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The music of Janis Joplin

Short catalog, long tail


Her flame may have burned for only a short time, but its brightness was such that it can still be seen and felt today. As the first bona fide female rock star, Janis Joplin combined a musical style and a lifestyle to set the tone for a generation of rock singers of both genders. The increasing pressures of handling success, and the effects of heroin addiction are evident in the chronological progression of her performances, live and in the studio, during her short but memorable career.

1967 - 'Big Brother and the Holding Company'

Big Brother & the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin
Sony Legacy

Big Brother and the Holding Company was recorded in late 1966, but wasn't released until August 1967, following the band's highly favorable reception at the Monterey Pop Festival. For the debut album of a band not well known outside the San Francisco Bay area, its chart peak at #60 was considered a success. The single, "Down On Me" almost made the Top 40, peaking at #42.

CD Track List
1. "Bye, Bye Baby"
2. "Easy Rider"
3. "Intruder"
4. "Light Is Faster Than Sound"
5. "Call on Me"
6. "Women Is Losers"
7. "Blindman"
8. "Down on Me" (watch a 1967 performance)
9. "Caterpillar"
10. "All Is Loneliness"

1968 - 'Cheap Thrills'

Big Brother & the Holding Company - Cheap Thrills
Sony Legacy

The big breakthrough for BBHC and for Joplin came with the 1968 release of Cheap Thrills. The album reached #1 on the Billboard 200 chart, and earned honors as the best selling album of the year. The single, "Piece Of My Heart" peaked at #12 on the singles chart. Three of the tracks on the album ("Ball and Chain", "I Need A Man to Love" and "Combination of the Two") were live performance recordings.

Original LP Track List
Side 1
1. "Combination of the Two" (watch performance at Monterey in 1967)
2. "I Need a Man to Love"
3. "Summertime" (watch "Summertime" and "I Need a Man To Love" on Hollywood Palace in 1967)
4. "Piece of My Heart" (watch a live performance in Germany in 1969)

Side 2
1. "Turtle Blues"
2. "Oh, Sweet Mary"
3. "Ball and Chain" (watch a live performance at Monterey in 1967)

1969 - 'I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!'

Janis Joplin - I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama
Sony Legacy

I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama! was released nine months after Joplin left BBHC, and the music was decidedly unlike what she had been doing with that band. A funkier, bluesier sound replaced the psychedelic hard rock that was the specialty of Big Bro & Co. The songs were a mixture of covers and original compositions. The stylistic direction, preponderance of covers, and small number of tracks didn't sit well with some fans and most critics, but the album became a million-seller.

CD Track List
1. "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)" (watch live performance at Woodstock in 1969)
2. "Maybe" (watch a TV performance)
3. "One Good Man"
4. "As Good As You've Been to This World"
5. "To Love Somebody" (watch a performance on The Dick Cavett Show in 1969)
6. "Kozmic Blues"
7. "Little Girl Blue" (watch a 1969 performance on This is Tom Jones)
8. "Work Me, Lord"

1971 - 'Pearl'

Janis Joplin - Pearl
Sony Legacy

Is Pearl considered her best album because it was her best, or because it was her last? Joplin and her tour musicians, Full Tilt Boogie Band went into the studio in early September 1970 top begin recording tracks for Joplin's fourth album. Several of the songs had already been debuted during a summer concert tour in Canada. In early October, Joplin died after overdosing on heroin. She had recorded the vocals on all but one of the tracks (the album's only instrumental) and Pearl was released in January 1971. It went to #1 on the Billboard 200 and went on to sell more than 4-million copies.

Original LP Track List
1. "Move Over" (watch a performance on The Dick Cavett Show in 1970)
2. "Cry Baby"
3. "A Woman Left Lonely"
4. "Half Moon" (watch a performance on The Dick Cavett Show in 1970)
5. "Buried Alive in the Blues"

Side 2
1. "My Baby" (watch a performance on The Dick Cavett Show in 1970)
2. "Me and Bobby McGee"(watch a televised performance)
3. "Mercedes Benz"
4. "Trust Me"
5. "Get It While You Can" (watch a performance on The Dick Cavett Show in 1970)

Posthumous Releases

1972 - In Concert

Janis Joplin - In Concert
SBME Special Markets

In Concert was a double live LP, one disc featuring performances in 1968 and 1970 with Big Brother and the Holding Company, the other with Full Tilt Boogie Band during their Canadian tour in the summer of 1970. Lester Bangs wrote in Rolling Stone after hearing the album, "On the record, we hear her as she gradually passes from the tailend of the initial exuberant phase with Big Brother, through the jarring difference between that on-stage persona and what emerges immediately in the Full-Tilt Boogie Band tapes, on which we hear a disoriented and thoroughly pathetic individual and a music whose raggedness is made even less palatable by the breakdown and sense of strain behind it."

Original vinyl LP Track List
1. "Down on Me"
2. "Bye Bye Baby"
3. "All Is Loneliness"
4. "Piece of My Heart"

Side 2
1. "Road Block"
2. "Flower in the Sun"
3. "Summertime"
4. "Ego Rock"

Side 3
1. "Half Moon"
2. "Kozmic Blues"
3. "Move Over"

Side 4
1. "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)"
2. "Get It While You Can"
3. "Ball and Chain"

1998 - 'Live at Winterland '68'

Janis Joplin - Live at Winterland '68
SBME Special Markets

San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom was the site of many a memorable concert in the late '60s and early '70s. Two of them were delivered by Joplin (with Big Brother) in April 1968. Most of the tracks are performances of the best known songs from the two Joplin/BBHC studio albums.

CD Track List

1. "Down on Me"
2. "Flower in the Sun"
3. "I Need a Man to Love"
4. "Bye Bye Baby"
5. "Easy Rider"
6. "Combination of the Two"
7. "Farewell Song"
8. "Piece of My Heart"
9. "Catch Me Daddy"
10. "Magic of Love"
11. "Summertime"
12. "Light Is Faster Than Sound"
13. "Ball and Chain"
14. "Down on Me" (alternate version)

2012 - 'Live at the Carousel Ballroom 1968'

Big Brother & the Holding Company w/Janis Joplin - Live at Carousel Ballroom 1968
Sony Legacy

Another San Francisco music landmark, Carousel Ballroom, was another popular showcase for the "local" talent in the classic rock era. This performance, recorded in 1968 but not released until 2012,

1. "Combination of the Two"
2. "I Need a Man to Love"
3. "Flower in the Sun"
4. "Light is Faster Than Sound"
5. "Summertime"
6. "Catch Me Daddy"
7. "It's a Deal"
8. "Call on Me"
9. "Jam - I'm Mad"
10. "Piece of My Heart"
11. "Coo Coo" (watch a 1967 performance on KQED-TV in San Francisco)
12. "Ball & Chain"
13. "Down on Me"
14. "Call on Me"

2009 - 'The Woodstock Experience'

Janis Joplin - Woodstock Experience
Sony Legacy

Joplin's Woodstock performance was included in a two-CD set commemorating Woodstock's 40th anniversary. The second disc was a reissue of her 1969 studio album, I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, released a few weeks after Woodstock.

CD Track List (Woodstock performance)

1. "Raise Your Hand"
2. "As Good as You've Been to This World"
3. "To Love Somebody"
4. "Summertime"
5. "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)"
6. "Kozmic Blues"
7. "Can't Turn You Loose"
8. "Work Me, Lord"
9. "Piece of My Heart"
10. "Ball and Chain"

2012 - 'The Pearl Sessions'

Janis Joplin - The 'Pearl' Sessions
Sony Legacy

This two-CD set was an eerily realistic trip back in time to the studio in which Joplin recorded her final album. Along with previously unreleased outtakes and alternate versions is raw sound of the artist chatting and joking with her band mates and producer. The set also includes the original mono versions of Joplin singles heard alongside the album versions.

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