Janis Joplin- vocals
Sam Andrew- Lead Guitar, Bass, Vocals
James Gurley- Guitar
Peter Albin- Bass, Drums
Dave Getz- Drums
Big Brother and the Holding Company released Cheap Thrills on August 12, 1968. This record was their second release, and it would be their last recording with Janis Joplin as their lead singer. Many critics and fans alike use the popularity of Cheap Thrills as the rise of Joplin as a major force in the psychedelic music of the late sixties. She is considered one of the best singers of all time, and her voice is distinct and unmistakeable. Many remember Big Brother and the Holding Company solely on the merits of Joplin, but in actuality, I believe them to be an underrated band, who never completely broke away from Joplin’s star status.
Cheap Thrills was extremely well received, so much so, that it reached #1 on the charts, and became the most successful album during 1968. By the end of 1968, however, Janis Joplin left the band to pursue a solo career and the popularity surrounding the band suffered because of it.
An interesting fact about the record is that it was portrayed as alive album, with recordings of crowd noise inserted into the record, which confused and mislead fans. In actuality, the only song that was recorded live was a cover of Ball and Chain, which was recorded at a concert at the Fillmore, in San Francisco, California.
The record starts off with Combination of the Two, a catchy tune with some good guitar work, but it lacked any lyrical normalcy, coming across as a fun song, with little substance. The next song, I Need a Man to Love, shows Joplin’s vocal range, and her signature hoarse, but feminine singing style that made her so recognisable. I would consider this song a hard driving blues piece that is quite good.
The album cover’s artwork is one of the best in music in my opinion, and is ranked up near the top as one of the most recognisable in rock. Joplin herself was a big fan of the album cover, and wanted it to be on the front, whereas originally it was to be place on the back.
The next song is Summertime, another cover that was recorded as a blues piece, with somes potty psychedelic guitar work, and as always, features Joplin’s vocal prowess. Piece of My Heart is perhaps one of the most recognisable songs in Joplin’s catalog, and ends side one of the record.
The beginning of side two of the record is a Joplin original, Turtle Blues, and is a straight up blues number, both vocally and musically. If you are a big fan of the blues, this is a good song to listen to. The second to last song is call Oh, Sweet Mary, and has a definite psychedelic vibe to it, with Joplin taking a secondary role on vocals. Ball and Chain is a Big Momma Thornton cover, that ends the album. and is actually live, unlike the rest of the record that is masked with crowd noise. It is also the longest running song on the record, just over 9 minutes.
Cheap Thrills really is a very record, in spite of the fact that fake audience noise was inserted into most of it. It shows the talent the band had musically, and features a voice that would become one of the most recognisable and cherished by fans both young and old. Recommended listing for sixties freaks like me.
Also, the 1999 remaster has 4 never before released tracks, a little added bonus! Please feel free to leave me a comment, I’ll get back to you.