Janis Joplin
Pearl


5.0
classic

Review

by danielsfrebirth USER (27 Reviews)
October 15th, 2014 | 13 replies


Release Date: 1971 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The product of a singer and a band pushing each other to the peak of their abilities, Pearl is one of the most emotionally compelling rock albums ever made.

Not everyone I know is sold on Janis Joplin, and I could understand why. Despite her undeniable vocal power and performance energy, even her classic work with Big Brother & The Holding Company often saw her lapse into melismatic overkill. She had a gift, but hadn't quite learned to wield it yet.

By Pearl, the final album she recorded in her brief lifetime, she'd honed her voice into a deadly weapon, capable of slicing through hearts and studio-band arrangements with equal precision. Some may complain that her backing band on Pearl is too tight, but any looser a band would have been no match for her. The Full Tillt Boogie Band keeps her histrionics in check with their precision, while the act of keeping up with Joplin pushes the band to the height of their powers.

Pearl is one of the most emotionally powerful rock albums ever made. While Joplin's vocals shoot off in all directions on her earlier work, on Pearl voice roughly alternates between the knife-edge rasp she's known for and a softer, hushed coo. This allows her moments of unfiltered primality to stand out all the more, most impressively during the cocoon-shredding scream that opens "Cry Baby," and her moments of vulnerability to sink in even deeper.

But the moments when she switches from one into the other are devastating. The lush "Trust Me" finds her voice going from zero to sixty so gradually it's hard to register until the chorus explodes into vivid life. And it's in no small part because of her effortless play with vocal dynamics that the monologue on "Cry Baby" is one of the most powerful moments in all rock music. Try not to feel at least something when she coos "you've got a woman waiting for you"--anyone who's thrived on at least the faintest hope of a lost love returning knows her pangs all too well.

Pearl rolls by in 34 spectacular minutes, each song tumbling into the next. The first side of the album is stronger due to Side Two being disrupted by the album's only conspicuous outlier--"Me And Bobby McGee." It's a hell of a radio single, a clever and catchy gender-swap of a Kris Kristofferson tune. But it's the only song on Pearl over four minutes, the only one with multiple sections, and the only one where she doesn't ad-lib. Putting it elsewhere on the album could have mitigated the issue, but its placement slows Pearl's avalanche-like pace unpleasantly.

But rock is a business, Pearl needed a single, and it's got as much personality as anything on here. Pearl is one of the best and most emotionally compelling albums in rock history, the product of a singer and a band pushing each other to the peak of their abilities.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
ZackSh33
October 15th 2014


681 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Oh lawd, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz

BMDrummer
October 15th 2014


14580 Comments


never really got into janis

PappyMason
October 15th 2014


5702 Comments


BMDrummer, check out Big Brother And The Holding Company - 'Cheap Thrills', if you haven't. Janis is awesome on that, and the music rules.

I haven't checked out any of her solo stuff, definitely need too.

manosg
Staff Reviewer
October 15th 2014


11719 Comments


Great to see Janis on the front page. Wish she had lived more. She just showed glimpses of her potential.

laughingman22
October 15th 2014


2813 Comments


"She had a gift, but hadn't quite learned to wield it yet"

great review yo

TwigTW
October 15th 2014


3772 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I like what you write about her voice--very good description--pos. I can never pick a favorite from her two solo albums. They are both so good.

Digging: Kishi Bashi - Omoiyari

rockandmetaljunkie
October 15th 2014


8072 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

my friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends





classic album

eddie95
October 16th 2014


703 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great album, but for some reason I prefer her debut



Cheap Thrills also rocks

Peripes
January 29th 2016


84 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I want to cry each time I listen to "Me And Bobby McGee".

MrSirLordGentleman
May 29th 2016


12474 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is an album you expect to have thousands of votes

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
August 27th 2017


16073 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Listening to this for the first time unplanned, and Holy fuckin shit I'm impressed

Trifolium
July 28th 2018


7016 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

So good, deserving of a lot more attention!

Trifolium
December 20th 2018


7016 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Janis's voice just goes right through you, it's so piercing.



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