The "Blues Mama" Of "The Generation Of '68"
Alfred Johnson | boston, ma | 04/19/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It is virtually a truism that every generation has its own cultural icons, for better or worst. The 1960's, the time of this reviewer's "Generation of `68", was no exception. Although there were no official creeds in the matter, in fact we scorned such thinking, a rough translation of what we thought we were about then could be summed up as follows- live fast, live young and live forever. Other, later generations have put their own imprint on that theme although I sense without our basically naïve and hopeful expectations of that phrase. All this is by way of saying that the artist under review, urban white blues and soul singer Janis Joplin, was one of our icons. That she crashed and burned well before her time, and well before forever, only adds poignancy to her fate.
The role of "blues mama" for a generation is certainly no task for the faint-hearted, as Janis's life, life style, and fame attest to. That she was able to translate the black blues idiom and style of the likes of her idol "Big Mama" Thornton, of necessity, had to take its toll on that tiny hard scrabble Texas-raised body. But that is the fundamental tragedy (and beauty) of the blues. Not only must you `pay your dues' but this genre cannot be faked. If you have not lived a hard scrabble existence, faced the depths of what society has to offer and come out swinging you flat-out cannot convey that message the way it is suppose to be done. Janis could. Other white women blues singers as fine performers as they are, like Tracey Nelson and Rory Block, approximate that sound but there is just a little too much "refinement" in the voice to pass this test.
So what did Janis (and her fellow musicians of Big Brother and The Holding Company who generally rose to the occasion and created great sounds to go with that Joplin voice) leave us? Well, as contained in this above average CD compilation of her work, most of the essential woman's blues numbers of the 1960's that will stand the test of time. Not bad, right? Start off, as always, with `Big Mama's" "Ball and Chain" (that blew them away at the Monterrey Pops Festival). Move on to the classic Gershwin tune "Summertime". Feast on her own "I Need A Man To Love" and "Kozmic Blues". And close out with Kris Kristofferson's 1960's traveling anthem "Me And Booby McGee". And in between a dozen more memorable tunes. I defy anyone to find a song in this compilation that is less than above average. And that kind of says it all. Janis Joplin's star burned out far too quickly and those of us from her generation are now coming to terms with the fact that, despite our youthful beliefs, we will not live forever. Her music, however, will.
Cream of Janis
Jimi Joplin | Rock Town USA | 06/22/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I own every song ever released by the Queen of Rockin' Blues, but you may not want to make that investment. If your budget will allow you just one CD, I would recommend "18 Essential Songs". These selections were taken from the 3 CD box set "Janis" and features only good stuff. If you've only been a casual Janis listener, then this album contains all the songs you've heard and a few more you need to hear. The greatest virtue of this collection, aside from the driving blues that provide over 70 minutes of music, is that it is generally priced anywhere from reasonable to an incredible bargain!"