Friday, April 20, 2018

Box of Pearls: The Janis Joplin Collection

It comes as no surprise that Janis Joplin, who passed away at the age of 27 from a heroin overdose, is legendary for her screaming voice -- who recorded only a total of four albums during her career. Her second album, Cheap Thrills, debuted on the Billboard charts in August of 1968 and reached the number one spot quickly. The proposed title of the album was "Dope, Sex and Cheap Thrills," which properly described her personal life off the stage. Her first two albums were a result of a record contract as part of Big Brother and The Holding Company, a San Francisco rock-and-roll off-the-wall band that entered the mainstream market a couple years too early. The Midwest had not adjusted to hippies in 1967, and the band played to an audience of five or six in clubs that could have held 200. But they got a record deal as a result of the tour and Janis Joplin was introduced to the American public.

At the Monterey International Pop Festival in June of 1967, Big Brother and the Holding Company performed on stage. Overnight Janis Joplin's name spread like wildfire. She overshadowed the band and after two albums with Big Brother, it was obvious that when the tour expired, she was going to venture off on her own. Her third and fourth/final albums are, in my opinion, some of the best music she ever created. No single style of music could do that -- not the country blues or bluegrass, not folk, rhythm and blues, or rock and roll. But there was clearly an element of rhythm and blues and she defined music her own way. 

By the end of 1969, Joplin disbanded the Kosmic Blues Band (the second band, her third album) and took some time off. She went to Rio de Janeiro for Carnaval. She backed off from alcohol and drug use that had sometimes affected her performances with Kosmic Blues. She cleaned up her act. And during those reflective months, her luck changed. In her first year as a leader of her own band, she had learned a lot. Now she was ready to put those lessons to use. Her fourth and final album was released after her death, leaving behind a legacy that most aficionados agree was only a rising point in her career. A darn shame as future albums would have launched her into stardom that few female performers would have accomplished at the time.

A few years ago there was talk that actress Amy Adams was going to play the lead in a biopic about Janis Joplin. Adams would have earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress -- the role is perfect for her. But something fell through and the movie is not going to be made. Big disappointment but we do have her albums to enjoy.

In 2009, a special five-CD box set was released titled, Box of Pearls. The commemorative booklet contains print so small that I have to criticize what the producers were thinking. My youthful eagle eyes were put to a test. But all four albums are on four CDs, along with bonus tracks (recorded alternate takes) and is a magnificent just-starting-out package for people wanting to explore Janis Joplin. The fifth CD contains a few rare unreleased tracks but her third and fourth albums are treasures. Amazon.com offers a bargain out-of-print price and the purchase of the album also contains free music downloads... a surprise I was not expecting.

For anyone wanting to own every track she ever recorded, there are other collections including "Best Of" releases, which contain different live versions of songs, the "Live at Winterland" with Big Brother and "Farewell Song," plus the three-disc set called "Janis" which has lots of her earlier material and a birthday message for John Lennon. Having purchased the Box of Pearls set for $22, I can state that I am fully satisfied having all four of her albums, including bonus tracks. Worthy for anyone looking to add music CDs to their library. And consider the fact that Best Buy just announced they will be discontinuing CDs in their stores this July, owning music CDs is more essential. Owning CDs is the true on-demand.

No comments:

Post a Comment