American Songwriter Review: Sex, Dope, and Cheap Thrills

26 Nov American Songwriter Review: Sex, Dope, and Cheap Thrills

Read the whole review at American Songwriter.

The opening “Combination Of The Two,” with its scratchy Latin percussion and Sam Andrews’ distorted guitar, sets the tone for the majority of the nearly 2 ½ hour program. Joplin’s in terrific form, barely restrained even on ballads like the band’s cover of “Summertime” (two versions), “Farewell Song” (three cuts of this), and the acoustic barroom blues of “Turtle Blues” (another three takes).

The multiple recordings of tunes that ended up on the album, combined with those captured in these sessions that didn’t make the cut, display just how hard the band worked on this project. Sure, there were misfires like “Easy Once You Know How,” a dated garage blues mess, and the avant-garde styled cacophony of “Harry,” both rightfully left in the vaults. But there is plenty of taut, emotional music too, enough to satisfy the dedicated Joplin fan who is the primary audience for this. And just hearing another, previously unreleased live “Ball and Chain” that totally smokes (recorded post-Monterey Pop on April 12, 1968), is reason enough to rejoice. Liner notes by Grace Slick and especially Big Brother’s Dave Getz provide further colorful background information. 

This is likely the last word on Joplin’s short (1966-’68) but key association with Big Brother & the Holding Company. She had already moved on in her career even as this album was still on the charts. But Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills fills in crucial missing pieces of the iconic record and makes a worthy addition to it for those looking to explore more of where the mojo that created it came from.