Picks and Pans Review: Farewell Song
updated 03/08/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 03/08/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST
She was so much the perfect victim/heroine of the '60s that her exotic and tragic story has become a cultural legend. In fact, so powerful are the basic facts of her life that they tend to overshadow Joplin's amazing talents as a singer. These nine previously unreleased songs recorded from 1967 to 1970 are a reminder that the woman was possessed by music. It came out of her so raw and painful that it is almost hard to listen to. Six of these cuts are performed with the San Francisco hippie band Big Brother and the Holding Company—among them the title tune with the haunting lyric: "I don't think I can keep from dying/I been dying/Every day I die a little bit." There are also some very funny moments, like Janis' caterwauling rendition of Amazing Grace that gives way to a sassy send-up of Hi Heel Sneakers. Among the other cuts, Tell Mama was recorded with her Full Tilt Boogie Band just four months before Janis died of a heroin overdose in 1970 at the age of 27, Raise Your Hand with the Kozmic Blues Band and One Night Stand with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Producer Elliot Mazer (Neil Young) has used the latest recording technology to clean up these invaluable tapes, but the crude vitality remains. The liner notes by Country Joe McDonald, an artist who knew and loved Janis, are insightful both musically and personally. The collection captures Janis in the environment where she was happiest: in front of a microphone, enveloped by sound.