Two new releases keep Janis Joplin's legacy alive
Published: March 21, 2012
How was she when she was sober, as opposed to when she was high or drunk?
That's an interesting question. No one has ever asked me that one before, but you get the prize. Janis had a lot of fun. A lot of people tend to think she was this tragic figure or something, unhappy and what not, you know? But probably all those women like Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Bessie Smith … they have a good time and that's why they are where they are. They love life and they really have a good time. So she had a lot of fun and then there was another side of her that was intellectual, very articulate, and really intelligent. She kind of was this blues mama, and then there was this highly intelligent person. They were both there, but when she was drunk that other side of her was distorted. That was kind of sad to watch.
Why did you have to sing when you had Janis Joplin in the band?
Well, that's another good question [laughs]. To give her a break! Why do you think Keith Richards sings? To give Mick [Jagger] a break! She needed a rest!
What do you remember of the 1968 Carousel show [released March 13]?
It was a funny place. The Carousel ballroom wasn't the type of place we were used to playing at all. It was like a new thing that [promoter] Bill Graham was trying. I think it was a used car automobile showroom, so he rented the space and it was odd being there. It was brand new to us and everything felt new and kind of raw there. It was stimulating.
As music listeners, we all know how great Janis was and why we love her so much. But as the person who played with her more than anybody else, what was so great about her?
I know a lot of people think that Janis just screams, and a lot of people think that about James Brown, too. But Janis and James could really sing a ballad so beautifully. They were both amazing singers who are kind of stereotyped now. But she could sing anything. She was raw and powerful, but she could also be sweet and tender. •
Big Brother and the HoldingCompany
Live at the Carousel Ballroom 1968 (Columbia/Legacy)
★★★ (out of 5 stars)
Originally recorded by legendary soundman Owsley "The Bear" Stanley, who supervised the mastering of this new release before dying in a car crash in Australia in 2011. The album is dedicated to him. "This evening was special," said Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, who was present at that show, in a press statement. "The Bear loved Janis. Her ability to sing multiple tones simultaneously and then morph them into heart-wrenching chords was singular. Her primal cry, filled with tenderness and hurt, was delivered at 140 decibels as the band pushed her into the slipstream. There could be no one more qualified to bring Big Brother and the Holding Company to life than Owsley. Together they captured the magic. The Bear sure had it right this time."
Released March 13. Watch for a special 12" vinyl collector's edition on March 27.
COMING OUT APRIL 17
The Pearl Sessions (Columbia/Legacy)
★★★★ (out of 5 stars)
The 40th anniversary edition of Pearl, her posthumous album, includes the original album plus several unreleased takes and all the mono singles. Highlights from the Pearl Sessions, a 10" vinyl, will be released on April 21 for Record Store Day. Since both records are a limited edition, Hogwild can't guarantee they will have it, but "chances are" they will, "just like we had Janis' vinyls last year," Steve Alejandro told the Current.
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