Janis Lyn Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970) was an American singer and musician. One of the most successful and widely known female rock stars of her era, she was noted for her powerful mezzo-soprano vocals and “electric” stage presence.
In 1967, Joplin rose to fame following an appearance at Monterey Pop Festival, where she was the lead singer of the then little-known San Francisco psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company. After releasing two albums with the band, she left Big Brother to continue as a solo artist with her own backing groups, first the Kozmic Blues Band and then the Full Tilt Boogie Band. She appeared at the Woodstock festival and on the Festival Express train tour. Five singles by Joplin reached the Billboard Hot 100, including a cover of the Kris Kristofferson song “Me and Bobby McGee”, which reached number one in March 1971. Her most popular songs include her cover versions of “Piece of My Heart”, “Cry Baby”, “Down on Me”, “Ball and Chain”, “Summertime”, and her original song “Mercedes Benz”, her final recording.
Joplin died of a heroin overdose in 1970, at the age of 27, after releasing three albums (two with Big Brother and the Holding Company and one solo album). A second solo album, Pearl, was released in January 1971, just over three months after her death. It reached number one on the Billboard charts. She was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. Rolling Stone ranked Joplin number 46 on its 2004 list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and number 28 on its 2008 list of 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. She remains one of the top-selling musicians in the United States, with Recording Industry Association of America certifications of 18.5 million albums sold.
Pearl is the second and final solo studio album by Janis Joplin, released on January 11, 1971, three months after her death on October 4, 1970. It was the final album with her direct participation, and the only Joplin album recorded with the Full Tilt Boogie Band, her final touring unit. It peaked at number one on the Billboard 200, holding that spot for nine weeks. It has been certified quadruple platinum by the RIAA.
The album has a more polished feel than the albums she recorded with Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Kozmic Blues Band due to the expertise of producer Paul A. Rothchild and her new backing musicians. Rothchild was best-known as the recording studio producer of The Doors, and worked well with Joplin, calling her a producer’s dream. Together they were able to craft an album that showcased her extraordinary vocal talents. They used Sunset Sound Recorders in Los Angeles.
The Full Tilt Boogie Band were the musicians who accompanied her on the Festival Express, a concert tour by train of Canada, in the summer of 1970. Many of the songs on this album were recorded on the concert stage in Canada two months before Joplin and the band started their Los Angeles recording sessions. The band also appeared twice on The Dick Cavett Show. They also played many American cities, both before and after Festival Express, although no recordings of those concerts have been officially released.
All nine tracks that she sings on were personally approved and arranged by Joplin. Pearl features the #1 hit “Me and Bobby McGee”, on which she played acoustic guitar, written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster; “Trust Me”, by Bobby Womack, written for Joplin; Howard Tate’s “Get It While You Can”, showcasing her vocal range; and the original songs “Move Over” and “Mercedes Benz”, the latter co-written by Joplin, Bobby Neuwirth, and Michael McClure.
Joplin sang on all tracks except “Buried Alive in the Blues”, which was actually a backing track in which she had not yet recorded vocals. The song’s writer Nick Gravenites was offered the opportunity to sing it as a tribute to Joplin, but he turned it down, so the song ended up as an instrumental. He later sang the song with Joplin’s former band Big Brother and the Holding Company for their 1971 album How Hard It Is. The recording sessions, starting in early September, ended with Joplin’s untimely death on October 4, 1970. Her final session, which took place on Thursday, October 1 after a break of several days, yielded her a cappella “Mercedes Benz.” It was the last song she recorded before her death. The album cover, photographed by Barry Feinstein in Los Angeles, shows Joplin reclining on her Victorian era loveseat with a drink in her hand.
In 2003, the album was ranked number 122 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, moving to 125 in a 2012 revised listing. It was moved to a 259 ranking in the 2020 list.
In 1993 Columbia reissued the album on 24kt gold CD as part of their MasterSound series, this edition was remastered by Vic Anesini using the Super Bit Mapping process. In 1999 it was remastered again for the Box Of Pearls box set, this version was also mastered by Vic Anesini, it included four previously unreleased live recordings from the Festival Express Tour, recorded on July 4, 1970, as bonus tracks; it was also released as a standalone release. A two-disc Legacy Edition was released on June 14, 2005, with six bonus tracks including a birthday message to John Lennon of “Happy Trails,” and a reunion of the Full Tilt Boogie Band in an instrumental tribute to Joplin. The second disc included an expanded set from the Festival Express Tour, recorded between June 28 and July 4, 1970. The album was again reissued again in 2012 as The Pearl Sessions. It contains the original album, six mono mixes, two live tracks and alternate takes of the songs that constituted the Pearl vinyl album when Columbia Records released it in 1971. Recordings of Joplin and Paul Rothchild talking between takes give the listener insight into their creative musical process. In 2016 Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab released the album on SACD and double 45 RPM vinyl, the SACD was mastered by Rob LoVerde while the vinyl was cut by Kreig Wunderlich assisted by LoVerde. (wikipedia)
Janis Joplin’s second masterpiece (after Cheap Thrills), Pearl was designed as a showcase for her powerhouse vocals, stripping down the arrangements that had often previously cluttered her music or threatened to drown her out. Thanks also to a more consistent set of songs, the results are magnificent — given room to breathe, Joplin’s trademark rasp conveys an aching, desperate passion on funked-up, bluesy rockers, ballads both dramatic and tender, and her signature song, the posthumous number one hit “Me and Bobby McGee.” The unfinished “Buried Alive in the Blues” features no Joplin vocals — she was scheduled to record them on the day after she was found dead. Its incompleteness mirrors Joplin’s career: Pearl’s power leaves the listener to wonder what else Joplin could have accomplished, but few artists could ask for a better final statement. (by Steve Huey)
I wonder if Janis knew she was recording a masterpiece at the time. i doubt it, but this her 4th & final lp is not only her best but one of the best classic rock lps of all-time. here Janis has the prefect blend of blues, pop, folk & rock in the performance & choice of songs to complement her always extraordinary voice. the Full-Tilt Boogie Band play with tasteful restraint, not needing to overplay to prove their chops foreshadowing quality playing such as Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers.
the closing song “Get It While You Can” is a fitting epitaph given Janis’ untimely death. i mourn the lost of what could have been had Janis lived. she finally found her musical balance but unfortunately died before she could have created more. i am grateful that she left us with a perfect album. (Art Moy)
Richard Bell (piano)
Brad Campbell (bass)
Janis Joplin (vocals, guitar on 07.)
Ken Pearson (organ)
Clark Pierson (drums)
John Till (guitar)
Sandra Crouch (tambourine)
Bobbye Hall (percussion)
Bobby Womack (guitar on 09.)
Phil Badella – John Cooke – Vince Mitchell
01. Move Over (Joplin) 3.40
02. Cry Baby (Ragovoy/Berns) 3.57
03. A Woman Left Lonely (Penn/Oldham) 3.30
04. Half Moon (John Hall/Johanna Hall) 3.53
05. Buried Alive In The Blues (Gravenites) 2.25
06. My Baby (Ragovoy/Shuman) 3.44
07. Me And Bobby McGee (Kristofferson/Foster) 4.31
08. Mercedes Benz (Joplin/Neuwirth/McClure) 1.48
09. Trust Me (Womack) 3.16
10. Get It While You Can (Ragovoy/Shuman) (Howard Tate 1966 rendition) 3.23
11. Happy Birthday, John (Happy Trails) (Evans) 1.12
12. Me And Bobby McGee (demo version) (Kristofferson/Foster) 4.45
13. Move Over (alternate version) (Joplin) 4.24
14. Cry Baby (alternate version) (Ragovoy/Berns) 4.53
15. My Baby (alternate version) (Ragovoy/Shuman) 3.56
16. Pearl (instrumental) (Bell/Pearson/Till/Campbell/Pierson) 4.27
Live from the Festival Express Tour, Canada, June/July 1970:
17. Tell Mama (Toronto, June 28, 1970) (Carter/Daniel/Terrell) 6.48
18. Half Moon (Toronto) (John Hall/Johanna Hall) 4.40
19. Move Over (Calgary, July 4, 1970) (Joplin) 4.44
20. Maybe (Winnipeg, July 1, 1970) (Barrett) 3.56
21. Summertime (Winnipeg) (G.Gershwin/Heyward/I.Gershwin) 4.41
22. Little Girl Blue (Calgary) (Rodgers/Hart) 3.56
23. That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll (Toronto) (Bell/Pearson/Till/Campbell/Pierson) 6.20
24. Try (Just A Little Bit Harder) (Toronto) (Ragovoy/Taylor) 8.35
25. Kozmic Blues (Toronto) (Joplin/Mekler) 6.07
26. Piece Of My Heart (Toronto) (Ragovoy/Berns) 5.23
27. Cry Baby (Toronto) (Ragovoy/Berns) 6:.33
28. Get It While You Can (Calgary) (Ragovoy/Shuman) 7.22
29. Ball And Chain (Calgary) (Thornton) 8.10
From the Janis Joplin scrapbook:
The official website: