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Janis Joplin
Pearl

Review By Steve Guttenberg
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Janis Joplin Pearl

CD Label: Inside Out Music

 

  We didn't have Janis for very long, but now with this remastered Legacy Edition two CD set, we have another little piece of her heart. The first CD includes the original Pearl album, plus six bonus tracks, three of which are heard for the first time here. But the second disc is the main attraction, jam packed as it is with live tracks recorded very late in her short life.

You all know Pearl, her posthumously released effort that yielded hits like "Me And Bobby McGee" and "Get It While You Can." The sound has been spiffed up so it's less compressed and more open than previous versions. Standout tracks include an alternative take of "Move Over" built on a galloping rhythm that doesn't quite jell, but it's an interesting variation. Disc 1's final cut is a gorgeous simmering instrumental, "Pearl." There's something about Ken Pearson's organ part that makes me think of the sound from Big Pink era Band. Whatever, it's a perfect closer to the expanded disc.

Of Disc 2's thirteen live tracks, all culled from the Festival Express Tour, six are unreleased gems, and the other seven tunes could have only be found on various collections, so only the most dedicated fans have heard this stuff. Janis' last group, the Full Tilt Boogie Band, couldn't match the raw power of Big Brother And The Holding Company, but they're better musicians. Janis finally had the band she deserved.

Her reworked "Summertime" will take your breath away as she digs deeper into Gershwin's tune. She's a few years older than she was the first time around, but she's aged a decade or more. "Maybe" kills, her voice is so strong, the band is "in the pocket," and it's just perfect. "Tell Mama" is transcendent San Francisco blues romp. Janis caresses "Little Girl Blue," and plays the band like never before, you can tell she's digging herself. "That's Rock N Roll" is Chuck Berry-ish instrumental, and "Ball And Chain" is taken at a somewhat slower, bluesier pace than the Cheap Thrills version. Janis' spoken coda on lost love speaks volumes. She lived it.

The new deluxe packaging features outtake shots from the Pearl cover sessions, with Janis decked out on the couch, and the booklet features a superb essay written by her road manager, John Byrne Cooke, who provides new insights on rock's first female superstar. Even as it's going on 35 years after she left us, her star glows ever more brightly. Janis Joplin died just three months after the live recordings were made. It sure seems like if any woman was going to match her talents she would have shown up by now. G-d knows, we need her.

 

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