The Mighty Hannibal, Hannibalism!

Ron Wynn

By Ron Wynn

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A fiery personality and supple voice compiled

Former pimp, heroin addict and elephant jockey James T. Shaw, aka the Mighty Hannibal, had a fiery personality and a supple voice; they didn't generate much commercial success for him, but they did earn this fascinating individual a sizable reputation. Hannibal's backing varied: from surging R&B to heartfelt soul, novelty tunes, gritty funk, heartache blues and emphatic message cuts. This 28-tune compilation (including three previously unreleased numbers) simultaneously reveals his strengths and suggests that idiomatic diversity may have hampered his career. You can hear nods to James Brown ("Baby Please Change Your Mind") and Ray Charles ("All Nite Long"), but he's at his best on searing confessional pieces "I Need a Woman ('Cause I'm a Man)" and "Trying to Make it Through." Hannibal released the visionary (1966) anti-war tune "Hymn No. 5," and, four years later, the harrowing sequel "I'm Coming Home," but perhaps his most memorable tune was the 1972 anti-drug anthem "The Truth Shall Make You Free," a stark, powerful piece about rejection, betrayal and survival. He didn't do much crossing over, but the Mighty Hannibal still made fine music.