Friday, February 22, 2013

122 Pearl. A real gem

Album: Pearl
Artist: Janis Joplin
Year: 1971
Genre: Rock


  1. Move Over
  2. Cry Baby
  3. A Woman Left Lonely
  4. Half Moon
  5. Buried Alive in the Blues
  6. My Baby
  7. Me and Bobby McGee
  8. Mercedes Benz
  9. Trust Me
  10. Get It While You Can  

Janis Joplin is one of Rock's greatest voices, not just great female voices but great voices from any gender you care to name (I only know two genders but if there are others she's still the greatest). Her death is one of the great tragedies of rock and roll, she could have given us so much more wonderful music throughout the seventies and possibly even beyond.

Sadly she died while in the process of making her finest album so we can never know what lay in her future. Thankfully we have Pearl to stand as a testament to her considerable talent.

Joplin was great before 1970 but during the recording of Pearl she finally found a backing band who brought out her best. The Full Tilt Boogie Band were a bunch of Canadian musicians who were individually talented and collectively inspirational. The only thing they lacked was a dynamic lead singer to take them places and Janis was exactly what they required.

Once she had a band and a producer who understood what she wanted to do all Joplin needed was a great set of songs which suited her voice and showed off her range. Every one she chose for Pearl is a winner.

The most famous track is Me and Bobby McGee, which was a Kris Kristofferson track that had been done a few times before Joplin put down the definitive version. It's not country music but it's firmly entrenched in America's deep south. I'm not sure if it's a ballad or what classification it needs but I do know that it's absolutely perfect. From the gentle opening to the rocking conclusion there isn't a single misstep and Joplin's vocals are among her best.

The other "Household name" among the track listing is Mercedes Benz which is a doubly tragic acapella number. It's tragic because it's the last song that Joplin ever recorded, she left the studio after she finished and then died before she could return (Buried Alive in the Blues is an instrumental track left on the album without the vocals Joplin never had a chance to record). It's second tragedy is the fact that despite being a perfect anthem railing against consumerism it was used in an advertising campaign for Mercedes Benz which is more than slightly sickening.

There are other great moments on Pearl that cover blues, soul and good old rock and roll. My Baby, Move Over and Cry Baby are all standouts but there's not a dud track among the tracklisting.

If you haven't heard Pearl then you're missing out on the finest hour from one of Rock's finest voices. It's a tragedy that the tiny Texan isn't still fronting the Full Tilt Boogie Band somewhere right now but make sure you honour her legacy by enjoying Pearl in all its glory.

Highlight: Me and Bobby McGee
Lowlight: Buried Alive in the Blues

Influenced by: Etta James
Influenced: Girls who sing rock

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "this in my mind is joplins best effort and last effort.

-Well it might be the best in your mind but I think it's her last in everyone's mind. Because it was.

So is this a pearl or just a small piece of grit coated with the secretions of a clam in an effort to relieve the feeling of irritation? Let me know below.

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