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Old 08-09-2013, 05:38 AM   #7 (permalink)
Gavin B.
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This is a review I wrote for in 2005 of Cheap Thrills, by Big Brother & the Holding Company:
Dying young may be a good career move for a rock star, but it precludes any possibility of cashing in on that one last comeback tour. Janis Joplin became an icon and celebrated public figure in August of 1968, immediately after this album, Cheap Thrills was released and was dead two short years later. She didn't even live long enough to pay off advances from Columbia Records against future royalties. In the long run, Columbia Records was the primary beneficiary of Janis Joplin's premature death. Her record label has made a fortune from repackaging her catalog as deluxe boxed sets and anthologies over the years. It's ironic because no deluxe Columbia product has distilled the pure undiluted essence of Janis as much as this humble debut album.

For all its ragged glory, Cheap Thrills endures as the best showcase of Janis Joplin's extraordinary singing talent. Among the songs are the chart topping R&B classic "Piece of my Heart", the funky rhythm driven "Combination of the Two", a raw and soulful recasting Gershwin jazz classic "Summertime" and Janis' signature tune the show stopping "Ball and Chain."

A number of music critics took aim at Big Brother's musicianship and criticized the band as unprofessional and not up to par with Janis' talents. Janis, being young and riddled with insecurities, was wounded by the barbs. She left the band four months after the release Cheap Thrills. Her solo career never really happened.

It's a shame, because Big Brother's ramshackle and reckless playing was uniquely attuned to the explosive dynamics of Joplin's "take-no-prisoners" approach to blues singing. She never found another group of musicians she bonded with like Big Brother. Her last album "Pearl" is technically better than Cheap Thrills, but musical virtuosity is over-rated. Ask any hardcore fan of Janis and they will tell you that Cheap Thrills is the first CD they'll grab when their house is burning down.
That pretty much sums up my feelings about Janis Joplin. She had a remarkable voice but she died before she reached her full creative potential.

Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison left behind a legacy of several brilliant albums before they died but Janis Joplin's body of work is surprisingly thin by comparison.
There are two types of music: the first type is the blues and the second type is all the other stuff.
Townes Van Zandt
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