Thursday, April 26, 2012

Janis Joplin- The Pearl Sessions review

 Janis Joplin - The Pearl Sessions
Janis Joplin
The Pearl Sessions
Rating: ****

The Pearl Sessions is the latest archival release from Janis Joplin. Released by Columbia/Legacy, the two disc set includes the classic 1971 Pearl album (which was released posthumously as Joplin had died in October 1970) along with a whole disc worth of outtakes for the album. This marks the third time Pearl has been reissued. Although this set wasn’t really necessary, The Pearl Sessions should be a treat for all Janis Joplin fans.

            As mentioned before, the first disc is basically the Pearl album itself. Again, this is an example of the record labels releasing something that doesn’t need to be re-released. I didn’t bother listening to the first disc. However, I did run a sound test on it to check if the album had been remastered at all. Using the Dynamic Range program via their website, it’s basically the same remaster as the one released in 1999 (along with Joplin’s other three studio efforts, two of them being with Big Brother) issue and probably on the 2005 Legacy Edition reissue. Still, this is good for those people who don’t own Pearl. I think Sony did the right thing in not remastering the album because it already sounds fine.

As for the album itself, it’s fantastic (to read my 40th anniversary article on Pearl from last year, click here). There are six bonus tracks on the first disc, which I did actually listen to. The six bonus tracks are all mono single versions of “Me and Bobby McGee”, “Half Moon”, “Cry Baby”, “Get It While You Can”, “Move Over”, and “A Woman Left Lonely”. All of them sound pretty interesting in mono, as you do get to hear a few things not heard on the stereo album. Still, I prefer the stereo versions of these tracks.

Looking at the run times for the tracks, I noticed “A Woman Left Lonely” is a whole minute longer. This is because at the 3:40 mark, there’s a hidden track. The song is “Happy Trails”, which Joplin and Full Tilt Boogie had recorded as a 30th birthday message to John Lennon. It was one of the last things Joplin recorded as she died on October 4, 1970 (when Lennon’s birthday was on October 9). The Legacy Edition includes this as its own track, so it makes me wonder why they’d hide it at the end of “A Woman Left Lonely”.

The second disc of this set is the real treat for collectors and/or completists. According to the tracking list, nine of the 20 tracks on disc two have never been issued. The others may have turned up on the 2005 Legacy Edition but it doesn’t matter to me because this is all new to me. It’s really interesting to listen to the second disc. It almost feels as if you’re in the studio with Janis Joplin. As you can imagine, the outtakes sound different from the versions that end up on the final album. After listening to three different takes of “Get It While You Can”, you can tell the playing of the members of Full Tilt Boogie is different. As for Janis, you can barely recognize the difference. She really was on top of things and gave it her all on each take. There are also three different versions of “Move Over”. Of them, I find take 13 the most fascinating of the bunch as it utilizes the use of hand claps for a majority of the track.

Another thing I love about the second disc is hearing Janis talk. Some of the things she says are pretty funny and had me laughing. One of my favorite bits was hearing her rant about how everybody she knows is crazy “except President Nixon, man…he’s just a bore.” The alternate version of “Cry Baby” is worth a listen, as Janis seems to improvise one verse in which she talks about needing to go Africa. The instrumental “Pearl” is very sorrowful track: it was recorded by Full Tilt Boogie six days after Janis died. While sad to listen to, it’s very beautiful. There are two bonus tracks: a live version of “Tell Mama” (not the one on the 1999 issue) and the performance of “Half Moon” performed on The Dick Cavett Show.

The Pearl Sessions is a very nice archival release. If you already have Pearl, it’s all up to you if you want to pay more money for another copy of the album with the bonus disc. Personally, I enjoy this set. 

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