Pearl is Janis Joplin’s final recorded studio album, release around three months after her passing. It would be the final album she was involved with, and was released in January 1971. Janis died on October 4, 1970.
The album was recorded with her last band from Canada that she toured with, the Full Tilt Boogie Band.
Though this is a departure from her earlier work that was more psychedelic in nature, and was recorded in the early seventies, I felt that it deserved to be on this site. After all, Janis was one of the most iconic and beloved singers of all time, and was of major importance within the evolution of the psychedelic music scene.
Janis’s work with Big Brother and the Holding Company, Cheap Thrills, made her a star. With the release of Pearl, she has become a legend.
Janis worked on Pearl with producer Paul Rothchild, who was well known as the producer who worked with The Doors. His contributions to the record are apparent and the sound of the record is clean, smooth, and brings out the passion and sexy voice that was Janis.
The first song on Pearl is Move Over, with an upbeat pace and a driving beat, it is a cross between classic rock and funk, which is to be revisited more times on the record. In some ways, Pearl does quite a bit to feature Janis’s foray into funk music, and it would be interesting to have seen whether she would have continued to experiment with those sounds. Before she would ever get the chance, she’d be gone.
The next song, Cry Baby, starts out with a signature Janis screech, and then enters a powerful chorus, then leads into a slow bluesy piece which continues through the song. With it’s ups and downs, and emotional highs and lows, it is a classic Janis song.
A Woman Left Lonely is a slow number that features Janis’s ability to sing low and slow, a range that she would show on many of her songs. The ability to scream with her signature squeal, and gritty voice when she wants to, and to be soft and mellow and clean when she sees fit.
Half Moon is another great funky number, very danceable with great vocals. A classic early seventies funk feel. Buried Alive in the Blues, is not a blues song, but a straight up funk instrumental, considered a Full Tilt Boogie piece which is a song she loved, but died before having a chance to lay any vocals for.
The next song on the record is My Baby, a beautiful blues piece, sung with passion and soul. It is great on the record, and here is Janis singing it on the Dick Cavett Show just months before her death.
Me and Bobby McGee is perhaps one of Janis’s most popular and recognisable songs. It is very much a country tune. When it was released in 1971, it reached number one on the charts, and became the second song in history to reach the top of the charts posthumously, the one before was (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding. Many artists recorded this song, but it was Janis who took it to the top of the singles charts. It was ranked the 11th best song of 1971 by Billboard Magazine.
Mercedes Benz is an acapella song written by Janis, is another one of her most popular tunes, and has a country folk flavor to it. It accentuates he raspy vocal style that she is so well know for, and unfortunately, this is the last song she ever recorded. She would pass away three days after recording it.
Trust Me is a bluesy soul song that Janis sings with passion. Get It While You Can is the last song on the record, a beautiful blues with a bit of soul, and Janis shines vocally. A wonderful way to end the record, if not kind of sad to know by the time people heard it, she would be dead.
There are four previously unreleased live tracks at the end of the record after the last song on the 1999 remaster, and these tracks are worth the price of the album itself.
Pearl is a special record and one that has to be in any Janis Joplin fans collection. It captures the beauty and soul of her iconic voice, and is a praiseworthy album by all standards. RIP Janis.