Pearl: Legacy Edition
The Music Box's #8 specialty package for 2005
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2005, Volume 12, #6
Written by John Metzger
If The Essential Janis Joplin represented the many milestones of Janis Joplinís admittedly brief career, then Pearl was its pinnacle. Given this, itís not surprising that the retrospective featured all but one track from this glorious outing, though in doing so it also made her masterpiece nearly irrelevant. The latest repackaging of the album comes in the shape of Pearl: Legacy Edition, and although it doesnít restore completely the pertinence of the original effort, it does offer a terrific and focused overview of her final moments on Earth.
Indeed, in the wake of a self-imposed hiatus, Joplin emerged in the spring of 1970, fully re-energized and raring to go. She assembled a new band that soon was dubbed Full Tilt Boogie, and by the end of June, the ensemble set forth on a voyage across Canada as part of the Festival Express tour. Culled from this week-long railroad expedition are 13 tracks, which represent the bulk of the bonus material featured on Pearl: Legacy Edition. In short, taken along with the original album, these concert selections represent some of the most powerful recordings of Joplin ever to be assembled. Right from the opening notes of Tell Mama, which more than ever echoes the Grateful Deadís rendition of Turn on Your Lovelight, thereís little doubt as to who is in control. Unlike Big Brother and the Holding Company, Full Tilt Boogie was Joplinís band, and the collective allowed her room to feed from its energy and sing from her heart. Granted, much of the music is ragged, but it also is undeniably intense. Move Over, for example, isnít stretched far beyond the time constraints of its studio counterpart, but itís far more urgent. As for songs like Little Girl Blue, Maybe, and Summertime, her soul-infused vocals exuded the pain and anguish that forever seemed to surround her. Also featured on Pearl: Legacy Edition is an acoustic-driven, demo rendition of Me and Bobby McGee and five additional selections that were plucked from the studio sessions, though none of it is nearly as sterling as the concert cuts.
As for Pearl itself, it is commonly (and rightfully) referred to as Joplinís finest studio effort. Released posthumously and never fully completed, the album still became her most successful outing, largely because it featured not only her most accessible but also her most enduring material. Without question, she always was able to tap into a remarkable range of emotion, but it was within Pearlís contents that she demonstrated the most restraint and control over her abilities. On Cry Baby, she alternated between broken-hearted tenderness and spine-tingling, guttural wails; A Woman Left Lonely reeked of utter desperation; the manner in which she encapsulated both the spirit of the open road and the tormented heartache of Kris Kristoffersonís Me & Bobby McGee makes hers the quintessential rendition of the song; and the concluding Get It While You Can is as devastating a statement of resignation as any ever delivered. Itís almost too much to consider what Joplin might have accomplished had she not accidentally overdosed while in the midst of creating Pearl, but the terrifying blend of beauty and misery that she left as her epitaph is as much of a legacy as anyone should need.
Pearl [Original Album] ó Ĺ
Bonus Materials ó
Pearl: Legacy Edition ó Ĺ
Pearl: Legacy Edition is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box