Whether it was singing with Big Brother And The Holding Company or with her Full Tilt Boogie Band, Janis Joplin had one of the most identifiable, most emotional and most soulful voices ever recorded. Coming to San Francisco from Texas in 1966, Janis soon had the music world’s total attention, simply blowing the audience away at Monterey in 1967 while fronting Big Brother and gaining a record deal with Columbia Records in the process. After that, it was hit after hit with songs like her signature Piece Of My Heart, Cry Baby, and her Number One take of Kris Kristofferson’s present day standard Me And Bobby McGee, all included here. Through it all, Janis Joplin established herself as one of the very best and one of the most important singers and song interpreters ever to hit the music scene.
Janis Joplin's second masterpiece (after Cheap Thrills), Pearl was designed as a showcase for her powerhouse vocals, stripping down the arrangements that had often previously cluttered her music or threatened to drown her out…
Columbia has managed to squeeze an impressive, perhaps excessive, number of compilations out of Janis Joplin's relatively slim body of recordings. With this two-CD set, The Essential Janis Joplin, the label's at it again, though it's a good one to get if you don't want to collect all the Joplin releases, and certainly don't want to get the expensive Joplin boxes, but want more than what fits onto a single disc. Including both solo recordings and highlights of her stint with Big Brother & the Holding Company, it has all the songs fans and critics would consider milestones in her career: "Ball and Chain" (a version recorded live in 1967 at the Monterey Pop Festival, not the more familiar one from Cheap Thrills), "Piece of My Heart," "Down on Me," "Summertime," "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)," "Tell Mama" (the live 1970 performance from the expanded edition of Pearl), "Get It While You Can," "Mercedes Benz," and "Me and Bobby McGee." And there are also good tracks that aren't as overly familiar, like "Coo Coo," "Misery'n," "Maybe," "Work Me, Lord," and "A Woman Left Lonely."
Released in tandem with Janis Ian's autobiography, Society's Child, this best-of compilation collects all the songs mentioned in the book, as well as several rarities. Ian's first demo, a distorted lo-fi version of "Hair Of Spun Gold," makes a welcome appearance, while "Ginny The Flying Girl" arrives via a 1981 Sesame Street album. Also notable are the handful of re-recorded songs on this two-disc collection, as well as several live tracks. Perhaps this isn't the definitive Janis Ian anthology for casual fans – it's too specialized for that – but Ian enthusiasts should make it a staple of their collections.