Included are takes 6, 13, and 17 of “Move Over,” each a work-in-progress that also finds producer Paul Rothchild – fresh from the first five Doors albums – an integral element in Pearl’s evolution into the landmark it would become. Also here are both acoustic and alternate takes of “Me And Bobby McGee,” again highlighting how elusive musical magic can be. While both are appealing, they lack that certain something that made the released version a hit and an enduring classic.
And therein is the value of The Pearl Sessions. As a singer, Joplin was a natural in every sense, as she poured her soul into every note, and every note sounded thoroughly spontaneous. Yet despite a lack of formal training and the "anything goes" attitude of the times, she worked hard at her craft. It’s fascinating to hear Joplin the artist, still young, still finding her way, relaxed and comfortable yet serious about her music and focused on delivering the best performance possible.
The "official" results – Pearl held the number one position on the Billboard 200 chart for nine weeks – speak for themselves. Joplin’s vocals remain utterly definitive, and all these years later her pain and joy are still stunningly raw and real. The music holds up well, and the package includes reproductions of notes from the original sessions, which was a nice touch. It also includes an illuminating essay by Holly George-Warren as well as a conversation between Rothchild and Laura Joplin that reveals just how intense their relationship – personal and professional – really was.
Joplin’s flame burned out far too soon, but it burned bright indeed, and The Pearl Sessions offers a fascinating window on the making of a masterpiece. Not essential to casual fans, perhaps, but anyone with more than a passing interest in either Janis or the creative process itself will find much to enjoy here. And it’s always good to hear that voice again!