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Pop/Rock - Released April 17, 2012 | Columbia - Legacy

Distinctions 5 étoiles Rock and Folk
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Pop/Rock - Released August 12, 1968 | Columbia - Legacy

Cheap Thrills, the major-label debut of Janis Joplin, was one of the most eagerly anticipated, and one of the most successful, albums of 1968. Joplin and her band Big Brother & the Holding Company had earned extensive press notice ever since they played the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, but for a year after that their only recorded work was a poorly produced, self-titled album that they'd done early in their history for Mainstream Records; and it took the band and the best legal minds at Columbia Records seven months to extricate them from their Mainstream contract, so that they could sign with Columbia. All the while, demand continued to build, and they still faced the problem of actually delivering something worthy of the press they'd been getting -- Columbia even tried to record them live on-stage on the tour they were in the midst of when the new contract was signed, but somehow the concert tapes from early March of 1968 didn't capture the full depth of their work. So they spent March, April, and May in the studio with producer John Simon and, miraculously, emerged with something that was as exciting as anything they'd done on-stage. When Cheap Thrills appeared in August 1968 -- sporting a Robert Crumb cover on its gatefold jacket that constituted the most elaborate album design ever lavished on a rock album from Columbia Records, as well as a pop-art classic rivaling the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's jacket -- it shot into the charts, reaching number one and going gold within a couple of months, and "Piece of My Heart" became a Top 40 hit and helped to propel the LP to over a million sales. Joplin, with her ear- (and vocal cord-) shredding voice, was the obvious standout. Nobody had ever heard singing as emotional, as desperate, as determined, or as loud as Joplin's, and Cheap Thrills was her greatest moment. Not that everything was done full out -- there were relatively quiet moments on the album that were as compelling as the high-wattage showcases; her rendition of George Gershwin's "Summertime" was the finest rock reinterpretation of a standard done by anybody up to that time (though, in an incident recalled in his autobiography Clive, when Columbia Records president Clive Davis played it to Richard Rodgers to give him an example of some of the sounds that younger audiences of the late '60s were listening to, the 66-year-old Rodgers stomped out of the Columbia corporate offices in fury, vowing never to write another song); and Joplin's own "Turtle Blues" showed that she and the band could turn down and do credible acoustic blues, in something like an authentic period Bessie Smith (or, more properly, Memphis Minnie) sound. Big Brother's backup, typical of the guitar-dominated sound of San Francisco psychedelia, made up in enthusiasm what it lacked in precision. But everybody knew who the real star was, and Joplin played her last gig with Big Brother while the album was still on top of the charts. Neither she nor the band would ever equal it. Heard today, Cheap Thrills is a musical time capsule and remains a showcase for one of rock's most distinctive singers. © William Ruhlmann & Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 23, 1967 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released November 30, 2018 | Columbia - Legacy

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Fifty years after its release in 1968, the legendary Cheap Thrills has emerged with a multitude of unreleased tracks and rarities. This time, the opus which sold 1 million copies has kept its original title Sex, Drugs & Cheap Thrills, which was rejected at the time by Columbia for being too scandalous. Cheap Thrills, the best-seller that revealed Janis Joplin to the world, captures the essence of the Cosmic Mama who devoted herself body and soul to the recordings in the summer of ’68. Her coarse voice and her quirky rock vibes are showcased in Summertime, the real emotional peak of the album. While the seven initial tracks illustrated on the cover by the illustrator Robert Crumb, with their dirty, raw sound, may seem to be live recordings, only Ball and Chain was recorded at the Winterland Ballroom concert in San Francisco on April 12th, 1968. From Combination Of The Two, a six-minute jam between Sam Andrew III and Joplin, to the blues of I Need A Man To Love and the classic rock of Oh Sweet Mary, Cheap Thrills comes together to make up 37 minutes of joy. Two years later, after leaving Big Brother & The Holding Company and having successively formed several other groups including Kozmic Blues Band, the psychedelic queen died a heroine. © Charlotte Saintoin/Qobuz
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Pop/Rock - Released June 2, 1998 | Columbia - Legacy

Recorded live in San Francisco on April 12 and April 13, 1968, this set is a snapshot of the band -- with fine sound -- reaching the peak of their form. All of the well-known songs from their first two albums are present: "Ball and Chain," "Down on Me," "Piece of My Heart," "Summertime," "Combination of the Two," and "Light Is Faster Than Sound," for starters. There isn't a single song that isn't available in some form on either the Janis box or the Farewell Song compilation, though. Also, these versions aren't remarkably different or better than the familiar ones, although they tend to run longer, particularly on the seven-minute "Light Is Faster Than Sound" and the ten-minute "Ball and Chain." A treat for fans to hear, with a 24-page booklet that has lots of comments from the band. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Rock - Released May 23, 2019 | White Room Music

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Rock - Released August 3, 2018 | Global Recording Artists

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Rock - Released April 1, 2016 | Classic Music Vault

The second and final of the post-Janis Joplin Big Brother albums for Columbia looks and sounds like the closing of a chapter. A picture of Big Brother inside the gatefold has the band glowing with heavenly light; the cover photo is more telling, with faceless men standing in the shadows. To realize how good a Big Brother & the Holding Company album this is, all one has to do is play it next to Do What You Love, the group's release from 1998. On that disc, Lisa Battle is a commendable vocalist, but Do What You Love feels strained in both songwriting and performance. How Hard It Is, on the other hand, from 27 years earlier, is right on target. The title track feels like vintage Big Brother. Kathy McDonald is credited as a guest artist on "Black Widow Spider"; she co-sings the lead, but it sure sounds like her on "How Hard It Is" and "House on Fire" as well and, eerily, it is much like when Janis sang in unison with the band. The major difference is that they can play their instruments better here, four years after the Monterey Pop Festival brought them to the attention of Clive Davis. Nick Gravenites and McDonald were the perfect choices to step in, Gravenites having written two tracks on Joplin's Kozmic Blues LP and also having performed with her on Joplin in Concert. McDonald has sweetness, but can reach in and find some gravel to complement Gravenites. Everything on this album is listenable, and the three instrumentals -- "Last Band on Side One," "Maui," and "Promise Her Anything, But Give Her Arpeggio" -- are statements that the band members are real musicians, journeymen with vision. The loss of more recorded music by this group from this point in time is a tragedy. The Gravenites version of "Buried Alive in the Blues," the song he wrote for Joplin's Pearl album, is chilling; her death happened hours before the scheduled session when she was to sing on the Full Tilt Boogie Band's recording. Sony would be wise to include Big Brother's rendition on future copies of Pearl: It completes the circle. Big Brother would do well to continue in the more bluesy direction this album pointed to rather than perform Janis Joplin's hits in small clubs. The instrumental "Maui" and the song "Shine On" are as good as anything Moby Grape and Quicksilver Messenger Service could conjure up. Sam Andrew, James Gurley, Peter Albin, and David Getz cover music from all three phases of Joplin's career. The first song on side two, "Nu Boogaloo Jam," is pure Kozmic Blues Band, which Sam Andrew was part of at the beginning; the aforementioned "Buried Alive in the Blues," as stated, was recorded by the Full Tilt Boogie Band for Pearl. This album covers the gamut of styles that Joplin would bring to the world between 1968 and 1970. It's a catastrophe that this band was waiting for its lead singer to come home for the inevitable reunion; Joplin's death affected many lives and the body of work this band could have amassed. Where the Doors went off into a brief and spirited rock-jazz journey for two albums -- Jim Morrison's band experimenting with ideas they couldn't attempt as a superstar pop group -- Big Brother had lost its Morrison and was lost without its focal point. How Hard It Is and the album that preceded it, Be a Brother, are very musical and very good albums, but they just don't have the electric majesty of Cheap Thrills, an album that took their wildness and used it as an incredible bed for Joplin's truly cosmic vocal work and emotion. If allowed to record as the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane had despite those bands' personnel changes, there would now be a deep catalog of San Francisco rock from this essential psychedelic/experimental ensemble. Although Janis Joplin had a guest vocal on Be a Brother, her only participation here consists of photos inside the album jacket, a family tree of sorts. This is a striking record by an important band, but Joplin's contributions were so overwhelming that the integrity in these grooves never got the chance to reach a wider audience when it was first released. © Joe Viglione /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 1, 2016 | Classic Music Vault

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Rock - Released October 1, 1970 | Columbia - Legacy

Whether Big Brother & the Holding Company would have made any waves at all in the late-'60s San Francisco music scene sans Janis Joplin could be argued. Be A Brother is a good indicator of what they would have sounded like without her amazing voice. Recorded in 1970, guitarist David Schallock and singer/songwriter/producer Nick Gravenites were added to help fill the space created with the absence of Joplin. These ten original compositions include "Home on the Strange," "Mr. Natural," "Funkie Jim," and "I'll Change Your Flat Tire, Merle" dedicated to Merle Haggard. This is a decent blues-based session similar to early Butterfield Blues Band records, which isn't a bad thing at all. © Al Campbell /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 1, 2016 | Classic Music Vault

Whether Big Brother & the Holding Company would have made any waves at all in the late-'60s San Francisco music scene sans Janis Joplin could be argued. Be A Brother is a good indicator of what they would have sounded like without her amazing voice. Recorded in 1970, guitarist David Schallock and singer/songwriter/producer Nick Gravenites were added to help fill the space created with the absence of Joplin. These ten original compositions include "Home on the Strange," "Mr. Natural," "Funkie Jim," and "I'll Change Your Flat Tire, Merle" dedicated to Merle Haggard. This is a decent blues-based session similar to early Butterfield Blues Band records, which isn't a bad thing at all. © Al Campbell /TiVo
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Rock - Released July 17, 2007 | DIG Music

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Rock - Released April 1, 2016 | Classic Music Vault

Big Brother & the Holding Company's two post-Joplin releases, Be a Brother and How Hard It Is, are two of the best recordings by bands picking up the pieces after the losses of their respective comets/focal points. Where the Billion Dollar Babies and Spiders from Mars had to move on without Alice Cooper and David Bowie, respectively, their musical genre didn't lend itself to reconstituted hard rock groups -- look at the sad fate of post-Jeff Lynne ELO or BTO without Randy Bachman. Like Grace Slick, Janis Joplin joined the group in which she rose to fame after it had formed, but as the Jefferson Airplane could reinvent itself for the future as a Starship with or without Slick, Big Brother was never given the chance to continue producing its experimental psychedelic pop. Lisa Battle has a strong voice, and it's so different from Joplin's that the band should have developed a new sound for her. It didn't, doing a disservice to this able singer. Battle does a great job on the funky tribute to Joplin that is "Women Is Losers"; it succeeds because it is not a note-for-note copy but a new look at an original Joplin composition. On the other hand, what is the point in trying to re-create "I Need a Man to Love?" You can't possibly top the electric John Simon production from Cheap Thrills, or Live at Winterland '68's power. The high points of this CD are "Save Your Love" (where Battle's voice carefully patterns itself around this slinky blues-pop, despite the low-budget surroundings); the title track; and two very short pieces, "The OK Chorale" and "Back Door Jamb." Both those musical exercises should have been expanded to give Battle the chance to identify herself as Big Brother's current singer. The band, after all, began pre-Janis by creating unorthodox sounds. Kathy McDonald and Nick Gravenites, who both appeared on Be a Brother and How Hard It Is, are the kind of talents who bring out the best these musicians have to offer. Seven or eight albums with that lineup would have created a formidable body of work. Put Lisa Battle into that mix as well, and the possibilities are endless. © Joe Viglione /TiVo
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Rock - Released July 21, 1971 | Columbia - Legacy

The second and final of the post-Janis Joplin Big Brother albums for Columbia looks and sounds like the closing of a chapter. A picture of Big Brother inside the gatefold has the band glowing with heavenly light; the cover photo is more telling, with faceless men standing in the shadows. To realize how good a Big Brother & the Holding Company album this is, all one has to do is play it next to Do What You Love, the group's release from 1998. On that disc, Lisa Battle is a commendable vocalist, but Do What You Love feels strained in both songwriting and performance. How Hard It Is, on the other hand, from 27 years earlier, is right on target. The title track feels like vintage Big Brother. Kathy McDonald is credited as a guest artist on "Black Widow Spider"; she co-sings the lead, but it sure sounds like her on "How Hard It Is" and "House on Fire" as well and, eerily, it is much like when Janis sang in unison with the band. The major difference is that they can play their instruments better here, four years after the Monterey Pop Festival brought them to the attention of Clive Davis. Nick Gravenites and McDonald were the perfect choices to step in, Gravenites having written two tracks on Joplin's Kozmic Blues LP and also having performed with her on Joplin in Concert. McDonald has sweetness, but can reach in and find some gravel to complement Gravenites. Everything on this album is listenable, and the three instrumentals -- "Last Band on Side One," "Maui," and "Promise Her Anything, But Give Her Arpeggio" -- are statements that the band members are real musicians, journeymen with vision. The loss of more recorded music by this group from this point in time is a tragedy. The Gravenites version of "Buried Alive in the Blues," the song he wrote for Joplin's Pearl album, is chilling; her death happened hours before the scheduled session when she was to sing on the Full Tilt Boogie Band's recording. Sony would be wise to include Big Brother's rendition on future copies of Pearl: It completes the circle. Big Brother would do well to continue in the more bluesy direction this album pointed to rather than perform Janis Joplin's hits in small clubs. The instrumental "Maui" and the song "Shine On" are as good as anything Moby Grape and Quicksilver Messenger Service could conjure up. Sam Andrew, James Gurley, Peter Albin, and David Getz cover music from all three phases of Joplin's career. The first song on side two, "Nu Boogaloo Jam," is pure Kozmic Blues Band, which Sam Andrew was part of at the beginning; the aforementioned "Buried Alive in the Blues," as stated, was recorded by the Full Tilt Boogie Band for Pearl. This album covers the gamut of styles that Joplin would bring to the world between 1968 and 1970. It's a catastrophe that this band was waiting for its lead singer to come home for the inevitable reunion; Joplin's death affected many lives and the body of work this band could have amassed. Where the Doors went off into a brief and spirited rock-jazz journey for two albums -- Jim Morrison's band experimenting with ideas they couldn't attempt as a superstar pop group -- Big Brother had lost its Morrison and was lost without its focal point. How Hard It Is and the album that preceded it, Be a Brother, are very musical and very good albums, but they just don't have the electric majesty of Cheap Thrills, an album that took their wildness and used it as an incredible bed for Joplin's truly cosmic vocal work and emotion. If allowed to record as the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane had despite those bands' personnel changes, there would now be a deep catalog of San Francisco rock from this essential psychedelic/experimental ensemble. Although Janis Joplin had a guest vocal on Be a Brother, her only participation here consists of photos inside the album jacket, a family tree of sorts. This is a striking record by an important band, but Joplin's contributions were so overwhelming that the integrity in these grooves never got the chance to reach a wider audience when it was first released. © Joe Viglione /TiVo
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Rock - Released February 8, 2020 | Blue Mountain