Tuesday, 17 April 2012

"The Pearl Sessions" by JANIS JOPLIN (April 2012 2CD Sony/Legacy Reissue and Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This review is part of my Series "SOUNDS GOOD: Exceptional CD Remasters 1970s Rock And Pop" Download Book available to buy on Amazon to either your PC or Mac (it will download the Kindle software to read the book for free to your toolbar). Click on the link below to go my Author's Page for this and other related publications:


"…Your Love Brings Life To Me…"

Most Janis Joplin fans will already own the 2CD Legacy Edition of "Pearl" issued in June 2005 - so what's different on this new April 2012 double?

That 2005 Legacy 2CD Reissue had 8 previously unreleased recordings spread across its 29 tracks – three alternate takes from the album sessions on Disc 1 - "Move Over", "My Baby" and "Pearl" - with 5 new live tracks on Disc 2 recorded in Canada in July 1970 on the Festival Express Tour – "Summertime", "That's Rock'n'Roll", "Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)", "Piece Of My Heart" and "Cry Baby". I mention all of the above because although the three studio outakes reappear on Disc 2 of this new 2012 edition - none of the live stuff does – so you may not want to throw that 2005 2CD baby out of your bathwater just yet. Here are the finite details for the new issue…

Released 16 April 2012 in the UK (17 April in the USA) - "The Pearl Sessions" by JANIS JOPLIN on Sony/Columbia/Legacy 88697842242 (Barcode 886978422422) is a 2CD set and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (58:32 minutes):
1. Move Over [Janis Joplin song]
2. Cry Baby [Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Barns song - Garnet Mimms cover]
3. A Woman Left Lonely [Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham cover]
4. Half Moon [John and Joanna Hall cover]
5. Buried Alive In The Blues [Nick Gravenites song]
6. My Baby [Jerry Ragovoy and Mort Shuman song - Garnett Mimms cover] [Side 2]
7. Me And Bobby McGhee [Kris Kristofferson cover]
8. Mercedes Benz [Janis Joplin/Michael McClure song]
9. Trust Me [Bobby Womack cover]
10. Get It While You Can [Jerry Ragovoy and Mort Shuman song – Howard Tate cover]
Tracks 1 to 10 are the album "Pearl" – released January 1971 in the USA on Columbia PC 30322 and in the UK on CBS S 64188."Pearl" was the nickname given Janis by her backing group the FULT TILT BOOGIE BAND. Produced by PAUL A. ROTHCHILD (famous for his work with The Doors) - it was also her last studio album and released posthumously after her tragic death from a heroin overdose on 4 October 1970 aged only 27. The vast majority of the LP had been recorded (prior to her passing) throughout September 1970 with "Mercedes Benz" done on the 1st of October. It reached number 1 on the USA album charts and number 20 in the UK.

Tracks 11 and 12 are "Me And Bobby McGee" and "Half Moon" the MONO SINGLE MASTERS – the A & B-side of Columbia 4-45314 released January 1971 in the USA (reached number 1) and on CBS S 7019 in the UK. The A-side is a Kris Kristofferson/Fred Foster song first covered by the country singer Roger Miller in 1969 on Smash Records
Track 13 is "Cry Baby" the MONO SINGLE MASTER – it was released as the A-side of Columbia 4-45379 in May 1971 in the USA ("Mercedes Benz" was the flip). It was also released in the UK on CBS S 7217  
Tracks 14 and 15 are "Get It While You Can" and "Move Over" the MONO SINGLE MASTERS – the A & B-side of Columbia 4-45433 released September 1971 in the USA (no UK version)
Track 16 is "A Woman Left Lonely" the MONO SINGLE MASTER – it was mixed into mono for single release, but withdrawn

Disc 2 – The Pearl Sessions & More… (75:17 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 18 consist of five "Overheard In The Studio" segments put between 13 album outakes (Tracks 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 10, 12, 14 and 16 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
Track 19 is a live cover version of the Etta James Chess Records classic "Tell Mama" – it was recorded 26 July 1970 in Toronto and first released on the "Farewell Song" compilation in 1982
Track 20 is a cover of the John and Johanna Hall song "Half Moon" – it was recorded live 3 August 1970 on US TV program "The Dick Cavett Show"

The 3-way foldout card sleeve looks nice 'until' you actually try to get either CD out of their respective flaps without ripping the cardboard on the way out or scuffing the discs putting them back in again. I'd suggest you proceed with care – or better still - keep them in a plastic CD envelope to avoid damaging either disc.

The 24-page booklet has liner notes by HOLLY GEORGE-WARREN that discuss the forming of her backing band FULL TILT and the myriad of great writers used for the songs on the album (of the ten tracks only "Move Over" and "Mercedes Benz" are her own compositions). The text is peppered with new photos of Janis and her band live on stage, a snap of her laughing with Kris Kristofferson, reproductions of trade adverts and master tape boxes - and a great outtake of the iconic front cover artwork where she's reclining on her favorite chez lounge. There's also a very affectionate and witty interview at the end (before the discography details) with the late Paul Rothchild. Conducted by Laura Joplin (her younger sister) it has Rothchild recalling the powerhouse presence of the woman and her in-the-flesh effect on a lethargic concert crowd (very funny, very Janis). It's all very nicely done and a properly great read too. 

Celebrated engineers and tape transfer experts BOB IRWIN and VIC ANESINI have done the production and mastering - and although the album is notoriously hissy in places – the sound here is the best I've ever heard it. The power on the Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham ballad "A Woman Left Alone" is incredible – really bringing to the fore Ken Pearson's Organ work complimenting her blistering vocals. The mono single mixes in particular are very clean too.

Album highlights for me include the John and Johanna Hall song "Half Moon" (lyrics above) where her band funks it out as she loses herself in the positivity of the words (John Hall later formed Orleans and had a Number 5 hit with "Still The One" in the summer of 1976). Another tune I love which now sounds fabulous is the Side 1 finisher "Buried Alive In The Blues". It was meant to have vocals laid down over the backing track - but of course it never happened because of her loss. Having said that - in a strange kind of way both the song and the album benefited from this unintentional instrumental because it funked things up considerably and highlighted the full power of her awesome backing band FULL TILT. Ken Pearson's Organ, John Tilt's Guitar and Richard Bell's Piano all shine so much on this belter. Then there's Bobby Womack playing acoustic guitar on his own "Trust Me" - a lovely piece on here (what a shame they didn't duet together). But the album belongs to her huge voice and loveable personality which is beautifully realised on the witty "Mercedes Benz" – an Acapella ditty "…of social and political import…" which brings a smile to my face even now - a full 40 years after the event…

But the big draw here for collectors will be Disc 2 - which features previously undocumented tapes found only recently which offer us fantastic alternate versions of album cuts like the Howard Tate cover "Get It While You Can" and Takes 6, 13 and 17 of her own "Move Over". There's an alternate version of "My Baby" where the band sounds just 'so' soulful – a song especially written for her by legendary songwriters Jerry Ragovoy and Mort Shuman. Better still is that five of these alternate gems are preceded by 'overheard in the studio' segments that include band and producer chatter, in-jokes and general goofing around in the studio as the tapes roll. Track 15 is probably the best of them - a false start for "Get It While You Can" is stopped because she deems the version too 'sleepy' and her voice too 'ragged' (it sounds magical to me). Later there’s even jokes – Janis' love interest in the 'nerd' President Nixon! It’s all so intimate and fans will love it.  

To sum up then – a blinding remaster of a great album – and a second CD to make fans weak at the knees. What a heartbreak that she isn’t around to enjoy it. In fact there's a photograph on Page 19 of the booklet that shows one of the WEHR equipment carrying cases where large words are stencilled on its side - JANIS JOPLIN – FRAGILE. It turned out to be sadly true.

Oft imitated but never bettered – Janis is sorely missed. Well at least this wonderful 2CD reissue does her and her band's legacy proud. Well done to all involved and recommended big time... 

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