Big Brother and The Holding Company Featuring Janis Joplin
“Live At The Carousel Ballroom 1968”
The Pearl Sessions
By Gillian G. Gaar
Grateful Dead sound engineer Owsley Stanley, aka “Bear,” didn’t just do sound for the Dead; he also ran sound at the San Francisco club the Carousel Ballroom, and happily, for music fans, recording the shows, as well. It’s just such a tape that provides the source of this show from June 23, 1968, (with an additional bonus track from the previous night’s show).
It was the “Cheap Thrills” era, and five of the songs from that album were performed at this show, including “Piece of My Heart” and “Ball and Chain.”
The sound is excellent, though to get the full impact you’ll need to move your speakers together; due to the way Bear recorded the show, there’s little overlap between the right and left channels, and it will sound too much like old-fashioned stereo (instruments on the right, vocals on the left) if the speakers are too far apart. At times, it’s hard to believe you’re listening to a live show, as the audience noise is kept well in the background; the humorous between-songs comments (including a warning to the Hell’s Angels that their bikes are in danger of being towed) add to the atmosphere.
This latest reissue of “Pearl” is called “The Pearl Sessions” to differentiate it from the 2005 reissue. That two-CD set featured a live show on the bonus disc; this reissue features a disc’s worth of material from the sessions, most of the songs previously unreleased (including a previously unreleased version of “Me and Bobby McGee”). Mono masters of the album’s singles are also included — as is “A Woman Left Lonely,” planned as a single but ultimately not released as one.
The liner notes underscore the tragedy of Joplin’s early death; producer Paul Rothchild felt she was finally working with a band worthy of her talents, and the two were looking forward to making more music together. Joplin fans should welcome the chance to get a little more Janis.