Review : Janis Joplin - The Pearl Sessions
PopmattersWatching the local rural (Cascade) Iowa hometown band open for Justin Townes Earle recently, the lead singer mentioned he had recently performed with a new female singer. “She’s the second coming of Janis Joplin”, he intoned. However, judging by his looks one could not imagine he had been around for the first one. No matter, Joplin has become the gold standard by which other female rock vocalists are measured. More than forty years after her untimely death, she is still thought of as the greatest woman singer of the modern era.
And most listeners consider Joplin’s final album Pearl her best record. Although Joplin died before the disc was released, she approved every song and arrangement she sang on (there was one instrumental). The tight Full Tilt Boogie Band, which backed her up, was considered a better fit than her freewheeling previous ones, Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Kozmic Blues Band. Pearl hit number one on the Billboard charts in 1971 and stayed there for nine weeks, went quadruple platinum, and routinely has made “best albums of all times” lists. Simply put, Pearl is a rock classic....full text
PopdosePearl, the album that became Janis Joplin’s swan song, was at the time of its recording simply the next step in the progression of an artist who often struggled to find the appropriate collaborators with which to exercise her gifts. As documented in the liner notes for The Pearl Sessions, Columbia/Legacy’s new two-disk retrospective of the album, Joplin found the most supportive team she was ever to work with in producer Paul Rothchild and the Full Tilt Boogie Band, her hand-picked ensemble with whom she had road-tested many songs that would end up on the album. The resulting record is the best of Joplin’s short career, and far and away the most successful, riding the number one spot for nine weeks in 1971.
The Pearl Sessions consists of the album proper (along with mono mixes of the singles) and a second disk of outtakes and studio chatter. I won’t go into the original LP much except to say that it hasn’t undergone any remixing or remastering but still sounds great: Full Tilt Boogie played with just right mix of fire and precision, and Paul Rothchild did an excellent job of getting them and Joplin onto tape. As the most commercially and artistically successful album of rock’s pioneering female star, Pearl fully deserves a detailed look. That is where the second disk, featuring many (though not all) never-before-released tracks, comes in....full text
TheseconddiscOne dictionary defines “pearl” as an object both “hard” and “lustrous,” synonymous with “gem” or “jewel.” Couldn’t all of those words also describe Janis Joplin? Pearl was, of course, the name bestowed upon the singer by her final group, The Kozmic Blues Band, and the title of her final, posthumously released album from 1971. Pearl has arrived on CD once more from Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings under the title The Pearl Sessions (88697 84224 2), expanding the original 10-track album with a clutch of mono singles, two live tracks, and nearly a disc’s worth of alternate takes and studio banter. (A vinyl Sessions highlights album and a 180-gram pressing of the original LP will also be available on Record Store Day.) So is this the last word on Pearl?
The answer would have to be “yes” and “no,” which is altogether appropriate for an artist of many contradictions. Joplin was both larger-than-life and shy, supremely confident but pained. She was a songwriter of no small talent but best known for her interpretation of others’ songs. Pearl captured all of these contradictions, and more, better than any of the artist’s albums before it. Some of the most forceful repertoire of her all-too-short career can be found on the album, produced by Paul Rothchild, best known for his work with The Doors. Joplin pleads, wails, shrieks, and otherwise gives herself in to the music with abandon and fervor. A sense of drama permeates the original album which wasn’t always apparent in her earlier, more free-form recordings; indeed, this is as tight a group of songs as she ever recorded. Only “Me and Bobby McGee” exceeds the four-minute mark. Sessions is the second 2-CD set devoted to the album. The first (2005’s Legacy Edition on Columbia/Legacy C2K 90282) supplemented it with a live performance from 1970’s Festival Express tour. Sessions drops those tracks and replaces them with a behind-the-scenes look. Both approaches are valid but neither could be called “definitive.” However, Sessions confirms there’s still much, much more to explore when it comes to Janis Joplin....full text
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