The life and career of Janis Joplin have been well covered in all media in the decades that have gone since she passed away close to 50 years ago. “Pearl” was her swan song production, released a few months after she passed away. An unfinished album, but the material captured showcase an artist of the highest quality.
Just how much one will like this album or not will solely come down to one’s taste in music. While unfinished and perhaps a tad raw here and there, everything about this album speaks of quality work through and through. The mix is excellent, the production highlights the essential details, and then there’s the backing band and Janis herself of course.
Blues, soul and country, with a wee bit of 70’s funk and gospel tossed in for good measure, appears to be what this album is about on a strictly genre oriented point of view. If you love music of this kind, this album is obviously essential. But besides the style of music, there are other aspects that merits a mention.
The backing band here is most excellent for starters. They showcase their abilities perfectly in the playful and uplifting instrumental ‘Buried Alive in the Blues’, one of the many golden nuggets on this production as I regard it, but as a backing band they do a hell of a job throughout. They choose to not be the strictly unobtrusive backing band of a great singer, but rather take charge and adds a great variety of playful instrument details to the songs. Never overpowering the singer, but always providing just a little bit more, giving all of the songs here some rather interesting dynamics. For starters you get the feeling that this is an actual and factual full band exercise, where the band just happens to have an excellent singer. The songs feel tight too, like a well rehearsed and tightly proven unit. Quality, as mentioned, is a key word for this album.
Joplin herself isn’t a perfect singer, and it is that dimension that makes these songs so powerful and vital. She has power, but her voice also breaks. She soars to great heights, and occasionally stumbles. There’s heart and soul aplenty though, you feel her power and vitality as much as her frail and weak sides. A human being, giving her all, heart and soul held up to the light to be inspected by all with all the perfections as well as imperfections. Few, if any, vocalists have managed to give such a vibrant impression of doing that before or since.
Personally I do not find this to be a perfect album, and much of that comes down to musical taste. This is an impressive album however, and the sheer quality of Joplin and her band wins me over more often than not. But this is a classic album, one that merits buying due to the quality of the musicians and singer alone. And if you love your blues, your soul and your classic rock, this album can’t be described in any other words than being an essential production, a must buy album to your music collection.
My rating: 88/100
Move Over // Cry Baby // A Woman Left Lonely // Half Moon // Buried Alive In The Blues // My Baby // Me And Bobby McGee // Mercedes Benz // Trust Me // Get It While You Can