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Way It Is
Big Mama Thornton
Way It Is
Genres: Blues, Pop, R&B
  •  Track Listings (8) - Disc #1

Big Mama Thornton was an outstanding singer who never quite got the recognition she deserved. She recorded "Hound Dog" before Elvis ever heard of it, and she influenced Janis Joplin to such an extent that Joplin covered ...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Big Mama Thornton
Title: Way It Is
Members Wishing: 3
Total Copies: 0
Label: Umvd Special Markets
Release Date: 7/21/1998
Genres: Blues, Pop, R&B
Styles: Traditional Blues, Regional Blues, Texas Blues, West Coast Blues, Electric Blues, Classic R&B
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 731455855029, 0731455855029

Big Mama Thornton was an outstanding singer who never quite got the recognition she deserved. She recorded "Hound Dog" before Elvis ever heard of it, and she influenced Janis Joplin to such an extent that Joplin covered Thornton's "Ball and Chain." The Way It Is, a live recording from 1970, is now available on CD; a good thing, because Thornton's rich voice, with its throaty, menacing growl, is something no blues fan should miss. The opening song, Willie Dixon's "Little Red Rooster," is slow and intense, allowing Thornton's vocals to reach full power; "Sweet Little Angel" is equally powerful. The medley of "Baby Please Don't Go" and "Mojo Workin'," two standards of the genre, works well despite the different tempos, and the traditional "Wade in the Water" gets an almost-rock & roll treatment that is oddly appealing. While not Thornton's strongest or most classic work, The Way It Is is definitely worth picking up, for a taste of what her live performances were like. --Genevieve Williams

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CD Reviews

Big Mama's best live CD
Michael Russell | Philadelphia | 06/17/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In the 50s and 60s, Big Mama Thornton was one of the most overwhelming vocalists alive. Her deep, aggressive growl was the missing link between Bessie Smith and (maybe) Patti Smith, and her influence on blues and rock singers has never been fully appreciated (although she did make VH-1's top 100 Women in Rock list). Her voice will rumble through your insides as powerfully and uniquely as those of Howlin' Wolf, Chuck D or Diamanda Galas. The Way It Is is probably her best live recording available, highlighting her more confident, sometimes even vengeful approach. In her hands, the old standard "Wade in the Water" becomes a scorching gospel rocker that effortlessly demonstrates why she inspired Janis Joplin so profoundly. I'm an atheist, but her singing almost gave me religion. "One Black Rat," in which Big Mama threatens a man with her shoe "somewhere across of your shirt-tail," gives the lie to the old stereotype of blueswomen as sobbing masochists. "Sweet Little Angel" showcases her rendingly vulnerable side, which can be more fully heard on the CD Ball and Chain, which contains heartbreaking songs such as "My Heavy Load" and the title track. On The Way It Is, Ms. Thornton's band supports her excellently, which is something she couldn't count on for much of her 70s concert performances. I would still recommend Hound Dog as the best introduction to Ms. Thornton's wonderful but too-small body of work, but The Way It Is and Ball and Chain are the other CDs that anyone who loves her truly needs to own. She deserves to be far more widely heard than she is. As she was a lesbian who often dressed as a man onstage, I don't know why the gay and lesbian community hasn't acclaimed her as a pioneering heroine. Alice Walker has given her due respect, though."
Brings Back Memories
Oliver Pennington | New York, New York United States | 06/21/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I had to opportunity to see "Big Mama" Willie Mae Thornton twice, once at the famed Apollo Theatre and at the Palladium on 14th Street in New York City. At the Apollo, it was a blues show which headlined three acts, Big Mama Thornton, Jean DuShon and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee.Miss DuShon brought down the house, of course, and received standing ovations for her fantastic singing and glorious physical appearance.When Willie Mae walked out, it was in complete contrast to Miss DuShon. Big Mama wore a man's plaid work shirt, coveralls and men's construction boots. To top it off, she had a front tooth missing. What a sight! With the Apollo audience poised to ridicule, they sat mute as Willie Mae lumbered on stage with the saavy of a street bully. They didn't DARE utter one sound of disapproval. She sang her butt off that night and, in the end, she too, received standing ovations.This record, THE WAY IT IS, has been in my collection for years and I plan to buy the CD. She even jokes about "Ronald Reegun" at this concert -- she was obviously opposed to Mr. Ronnie, suggesting that he might be a racist.At the Palladium, she sang for mostly a college crowd. Her intro to "Hound Dog" was priceless. She spoke of how she felt when she first heard the song and how she felt "it wasn't nethin'...all I did was add some hoopin' and hollerin' to it, and it was a hit!"This recording reminds me of when I saw this great lady on stage about three feet from me. I saw history in the making."