You Picked It! – Janis Joplin – “Pearl” (1971) – Album Review

Alright…You Picked It! And this one wasn’t ever really that close. There was a lot of back and forth between Johnny Cash and Janis Joplin, but once Janis pulled ahead there was no stopping her. The winner was Janis Joplin’s 1971 album ‘Pearl’ which is one I do have in my collection. Here are the results.

  1. Janis Joplin – ‘Pearl’ – 9 votes
  2. Johnny Cash – ‘American IV: The Man Comes Around’ – 6 votes
  3. Sly & the Family Stone – ‘There’s a Riot Goin’ On’ – 3 votes
  4. AC/DC – ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirty Cheap’ – 2 votes
  5. Crobot – ‘Feel This’ – Sadly, 0 votes

Thanks to all for participating. The August choices will be up on Saturday!

JANIS JOPLIN – ‘PEARL’:

Janis Joplin died on October 4, 1970 of a heroin overdose at the tender age of 27 like so many musicians and actors before her. Janis had been recording her new album at the time of her death as they had started back in July and had recorded up to her death. Four months after her death, the album was released on January 11, 1971. It would go on to hold the #1 spot on Billboard 9 weeks and has been certified quadruple platinum. Not a bad way to go out.

The album is the first one recorded with her final touring unit called Full Tilt Boogie Band and it consisted of some great musicians including Richard Bell on piano, Ken Pearson on Hammond Organ, John Till on guitar, Brad Campbell on bass and Clark Pierson on drums. It also had a pretty famous guest on one song, the one and only Bobby Womack played acoustic on “Trust Me” which is a song he wrote. The album was mostly covers, but did have a couple songs penned by Janis. The album was much more polished and refined then some of her previous works thanks to producer Paul Rothchild who brought his expertise he gained from working with the Doors.

My album cover is pretty old and pretty beat up, but man does the vinyl sound sweet. Amazingly clear. It is a Pitman Pressing from 1971 and not very rare or sought after. You could easily pick this one up for $1-$5 especially if it is in as bad a shape as mine. My inner sleeve is interesting. It has little articles about a lot of bands at the time including Chicago, Paul Simon and Carlos Santa to name a few. Not sure if this was originally in it or not, but a cool piece of history in my opinion. Alright, let us get to the music, shall we.

SIDE 1:

“Move Over” is the only song on the album that was written by only Janis Joplin. She sounds so confident and powerful. The music is abundant and sounds perfect. The Hammond makes the song sound so full and the guitar picking is first rate. The bass line is the driving force and all wrapped in a nice bow with Janis. It’s bluesy sound and rocking beats are a superb combo.

It starts with a scream from Janis and then “Cry Baby” comes in all sultry and seductive. They take this Garnett Mimms cover and make it their own in the only way Janis knows how to do it. Her raw power and gritty vocals give the song so much character and you can’t help but get sucked in. When she sings, she doesn’t hold back and when she needs to pull back, she does it with ease. The chorus is super charged and when you have the piano and Hammond going toe to toe with her vocals it is almost magical.

“A Woman Left Lonely” is a ballad and is a little lackluster to start but when Janis starts to feel those lyrics and her range goes up, so does the enjoyment. What is great about the song is the playing, you can hear every instrument crystal clear so there is a lot of enjoyment in the playing.

The funkiness of “Half Moon” is evident right out of the gate and such a great groove. Just sit back, take it all in and enjoy every note she sings and every note the Full Tilt Boogie Band play because the sure do boogie on this one.

“Buried Alive in the Blues” is a total blessed place to be. This instrumental had been recorded but Janis died before any vocals could be added so they kept it as is and no offense, it is pure joyous bliss as an instrumental. The Full Tilt Boogie Band is simply amazing. All instruments shine and they compliment each other so well. Turn this one up to 10 and maybe play it a few times so you can take it all in. Brilliant!!

SIDE 2:

“My Baby” opens side 2 as grand as “Move Over” did side 1. The rocking, blues track sees Janis dig deep and she just soars with those choruses with some great backing vocals added in for texture. A great country sounding solo adds more flavor to an already full palette.

Then we get the splendid “Me and Bobby McGee” which is the Kris Kristofferson penned track with Fred Foster. Janis owns this songs. Her gritty rawness is perfect for this song. She breathes such life in to the song. She is feeling those lyrics. There is a swagger to her vocal performance as her confidence grows with each verse. The energy builds and her vocal power matches it step for step. The Hammond is also a star of the song as it holds its own next to her as it won’t let you forget its there. The instrumental break towards the end is pure sweetness.

The last song she ever recorded was “Mercedes Benz” which she wrote with Bob Neuwirth and Michael McClure. It is a raw and rough a cappella that is quite a humorous commentary on consumerism. She let’s it all hang it to bare and her nakedness.

Next is Bobby Womack’s “Trust Me” and is another of her shining moments on the album. Bobby joins in on the acoustic guitar, but it is Janis that is the star. She has mastered her voice as she fixes her tone for the mood as she can be soft and pretty and raw and ugly but all with such a sweet sound. Her grittiness is her bread & butter. The song was made for her.

Finally we get the last song with “Get It While You Can” which is another sultry bluesy song which gives you more of what you love about her and the Full Tilt Boogie Band. The guitar playing and bass are simply stellar and I love how they always have the Hammond backing Janis as the two are the perfect deadly duo as they slay it every time. It is more of a reminder of her greatness that was taken from us way too soon.

I don’t think I need to add much to this totally brilliant and stellar album. It is an amazing album for her to go out on and a sad reminder of the greatness that was still left in the tank if she had survived. What could we have seen from her. There is no beating around the bush here, nope. My Overall Score is a 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars as whenever I listen to this, there is no skipping right through…no sir. It is front to back joyfulness and since it goes by so fast, it usually gets played multiple times in a row as I don’t want to miss anything. And that is all I need to say. Thanks for picking this one.

20 thoughts on “You Picked It! – Janis Joplin – “Pearl” (1971) – Album Review

  1. Haven’t heard this one in a while but “Bobby” and “Move Over” are ubiquitous on classic rock radio in these parts. I’ll have to add it to the spin pile.
    Have you ever seen “Janis: Little Girl Blue?” A sad but interesting documentary. I reviewed it a while back.
    BTW, your autocorrect provided you with the hilarious Carlos Santa. Some rapper should pick that up as a stage name.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cool review. The Full Tilt Boogie Band are something else indeed. I’m glad “Buried Alive in the Blues” stayed an instrumental as it showcased what a class band they were. Plus, hard to imagine Janis Joplin finding the room to sing over that track (though I’m she would have found the room!).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review John! It’s such a shame that she didn’t see the success of this album…this was her mastepiece and she would have been huge had she lived. I love her voice…she is hands down my favorite female rock/blues artist.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s