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Music Review: Janis Joplin – Greatest Hits

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I am not the biggest fan of greatest hits albums as they remove classic tracks from their original context. This is especially true for album-oriented artists such as Janis Joplin who only had one song reach the American top forty. Her number one hit, “Me and Bobby McGee,” reached the top of the charts during January of 1971.

What Greatest Hits did do, though, upon its release during 1973 was introduce millions of music buyers to Janis Joplin's music as it became (and remains) her most commercially successful album, selling seven-million copies in the United States alone.

While Greatest Hits only skims the surface of her legacy, it does present the highlights. The psychedelic rock of “Piece Of My Heart” and the hippy flavor of “Down On Me” capture her early career well. Her brilliant and tortured vocal on the old Broadway hit, “Summertime,” and the strong rock of “Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)” present her voice at its unique best.

Even after all these years I can’t get enough of “Ball and Chain.” This song, originally by Big Mama Thornton, explores love from several angles and is at the heart and soul of Janis Joplin as an artist.

The original vinyl release contained ten tracks. CD reissues expanded the release by adding “Mercedes Benz” and Joplin's brilliant interpretation of the old Chantels' doo-wop hit, “Maybe,” which she resurrected as a blues classic.

Who’s to say what directions Janis Joplin's music would have traveled had she lived? During her short career she had explored hard rock, psychedelic rock, and even some blues. Her music has been released in many forms down through the years and a number of those releases have made Greatest Hits obsolete. Still, if you want a basic introduction to her music, this album is a good place to start.

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