The most apparent difference between the two versions of the song “Hound Dog” is that Big Mama Thornton’s version is slower, characteristic of blues, while Elvis Presley’s cover is a classic example of upbeat rock-and-roll. It is faster and does not have the interlude in the middle as the original does.
Additionally, the cover, as relayed by Elvis Presley (2013), introduces the extra line “You ain’t never caught a rabbit, you ain’t no friend of mine” that is absent in the version provided by warholsoup100 (2011).
This sentence is indicative of the shift in the song’s meaning, with Elvis taking its name more literally while Big Mama Thornton was singing about a gigolo pursuing her.
To my taste, the original version sounds better because I have listened to more rock’n’roll than blues, and Elvis’s version, while foundational to the genre, no longer sounds fresh.
In terms of fidelity, the recording of Big Mama Thornton’s song sounds less clear, though the effect created is not necessarily negative, as the distortions create a warmer sound. Elvis’s version is crisper, which is particularly apparent if one compares the clapping accompaniment present in both versions.
On the subjective level, I prefer the performance by Big Mama Thornton because it sounds cooler and performed with more soul. Each sound and word seems to be expressed with more emotional investment, whereas Elvis Presley’s cover is an outstanding demonstration of a mix of African American and White culture.
In the case of objective comparison, the Elvis Presley cover lacks a substantial portion of fidelity since he introduced a wide range of modifications. For example, the pace is much quicker between 00:00 and 01:29, but the performance artificially slows down.
However, in Big Mama Thornton’s case, the performance is slow between 00:02 and 01:06, and the artist stops singing and introduces various pauses and phrases (Warholsoup100, 2011). In addition, the latter version is not as frequently balanced as Elvis Presley’s cover.
It is also considerably higher in volume, though overall, both songs maintain consistent sound levels internally throughout their entire duration. Elvis’s song has both increased sound density due to the number of instruments used and overall higher loudness to create this difference.
Lastly, both the instruments and the vocals in Big Mama Thornton’s version are lower-pitched than the cover by Elvis, which is overall brighter. I still struggle to find signs of editing in either song, though, considering their time period, likely not much of it was done.
Moreover, the dynamics of these songs are variant due to the approaches of the artists. The range of audio loudness is larger in the case of Big Mama Thornton, whereas the alternative preserves a similar loudness level.
However, it is evident that both songs are equally effective at morphing the music and lyrics in order to bring some form of uniqueness and originality. Since Elvis Presley had a major influence on pop music development, his cover seems to be a standard for modern ears.
Therefore, Big Mama Thornton’s version feels rawer and expressional, where the emotional delivery of the artists is evidently more appropriate. It is especially true in the case of the general lyrics, where Big Mama Thornton’s voice resonates better with the context in a natural fashion.