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Janis Joplin made the blues her own. Though she didn't live to finish this album before her 1970 death from a heroin overdose, her intense passion and frantic cries of pain and ecstasy were enough to make Pearl one of the most memorable recordings of her era. Her band does fill up some vinyl with the instrumental "Buried Alive in the Blues," but it's the vocals that make this album worth hearing these many decades later. Listen to the tortured heartbreak of "Cry Baby" or the hopeful declarations of Kris Kristofferson's "Me & Bobby McGee" and understand why Joplin remains an essential, if tragic, figure in pop. This reissue of Joplin's final album includes four live bonus tracks recorded during the 1970 Canadian Festival Express Tour. --Steve Appleford

Customer Reviews:

  • Janis at her best
    I've always been a HUGE Janis fan. This
    CD is so good, I've had it in every format
    they've put it on. LP, 8-track, cassette and
    now CD. You won't be disappointed....more info
  • JANIS' SWANSONG (She was a classic, and so is her very special last album)
    Janis Joplin's Pearl (1971) was recorded during September 1970. The last song they cut was Mercedes Benz, one of two songs on the album written by Janis. It was taped on Oct. 1, 1970, just three days before Janis suddenly died. It's sung a cappella and a little tongue-in-cheek, but the song really does have some "social and political import" (as Janis says introducing the song) regarding materialism, economic class and religon. It's really sort of sad to hear it sometimes, knowing that she unknowingly had only three days to live at the time. At the end of Mercedes Benz, Janis laughs and says, "That's it!".

    Pearl is a great album, maybe Janis Joplin's best, and it highlights her talent in a variety of musical settings. And what talent she had! She was dramatic, soulful, expressive, tough yet vunerable and beautifully feminine in her own way. A real "Pearl" (also Janis' self-chosen nickname).

    The first and only album she recorded with the Full Tilt Boogie Band, Pearl has a cleaner sound, more polished and less experimental than her earlier work. That's not to say the album doesn't rock. It does! The first two songs are good examples. Move Over (written by Joplin) and Cry Baby are both classic Janis, rockin', bluesy and tough.

    A Woman Left Lonely is slower, as in the slow piano blues tradition, but just as direct and completely satisfying. Half Moon is a lively rocker with funky guitar, spacy piano and a spirited vocal performance from Joplin. It's one of my favorites here. Get It While You Can is another winner that rocks the blues in classic Janis Joplin fashion.

    The big hit from the album was fellow Texan Kris Kristofferson's Me And Bobby McGee. Janis plays the acoustic guitar herself on this one, and she and the band end the country song with a vigorously wide-open improvisational rock coda.

    Janis is the star on Pearl, and the Full Tilt Boogie Band allows her to shine while providing a competent backdrop for her stirring and genuine vocal performances. She was a great blues, rock and country singer, and on Pearl she really shows it.

    Paul Rothchild, who also produced all but one of The Doors albums, produced Pearl, and says it was Janis Joplin's best album. Is Pearl her best album? It's really a matter of taste and the sentimental connections that people have to each album. What do I think? Maybe it's her best, maybe not. But Pearl is my favorite of all of Janis' albums.

    Pearl has one of my all-time favorite album covers, too... What a smile!...more info
  • WOW
    Incredible sound. Vocals cut to the soul and tear at the heart. Way before her time yet pulled along music from the past. Blues, rock and funk all rolled into one. No match living or dead!
    ...more info
  • another must
    I prefer Janis with Holding Company: wilder sound. But This one is a must as well: her best selling album, with the only # 1 hit, her last recordings, released after her death. A voice with a soul we still miss: nobody comes close to her since....more info
  • A Real Pearl
    My favorite Joplin album, even though I'll grant that Cheap Thrills is a better set of songs. The reason I prefer Pearl is that it's better performed than Thrills, with several of Janis' most memorable songs: Move Over, Cry Baby, Half Moon, A Woman Left Lonely, posthumous #1 Me & Bobby McGee, and Get It While You Can. She occasionally slips into soft-rock irrelevancy (My Baby; Truet Me), and while the solo vocal on Mercedes-Benz is innovative, it's not one of her better songs. Regardless, this is Janis' best set of material in her all-too-short career. As usual, Janis' voice is in top form throughout, and the Full Tilt Boogie Band is far surperior to Big Brother & the Holding Company. ...more info
  • Great, But What If?
    Janis Joplin's PEARL is a great solo album that makes you wonder if it might have been even better if she had been able to finish all of her vocals before she died. The two best songs are "Move Over" and "Me And Bobby McGee", but there's plenty of other good stuff here, too. Get PEARL and CHEAP THRILLS together if possible....more info
    Arguably one of the best rock and blues albums in history Pearl, from start to finish, was a perfect coming-of-age release for Janis Joplin, who was just beginning to peak both critically and commercially as an artist. The quality and polished treatment of this studio album, released after Joplin's death due to a drug overdose, make one ponder how tragic the loss of Joplin was and question just what might have been.

    Very good organ and guitar arrangements are prevalent throughout, especially in the introductory track, Move Over, and the final one, namely Get It While You Can. In between are the popular favorites Me and Bobby McGee (written by Kris Kristofferson) and the a capella Mercedes Benz.

    As one listens to the other tracks that accompany, especially Cry Baby and Buried Alive in the Blues, he or she just might receive the impression that Janis was going to give what was going to be her next album an extra special treatment, both lyrically and vocally, as if it very well could be both her final and signature release. Indeed, Janis did appear to tap into a whole new dimension of artistry, somehow amalgamating the emotions of anger and sorrow and bringing them under control with pleasant overtones reflecting a newly-formed sage with a very refined perspective on life.

    Pearl, perhaps the greatest of the great from Joplin, will convince many that this one female singer will always remain a unique vocalist who will never be equaled or adequately imitated. Ironically, viewpoints parallel to those regarding Janis' vocal range have been firmly held regarding the unique guitar instrumentations thus enduring musical accomplishments of another blues artist who died at the same age, 27, during the same year, 1970, as Janis, namely Jimi Hendrix.
    ...more info
  • Polished Pearl
    I've never understood the intensity of the PEARL vs. CHEAP THRILLS debate among Joplin fans. Yes, the Big Brother record captured Janis at her raw vital best. Her final album, with the more polished Full Tilt Boogie, was a somewhat different breed of animal, tighter, more "professional," and ultimately, more commercial, providing Joplin her posthumous (and sole) number one hit in Kristofferon's "Me and Bobby McGee." I loved all of Janis' records--including the much maligned Mainstream debut and only somewhat less maligned Kozmic Blues--and never felt compelled to take a stance. The body of work isn't that extensive: it's better to treasure each one for what it has to offer.

    And they all offer at least a few real pearls. The variety of styles that Janis' embraced during her brief recording career was impressive. Her former road manager, John Cooke, notes in the liner notes to this newest version of PEARL that Janis' musical restlessness was reflective of her "questing nature." That's certainly true--three different bands in as many years suggests as much--and it's also reflective of the times as well. No one expected the Beatles to do SGT. PEPPER REDUX or the Stones to linger at the (BEGGAR'S) BANQUET for very long.

    Moreover, by 1970, when PEARL was recorded, there was more of an emphasis on tighter musicianship and less experimentalism. You could argue that had Janis, in fact, remained with Big Brother, they would have both mellowed out and tightened up themselves (as evidenced on their post-Janis records in the 70s). Maybe so, but there can be little doubt that FTB was a good band and a perfect accompaniment for Janis and that the move toward a more keyboard based sound complemented her vocals in a way that was different (if not necessarily better) that Big Brother's twin guitar freak out.

    There's no epic "Ball & Chain" style number here, although "Get It While You Can" is an offering in something of the same spirit, if not the same magnitude. Much of the material here is straightforward rock'n'roll ("Move Over," "Half Moon") appropriate for any bar or garage band to cover.

    But along with all that full tilt boogying, there's still plenty of emotional heft. The feeling that she can pack into a single phrase, or WORD, can be revelatory. When she sings, "a woman left lonely is just a VICTI-I-IM of her man," well, you just better believe the lady.

    "Bobby McGee" was, of course, proof of what fans already knew, i.e. that Janis was not just about screaming her lungs out. I was glad in the winter of '71 to finally have a Joplin track I could play for my mom, proof not only that Joplin could sing, but that she could be subtle to boot. In fact, a careful listening to PEARL will proove that as Cooke observes in his notes, she was beginning "to learn...something she never expected to learn: how to sing in a new way...(one) that would allow her to sing for years to come."

    And that touches on another debate among fans, the one about how long she would have had before her voice gave out totally. It's not just "Bobby McGee" that suggests that she was learning to rely on more on phrasing and shading than on belting. Every track on the album suggests a more mature singer was emerging, with no loss of spontaneity or vitality though. She would have continued to make great blues rock records for years to come, had she lived. Of that I am convinced.

    The bonus tracks are all previously unreleased "live" tracks with Full Tilt Boogie. Similar live arrangements of three of these songs have been released in the past, however, so the listener is justified in getting that deja-vu all over again feeling. Fans like me are glad to have them anyway. There are always little differences in phrasing or in her vamps that are worth the price of admission.

    For Joplin newbies, though, I'd suggest playing PEARL through a few times straight, and stopping it BEFORE the bonus live tracks. Ending the record with "Get It While You Can" was ending the record on just the right note. It's a mini-anthem for Joplin--as much "on message" as "Bobby McGee" certainly. And both songs took on new meaning in light of her death.

    The debate about which Joplin record was the "best" will likely rage on among devotees. Me, I'm not gonna worry about it. To me they're all classics....more info

  • timeless
    the word "classic",in my opinion ,has been way over used in describing noted records.but if there ever was one,this is it!Janis' best and one of rock n'rolls best.the right songs,the right band and janis.timeless.full tilt boogie really took these songs where the (pretty lousy) big brother never could have.if janis had lived,the sky would've been the limit.her heart and soul in every song.a truly great work. ...more info
  • One helluva an album!
    This is one amazing album, from the first track to last. Every single song is bleeding with emotion, and not just from Janis, but from her band as well. All the members of Full Tilt Boogie are first class musicians. I was particularly impressed with the guitarist. His solo on "My Baby" is very soulful and bluesy. That's what this album is at heart: a blues album. The only thing that I would like to have heard is a longer version of "Bobby McGee" where the band jams for even longer. I recommend this album to anyone who is a fan The Allman Brothers, Otis Redding, and music in general!...more info
  • Simply Stunning
    In the last year or so, I've become immersed in the Monterey Pop Festival and the blues from this time. I picked up Pearl because I love Janis and she's always been a genius figure in music. However, this album is one of the first albums to actually give me goosebumps. Listening to her voice, I saw so much versatility. She could get raspy and passionate in some of the tracks, while she could also tone it down and display her magnetic voice. Her backup band, which she helped choose, is a fantastic partnership to Janis.

    Get this album. Whether you get this version or the version with a whole disc of live cuts, please get this album. The additional liner notes comment on this being her most mature and polished work, and that couldn't be more right. Pay tribute to one of the greatest, most classic blues singers and buy this album....more info
  • There'll Never Be Another Janis
    There'll never be another Janis Joplin, and this is the album to have.

    For the entirety of it, Janis's passionate, throaty voice sings for every woman who's ever ... been on the road, been dumped, been unfairly led on, been wildly in love and ready to do it again, been annoyed by materialism or - you name it! Her songs speak plainly about her life as a woman who didn't meet all the stereotypes, and who knows what pain -- and joy are.

    Her voice is never "pretty", but always passionate.

    If you only plan to have one Janis album -- don't buy a greatest hits. Buy this one -- PEARL. These songs need to be enjoyed in their original order. There's a flow and story in the arrangement. (Besides, most greatest hits albums will include a lot of songs from this album.)

    If you buy this and still wish you had BALL AND CHAIN or SUMMERTIME, you can buy a greatest hits album to complement it. But PEARL is the one you have to have in its entirety....more info