The greatest white female rock singer of the 1960s, Janis Joplin was also a great blues singer, making her material her own with her wailing, raspy, supercharged emotional delivery. First rising to stardom as the frontwoman for San Francisco psychedelic band Big Brother & the Holding Company, she left the group in the late '60s for a brief and uneven (though commercially successful) career as a solo artist. Although she wasn't always supplied with the best material or most sympathetic musicians, her best recordings, with both Big Brother and on her own, are some of the most exciting performances of her era. She also did much to redefine the role of women in rock with her assertive, sexually forthright persona and raunchy, electrifying on-stage presence.
Joplin's first album, I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, was recorded with the Kozmic Blues Band, a unit that included horns and retained just one of the musicians that had played with her in Big Brother (guitarist Sam Andrew). Although it was a hit, it wasn't her best work; the new band, though more polished musically, was not nearly as sympathetic accompanists as Big Brother, purveying a soul-rock groove that could sound forced. That's not to say it was totally unsuccessful, boasting one of her signature tunes in "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)."
For years, Joplin's life had been a roller coaster of drug addiction, alcoholism, and volatile personal relationships, documented in several biographies. Musically, however, things were on the upswing shortly before her death, as she assembled a better, more versatile backing outfit, the Full Tilt Boogie Band, for her final album, Pearl (ably produced by Paul Rothchild). Joplin was sometimes criticized for screeching at the expense of subtlety, but Pearl was solid evidence of her growth as a mature, diverse stylist who could handle blues, soul, and folk-rock. "Mercedes Benz," "Get It While You Can," and Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee" are some of her very best tracks. Tragically, she died before the album's release, overdosing on heroin in a Hollywood hotel in October 1970. "Me and Bobby McGee" became a posthumous number one single in 1971, and thus the song with which she is most frequently identified.
01. "Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)" (Ragovoy/Taylor) - 3:57
02. "Maybe" (Barrett) - 3:41
03. "One Good Man" (Joplin) - 4:12
04. "As Good As You've Been To This World" (Gravenites) - 5:27
05. "To Love Somebody" (B. Gibb/R. Gibb) - 5:14
06. "Kozmic Blues" (Joplin/Mekler) - 4:24
07. "Little Girl Blue" (Hart/Rodgers) - 3:51
08. "Work Me Lord" (Gravenites) - 6:45
09. "Dear Landlord" (Session Outtake) (Dylan/Joplin) - 2:32
10. "Summertime" (Live At Woodstock) (Gershwin)- 5:04
11. "Piece of My Heart" (Live At Woodstock) (Ragovoy/Berns) - 6:31