Janis Joplin and The Full Tilt Boogie Band “Love On The Tracks” (Rattlesnake RS 261)
Tell Mamma / Half Moon / Move Over / Maybe / Summertime / Little Girl Blue / That’s Just Rock ’n’ Roll / Try (Just A Little Bit Harder) / Kozmic Blues / Piece Of My Heart / Cry Baby / Get It While You Can / Ball And Chain (77:05)
Through a tragically short career Janis Joplin poured a lot in. Her own style of psychedelic soul had been quickly embraced by the rock fraternity following a stunning appearance by Janis with her band, Big Brother and The Holding Company, at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967.
It was a turbulent few years that followed though as Janis was one of the kids from the 60’s who fell in to the “27” club. The age when Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Jim Morrison all left us. The brightest lights that burned a little too brightly.
One of Janis’ final acts was to join the Festival Express tour in 1970 with the Full Til(l)t Boogie Band, touring through 3 dates in Canada with a cast of other heads and hippies of the movement amongst others Delaney and Bonnie, The Grateful Dead, Ian Anderson and the band whom Jopin had personally chosen and enticed by promising them that they would have a whale of a time.
These shows are classed by the people who were there as some of the greatest performances that Janis pulled out from the hat, a fractured and tortured personal life including an over reliance on heavier pharmaceuticals and a dependance on other people brought a little more colour to an already neon life. A review in the Toronto Star the following day singled out Joplin and her band for high praise by pretty much washing over the rest of the bands in attendance and hoisting her to the top of their review, ignoring all of the acts who had previously played that day.
The show caught on tape tonight is a fantastic soundboard capturing and leaving no doubt of those ‘best of’ reports. Having already also seen release on Empress Valley’s ‘Festival Express’ and in part on the official deluxe version of Joplin’s last album, ‘Pearl’, where 7 tracks from here appear, this is yet another official release that should have been.
Beginning with a throttling “Tell Mama” where both Janis and the band go chicken shit barmy, tearing out a taught, souped-up funk groove, leaving Joplin pretty much breathless by the end. “Half Moon” and “Move Over” are slightly less outrageous but still just as thrilling for both musicianship and Janis’ ragged voice.
“Maybe” is another gutsy, heart squeezing ‘song about a man I used to know’. It glimmers with a ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ brush of organ, the stammering patter of bass and drums and beautifully overwrought guitar solo.
And then, her take on Gershwin and Hayward’s perennial “Summertime”, already a hit from the ‘Cheap Thrills’ album. Thrilling and awing in the way it swings, John Till’s weeping soloing adding nothing but a dramatic, taught tension to the proceedings.
Preceding “That’s Rock and Roll”, Janis introduces the band, jokingly admitting that while most of the band were Canadian, there was one American to hold it all together. The track itself is a thumpingly speeded up instrumental romp, allowing Janis a little bit of a break in proceedings but showing of the mastery of the bands instrumentation. It would become an all too familiar theme in a small discography as ‘Pearl’ featured an instrumental that Janis never had the time to apply the vocals to but it’s also a front to the people whom said that Janis was a show stealer.
“Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)” is prefigured by a long preamble about Janis’ days of dating when she was usurped by a woman who lived a couple of floors down in the apartment block where Joplin lived. A manta for herself to bring her ego up to the size of her peers.
After this, it’s another audience catch up with Janis offering the crowd back to hers for a drink, adding “I’m not too hard to find ..”. “Kozmic Blues” sounds almost like you’d have expected “Summertime” to have done, or how Muse presented it a good few years later, a brooding, hard backed ballad but punctuated with Allmanesque moments of hope – Imagine “Whipping Post” but with a different vocalist.
“Piece Of my Heart” is a great big slice of blues rock in the Led Zepp vein, passionate and writ large, this is where Joplin captures the essence of her contemporaries in soul and brings great balls of gusto to the stage – heavy crunching stabs at the guitar, marching fills and scorching, spacey organ barbs lift the track above and beyond.
Next up, one of the most captivating vocal performances at the beginning of any song as Janis packs her lungs with air and screams the opening word with such furious gusto it’s again like a voice could tear open the venue. Handily, it’s pretty much a spoken word affair as Janis almost blew a gasket at the start.
One of the big scenes from the still to be recorded ‘Pearl’ was “Get It While You Can”. A tumbling, rousing, hard slice of gospel blues equipped with a beautiful double handed solo in the middle, raising to a epoch-making coda. It’s pretty much set out tonight as it would be recorded. Heavenly and lusty at the same time, by this point Joplin’s vocals were taking a beating but, ragged as they were, they still wave with an almightily strong back.
The final track of the night comes as the crowd can be heard calling for more and not wishing to let anyone down, Janis gives in spades with the crunch of the opening chords of “Ball & Chain”. Her voice twisting between soft croon and angered howl. Final props to the band for adding to the force of the track, turning the central point in to a battle for supremacy before the instruments drop out and Joplin raps, weepingly and openly. No better suggestion of her fragile state but wanting mind. Grab things as they happen, don’t let them sneak away. As she finishes, she drops the microphone and exits.
The disk fades out to the MC’s request for applause.
Where as the Empress Valley release was released in a slim card slipcase, this Rattlesnake release is jewel cased and very handsomely too. Sleek clean lines, great simple photos, no messing about. No liner notes which is about the only thing I’d generally require from their releases but a fantastic outing for this wonderfully hyperactive show. A must for fans of rock, period.