JANIS LIVE was JANIS as a force of nature
W. T. Hoffman | Pennsylvania, United States | 09/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album (originally on 2LPs), was the only IN CONCERT album of Janis, until that BIG BROTHER and the HOLDING COMPANY FEATURING JANIS JOPLIN LIVE AT WINTERLAND 1968 came out on CD back in 1998. This orginal JOPLIN IN CONCERT album is fantastic, and provides an insightful look at JANIS's complete career. The first part of the CD is with BIG BROTHER (tracks 1,2, 4-7 ), recorded in mid 1968, except for the song EGO ROCK and ALL IS LONELINESS, which was from a "reunion" of Janis with Big Bro in 1970. For those who are fans of the CHEAP THRILLS CD (which was mostly recorded live), then you'll recognise a lot of this "SOUND", since they are simply outtakes from the same set of concerts from april to June '68 when CHEAP THRILLS was recorded. So much is made of Big Brother having a horrible sound, but to me they sound like a good, grungy blues rock band. Had they sounded slick, mechanical and over rehearsed, I don't think I'd like the band as much, even WITH Janis' vocals. BIG BROTHER LIVE in 1968 sounds EXACTLY what they are--a bunch of drugged up, drunk hippies who live together, playing music for the sheer ecstacy of communial sound. The sound quality here is fine as well, since it's obvious they were still looking for numbers to complete their CHEAP THRILLS album, with these well multi track recorded songs. (FLOWER IN THE SUN, one of Janis' early rarities, is a stand out number here.)
The second half of the CD are songs recorded with FULL TILT BOOGIE BAND, during their june-junly 1970 tour of Canada on the FESTIVAL EXPRESS. (check out the FESTIVAL EXPRESS DVD for more about THAT experience.) These songs hold together better than the BIG BROTHER songs. Janis wasn't a psychedelic blues goddess here, nor was she in her R&B big band soul sound, she developed with the KOSMIC BLUES band. 1970 Janis employed a bluesy, heavy guitar, organ, piano, bass and drums. With FULL TILT BOOGIE band, Janis had finally found the best match sound for her voice, raw yet technically perfect, filled with well rehersed, stiring dynamics, beautiful keyboard work, and spontaneously reworking her PEARL-KOSMIC BLUES material. There's nothing anyone can say negative about this FESTIVAL EXPRESS material. If it doesnt move you, you're a sleeping vampire, or a wax figure in a museum, or Richard Nixon. If you are a Janis fan, even a CASUAL fan, this album ought not to be missed. Maybe it will be deleted, if the JANIS estate releases a complete set of material from her 1970 FESTIVAL EXPRESS tour. (something like you hear on the PEARL 2CD collectors series.) But I'd want this album even IF most of it ends up in a new JANIS LIVE 1970 CD...because of the 1968 BIG BROTHER material. No matter what the future holds for JANIS releases, I recommend this CD, including every one of those grungy, druggy, loose sounding BIG BROTHER numbers. Janis was a force of nature. Every note she sang, carried so much sorrow, anger, and loneliness, in opposistion to her optomistic striving for LOVE and BEAUTY. Such hope and desire Janis lived with, despite her faults. (Couldn't her drug use just be an extension of her striving and loneliness anyway?) In the end, this is a great album to dig, just to hear Janis invite you back to her house for a drink after the show, reminding her audience that's "she's easy to find". Janis is STILL easy to find. She's right here waiting."