the big-band pop classic "Ghost of Chance." This shift away from more blues-based material would become the norm, as Harris' popularity hit its peak in the early '50s (a fact made clear by the many novelty numbers he did, including cuts here like "Do It Again," "Git With the Grits," and "Good Mambo Tonight"). This later material is still appealing, though, and the kitsch is kept in check by the fine big- band blues numbers "Triflin' Woman" and "Night Train." For a more thorough record of Harris' early, jump blues cuts, check out his two compilations on the Classics label. For a nice overview of Harris' career, though, get this fine Route 66 album for the "B-sides" and the Rhino/King compilation Blood Shot Eyes: The Best of Wynonie Harris for the hits.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook