The Pearl Sessions
Not to state the obvious, but the reality is that The Pearl Sessions by Janis Joplin is primarily for completists and musical historians. That's fine; given its design and contents it appears it was meant to be. The two-disc package includes the original album and mono 45 masters of six of its tracks -- including "Me & Bobby McGee," "Move Over," and "Get It While You Can." These are interesting, but they don't hold a candle to the stereo album mixes. It's the second disc that holds the fan treasures. The studio banter by Joplin, producer Paul A Rothchild, and the Full-Tilt Boogie Band is priceless. It offers proof of Joplin's exacting standards when it came to getting across the maximum emotional impact of a song, as well as her vulnerability -- asking for guidance from Rothchild as to how to approach a particular take (he hands control right back to her). There is also plenty of humor, including comments about Richard Nixon and an unnamed rock star that Joplin claims she wouldn't bed because he's boring and a nerd. The genuine camaraderie between her, her band, and her producer offers ample evidence that these sessions were as much fun as they were work. Musically, there are multiple alternate takes of some album cuts. Sometimes they rival or even surpass versions that ended up on the final product: the fifth take of "Get It While You Can" (there are three here) and the demo of "Me & Bobby McGee," where she is accompanied only by an acoustic guitar. There are three takes in a row of "Move Over." The alternate of "Cry Baby," while inferior to the album take, reveals the song's deep emotional attraction for Joplin. Alternate takes of "Cry Baby" and "My Baby" are compelling. In addition, there is an instrumental version of "Pearl" (that could have been left off as it reveals nothing and is wholly uninteresting), a live version of "Tell Mama," with a breakneck tempo that makes one wonder why it was chosen, and a performance of "Half Moon," from the Dick Cavett Show in 1970. Add to this Rothchild's own remembrances from and observations about these sessions, Holly George-Warren's excellent liner notes, some rare photographs, and hardcore Joplin fans and historians have an excellent retrospective package which, while illuminating the process of the creation of Pearl, doesn't replace it in the canon.