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Monday, June 27, 2011

Big Mama Thornton: The Original Hound Dog


1) Hound Dog; 2) Walking Blues; 3) My Man Called Me; 4) Cotton Picking Blues; 5) Willie Mae's Trouble; 6) The Big Change; 7) I Smell A Rat; 8) I Just Can't Help Myself; 9) They Call Me Big Mama; 10) Hard Times; 11) I Ain't No Fool Either; 12) You Don't Move Me No More; 13) Let Your Tears Fall Baby; 14) I've Searched The World Over; 15) Rock A Bye Baby; 16) How Come; 17) Nightmare; 18) Stop A-Hoppin' On Me; 19) Laugh, Laugh, Laugh; 20) Just Like A Dog (Barking Up The Wrong Tree); 21) The Fish; 22) Mischievous Boogie.

Unfortunately, for the time being nobody has bothered collecting all of Mama's output during the Peacock years in one package — even if all of it could have easily fit on two CDs. They Called Me Big Mama is beautiful in its dedication to completeness and chronological order, but it only covers stuff up to 1954 (due to the 50-year copyright limit, as it goes with all of Proper Records). To understand what went on with B. M. for the next three years, one has to resort to additional, «authorized» compilations, most of which are nowhere near as good: they sacrilegiously mess up chronology, add and omit stuff at will, and, like all normal compilations, tend to give the listener a general feel and idea rather than systematic knowledge.

The original and still easiest-to-get of these, on CD, is The Original Hound Dog, whose very title reveals its mission — generous education for the layman: «You thought the world began with Elvis? Think again, son!» Most of the material predictably overlaps with They Called Me, but at least there are six songs on here that date from after 1954, a small bunch of singles that Big Mama still had in store for Peacock before parting ways in 1957.

It may not be worth spending your money on both collections unless you are a true fan of this meaty 'n' sweaty brand of R&B, but the extra cuts are good, and show a bit of development — 'You Don't Move Me No More', in particular, shows that they'd finally started noticing the achi­e­vements of rock'n'roll down there in Texas by the middle of the decade, and there is some admi­rably gruff, deliciously primitive, proto-garage one-note soloing on that track. Another great slab of early rock'n'roll is 'Just Like A Dog' — turns out that, during the instrumental breaks, Big Mama's vocal teasings and urgings mesh much better with electric guitar playing than the more traditional saxophone solos.

On the down side, 'The Fish' is way too retro for Big Mama (the kind of hokey material that only works well with humorous people like Louis Jordan), and the other three songs are nothing parti­cularly special. Also, if you cannot find this disc, there is a shorter alternative called Hound Dog: The Peacock Recordings, which has only 18 tracks in total, but still includes all the six necessa­ry tracks ('My Man Called Me', 'You Don't Move Me No More', 'How Come', 'Laugh Laugh Laugh', 'Just Like A Dog', 'The Fish'). May be worth it if going real cheap.

Check "The Original Hound Dog" (CD) on Amazon

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