JANIS JOPLIN Pearl (Columbia)
Allegedly because somebody high up in the company harbours a fondness for the black stuff, Sony BMG have showered upon a grateful populace a series of bargainatious 180 gram reissues of some of their most perennially popular titles. (I picked mine up from Amazon for the giveaway price of £5.97, although they managed to recoup all that added value by folding the sleeve to fit it into a package less than 12 inches square.)
That the music is exemplary goes without saying. Released posthumously in 1971, Pearl was the sound of a talent burning out brightly, not fading away. There are two inevitable high points, condemned to tower over the rest of the album by their sheer popularity. Its scarcely apparent, or even worth mentioning, that Me & Bobby McGee is ostensibly a country song theres scant value in attempting to pick apart the multifarious threads that make up Janis music, because its Janis music and thats what it is. The Full Tilt Boogie Band might sound a little raucous and unkempt elsewhere on the album, but here theyre nuanced and supple, cresting, gliding and falling intuitively behind Janis. The wonder of Mercedes Benz is that it took so long for Mercedes Benz to use it to sell Mercedes Benzes theres probably a thesis in the couple of decades worth of paradigm shifting that allowed that to happen. Brilliant in its concision, its the perfect marriage of form and content. (I do like the moment when she exhorts Everybody! in the middle of this solo performance.)
Practically everything here is tackled with the same modulated care and riotous abandon (with the possible exception of Buried Alive In The Blues: its presented without Pearls vocals, which hadnt been recorded at the time of her death, sealing the stinging irony of the title). Hear how she swan-dives from a throat-stripping holler to a gurgling croon in the opening moments of Cry Baby; feel appropriately chilly whilst contemplating Get It While You Can Dont you know when youre loving anybody, baby/Youre taking a gamble on a little sorrow/But then who cares, baby/Cause we may not be here tomorrow, no which runs Gram Parsons In My Hour Of Darkness close in the ominously prescient signoff stakes.
Sony BMGs shiny new heavyweight vinyl reissue is hardly audiophile material but what should you expect for sick squid? Whilst launching an inexpensive classic album reissue series is clearly a laudable act, on the somewhat grainy and grimy-sounding evidence before my ears I cant help wondering yet again what mightve happened had a more committed company got their hands on the master tapes. Yeah, yeah, never satisfied.