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Music Review: Janis Joplin/Big Brother and The Holding Company – Live At Winterland ’68

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Live At Winterland ’68 was not released until thirty years after the actual concert. It came as a breath of fresh air, as it captured Janis Joplin with Big Brother and The Holding Company at the height of their powers.

They took time off from recording their Cheap Thrills album to perform two days worth of concerts at the legendary Winterland Ballroom April 12-13, 1968. Five of the seven songs which would comprise that album are presented live here.

My only real complaint is performances from the two shows were combined to make one concert which gives it all a somewhat disjointed affair. I have always preferred to hear a concert as it was played mistakes and all.

The performances are raw, sloppy, loose, and powerful which probably sums up the style of both Janis Joplin and Big Brother. The twin guitars of Sam Andrew and James Gurley combined to make one of the best duos of the day and provided the perfect foundation for Joplin to churn out some of the best blues/rock vocals in history.

It is the Cheap Thrills material which shines the brightest which should not be a surprise as it is some of the strongest in their catalogue and of the period. “Summertime” is emotional as Joplin wails over the guitars. “Ball and Chain” is late sixties rock at its very best and this version is similar to the one which would appear on Cheap Thrills which is very good indeed. Joplin leaves you exhausted by the time she finishes “Piece Of My Heart.” Sam Andrew produces an excellent guitar solo on “I Need A Man To Love.” It must have been quite an experience hearing these songs before they were officially released.

I am also attracted to the extended version of “Light Is Faster Than Sound” as it gives the group a chance to jam and prove they were an excellent live band.

Live At Winterl and ’68 enables the listener to travel back in time and spend an evening with the great Janis Joplin. It is an album with a great cover, great liner notes, and above all great music.

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