Big Brother; The Holding Company Featuring Janis Joplin, ‘Live At The Carousel Ballroom 1968′ – Album Review
Big Brother & The Holding Company were an established rock band prior to Janis Joplin fronting them, and in June of 1966 when she auditioned for the band, things didn’t gel instantly.
Joplin’s gritty blues vocal seemed to clash with the heavy, psychedelic, free form tendencies of the group. Still, Joplin quickly adapted and once she got the hang of what Big Brother expected the lil’ gal from Texas blossomed, elevating herself and the band to a new intergalactic dimension.
The group’s newly released album ‘Live At The Carousel Ballroom 1968’ is the first of the band’s soundman Bear’s ‘Sonic Journals’ collection to be released. Bear, whose real name was Owsley Stanley, was responsible for recording this show on June 23, 1968. Sadly, while still supervising the mastering of this release, Bear was in a fatal car accident (March 12, 2011). The release of this album marks the one year anniversary of his death and the project has been dedicated to his memory.
This recording has been delivered the way Bear heard the band live. Some of you may be annoyed by the fact that all the vocals are on the left channel, or that there is next to no audience noise, which takes away from the true experience of the “live show.” That said – those were his wishes and it’s an extremely clean recording.
It takes about five songs for the band to get in the zone, but once they arrive, they play a sizzling version of ‘Summertime.’ The piss and vinegar vocal on ‘Catch Me Daddy’ that follows is perfect, oozing with sexuality and matched by an appropriate garage rock vibe from the band.
It’s especially nice to have this show on CD as it chronicles the band’s live set in the months leading up to their breakup. Rarely heard songs like ‘It’s A Deal’ and the rocking ‘Jam/I’m Mad’ add to the excitement for hardcore fans. The bonus track ‘Call On Me’ is taken from the June 22 show which sounds excellent as well. After hearing it, one wishes that both sets were released in their entirety.
About the only stage banter involves an announcement that the Hell’s Angels’ bikes were going to get towed if they didn’t move them. That ramshackle atmosphere extends to the band’s performance, which is a bit sloppy but still fun. A couple of key instrumental passages — especially in ‘Piece Of My Heart’ — are woefully off the mark, however Joplin sounds incredible and really kicks the excitement level up several notches with her impassioned performance.
After hearing ‘Ball & Chain’ one is reminded of that time someone asked Joplin how she learned to sing the blues. She responded with a “I didn’t learn s—, man. I just opened my mouth and that’s what I sounded like.”
Bear considered performances like this one “windows into the past” so this album is not just another show. Consider this your ticket back in time; an auditory portal that will transport you back to a colorful night in 1968.
‘Live At The Carousel Ballroom 1968′ Tracklist:
01. ‘Combination Of The Two’
02. ‘I Need A Man To Love’
03. ‘Flower In The Sun’
04. ‘Light Is Faster Than Sound’
06. ‘Catch Me Daddy’
07. ‘It’s A Deal’
08. ‘Call On Me’
09. ‘Jam / I’m Mad’
10. ‘Piece Of My Heart’
11. ‘Coo Coo’
12. ‘Ball & Chain’
13. ‘Down On Me’
14. ‘Call On Me’ (Saturday Show – June 22, 1968)