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Published: 2002/07/23
by Mike Gruenberg

Live in San Francisco 1966 – Big Brother and Holding Company

Varese Sarabande 302 066 344 2

Janis Joplin was one of those people whose life was the stuff that movies
and books are written about: a girl from a small Texas town who simply did
not fit in with her peers, she went on to fame as a singer whose range and
persona lifted her to the heights of stardom only to die far too young with
so much promise unfulfilled. Given her early death, we crave any historical
artifacts about her so we can squeeze out as many memories as possible.
Unfortunately, when we try to too hard, we often do not get the intended
results.

There is an old adage that says "you can't make a silk purse from a sow's
ear". That old saying takes on new meaning when trying to listen to this
offering. This is perhaps the most unlistenable album I have ever had the
displeasure to try and hear. The sound quality is poor. Of the 14 cuts,
Janis gives a credible performance on "Down On Me", and an excellent version
of "Ball and Chain", but virtually all the other songs on the album are a
collection of tunes that could only charitably called outtakes. A bonus
track – "Hall of the Mountain King" – recorded April 25, 1967 at KQED San
Francisco, offers better sound quality than the rest of the album.
Unfortunately, it suffers the same fat as the other 13 cuts on the album. It
is raw and not very good.

David Getz, Big Brother & The Holding Company's drummer, produced the album
and wrote the liner notes — the latter of which are one of the few high
points of the release. He takes us through the '60s San Francisco music
scene. He talks about the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service and,
of course, Big Brother. His recollections, photos and anecdotes are
informative and entertaining.

I realize that some people may consider this type of album a piece of
history. While the performances are raw, some would argue that they are
supposed to be that way. In my opinion, releasing substandard performances
by an artist in her early years, recorded on obviously inferior equipment,
does a disservice to the artist. Therefore, unless one is a devoted Janis
fan, I would not recommend this album.

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