Janis Joplin

Live at Woodstock: August 19, 1969

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Perhaps the greatest tragedy next to her early passing was the lack of Janis Joplin material released to the public after her death. She was missing from the original Woodstock movie and soundtrack album, except for a brief cameo in the film; the soundtrack to her biopic, Janis, failed to include the performances seen on the silver screen, Columbia having the audacity to leave songs off or put the version of "Cry Baby" from Pearl on the soundtrack, something as bogus as Milli Vanilli and something the artist would not have allowed had she lived; and there was never a live album released from her underrated Kozmic Blues Band. Joplin in Concert gave listeners Big Brother & the Holding Company as well as Full Tilt Boogie Band, but that wonderfully creative interim period only got to the fans through tape trading and this incredible bootleg disc. Sure, Woodstock 1969 has a muddy bootleg rough mix, but the performance by Janis Joplin is extraordinary. Where she reinvented the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" on the Kozmic Blues album, she reinvents it again in this pivotal performance. The band wasn't Blood, Sweat & Tears playing with precision, or Ten Wheel Drive wildly experimenting, but there is an absolute charm and importance that the Kozmic Blues Band display on this and other recordings. Just as Live at Winterland '68 vindicates Big Brother & the Holding Company from the rumor and innuendo, so too do performances like "Summertime" from this Woodstock 1969 underground release. The keyboards, horns, and guitar all combine to create the most rock & roll version of this classic Gershwin cover. Where the Cheap Thrills May 1968 performance was subtle acid rock by Big Brother, and the Full Tilt Boogie Band provide a slick wall of sound on 1970's Get It While You Can boot (another prize possession), this crunching performance is a complete blend of Janis Joplin's superior handle on the blues with a punch of musicians who had some clue that they were backing a living legend. It culminates with what may eventually be considered Joplin's true signature tune, "Kozmic Blues," which she composed with her producer, Gabriel Mekler. "Kozmic Blues" is a masterpiece of songwriting, and here the artist takes a complex composition and transforms it live. It is Janis Joplin preaching, it is her giving postgraduate philosophy, it is a band frozen in a moment of time, a concert performance for the ages, and a good argument for why these recordings deserve to reach the public. If this forces Sony's hand to give listeners a professional mix and high-profile release of Janis Joplin's material from Woodstock, all the better. It would be a wonderful companion piece to the Jimi Hendrix CD from this same event.

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