CD Review: Janis Joplin

(amazon.com)

Janis Joplin
The Pearl Sessions
Columbia/Legacy
By David Chiu

Whether it could be considered fate or destiny, Janis Joplin’s last album, Pearl, recorded before her death, ultimately became a poignant tribute to the emotive, blues-influenced singer. The songs on this 1971 release encompass all what she was about: attitude, fragility and tenderness. Accompanied by the great playing of her Full Tilt Boogie Band, Joplin draws on her amazing strength and volatility as a vocalist on every song on the record, whether it’s on the Stax-influenced “Cry Baby,” the heartfelt “Trust Me,” and the angst-ridden “Move Over.” There’s also her playful side on the rather amusing a capella track “Mercedes Benz,” while the funky “Half Moon” shows her ability to rock out. The album is best known for her take on the country-tinged Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee,” her first and only Number One Hit. Adding to the album’s uniqueness is the instrumental track “Buried Alive in the Blues,” the song that Joplin never had a chance to add her vocals. Why this latest reissue is called The Pearl Sessions is because there is a second disc containing outtakes and alternate versions of the original album’s songs There’s also studio chatter that captures Joplin’s approach to the music as well as her personality; also making this set poignant is the inclusion of the slow, gospel-like ballad “Pearl,” performed by the band after Joplin’s death. For fans of the original album, The Pearl Sessions provides the listener a wonderful glimpse into the making of Joplin’s most enduring record –a fitting musical epitaph for one rock’s greatest singers.

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