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#122 – Pearl (Janis Joplin)

In 124-100, Top 150 on July 13, 2011 at 11:39 am
Pearl (album)

Janis Joplin's album art for 'Pearl' (released January 11, 1971)

Janis Joplin’s posthumous album, entitled ‘Pearl’ was actually not completed because of her unexpected death, which is supposedly from heroin overdose when she was only 27 years old. In fact one track, “Buried Alive in the Blues” is instrumental because Joplin passed away before she could record the vocals.

In all honesty, I appreciate the significance of Janis Joplin in music history, but I’m not really drawn to her music overall. There are songs here and there that I like, but its not the kind of music that I can consistently listen to and say “Yep, I like that…and that track too, and also that…and that…and that…” et cetera, et cetera. That said, Joplin has an incredibly unique, raspy, vulnerable voice and she has this fantastic mix of Texan-country twang with a beautifully deep and soulful sound. It’s interesting to listen to her sing because she has such conviction – you can feel how passionate she is about her music as she sings…and as many of you probably know, she really wails!

Track Listing

Side One

  1. Move Over
  2. Cry Baby
  3. A Woman Left Lonely
  4. Half Moon
  5. Buried Alive in the Blues
Side Two
  1. My Baby
  2. Me and Bobby McGee
  3. Mercedes Benz
  4. Trust Me
  5. Get It While You Can
Joplin rose to success in just 5 years, between 1965 and 1970 and was in her 20s for the height of her career. She managed to break into the blues-jazz-psychedelic-rock scene when it was mostly dominated by male vocalists. Tracks like “My Baby” demonstrate her blues-rock talents and secure her in the list of top rock acts of her time.
Like I said before, I dig the album because of Joplin’s unique voice which is a major hybrid of so many genres. Ultimately though, the honesty and soul in Joplin’s music is what makes her interesting to listen to. In particular, “Pearl” was a huge success, and I’m sure part of that is due to her death before its completion.  Even though it was so popular, most of the tracks on this album I didn’t recognize before, although I do know “Me and Bobby McGee”. Then there’s this great social commentary on the track “Mercedes Benz”. At the beginning of the track, Janis says she’s going to do a song of “great social and political import”, which speaks well to Joplin’s involvement in the “hippie movement”, as her sister and parents called it.
I’m glad to have listened to “Pearl”. Again, I knew nothing about Janis Joplin or what music she sang, so itwas a great album to listen to on the Rolling Stone Top 150.
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