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not as essential as it could have been!
on 19 January 2004
Although most of the contents are undeniably 'essential Janis' it's hard to fathom why the record company chose to include the inferior studio pre-Monterey versions of classics such as 'Down on Me' and 'Bye Bye Baby' from their 1st album. The definitive versions of these 2 songs (live versions) are better known to most Janis fans (i.e. on 'The Ultimate Collection' for example and 'Live at Winterland 68')
In fact,with the fantastic wealth of material available from the great albums released in Janis' lifetime....Cheap Thrills, Kozmic Blues, and then the later posthumous 'Pearl' 'In Concert, and 'Live at Winterland 68', the mind boggles as to why anything from the inferior first Big Brother album (recorded 1966 but delayed for many months before its release just after Monterey Pop in order to cash in)was included here. Janis just doesn't sound like Janis on these early recordings and the band lack their later grunge/psychedelic/punk power (by all accounts Janis and Big Brother were very unhappy with that 1st album). There's also a live version of 'Kozmic Blues' which, although it is good, is not a patch on the studio version from 'I got dem ol Kozmic Blues again mama'. Which is a shame as it's one of her great moments..
For a true 'essential' Janis collection, as this should have been, there'd be no hesitation in awarding it 5 stars. But it loses a star for the record company compiler's poor judgement.If you are new to Janis, it would be better to go for the original albums (as mentioned above) or for a taster of Janis, go for 'the ultimate collection'.
There is however one good reason for purchasing the 'Essential Janis' cd over and above everything else - for the sublime version of 'Ball and Chain' recorded at the Monterey Pop Festival 1967 - the performance that deservedly made Janis a superstar.