01 Jan The Double-Edged Soul of Janis Joplin
– Her Kozmic Blues essence is successfully captured in her second album for Columbia.
by Peter Reilly – Stereo Review Magazine
January 1, 1970
The essence of the irrepressible pop singer Janis Joplin has finally been captured on records with her new Columbia release “I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again, Mama!” The authentic fire of a live Joplin performance flickered only fitfully in her first album, “Cheap Thrills,” the net effect being that many were led to wonder what all the shouting was about. Those (including critics) lucky enough to hear her in person have been unstinting in their praise and enthusiasm, but how do you describe a hurricane?
The rock age’s answer to Tallulah (Bankhead) ambles onstage wearing the spoils of a raid on a thrift shop, peers out curiously through her abundant hair, takes an inspirational swig of Southern Comfort, and then proceeds to galvanize her audience with some of the best blues singing ever heard. A large element in Joplin’s fantastic communicative gifts is visual, and a great deal of credit should therefore go to producer Gabriel Mekler for so successfully capturing all that double-edged soul on this brilliant new recording.
It has always been true in popular music that the performer counts for more than the material. A superstar can transcend even the worst songs (Frank Sinatra singing “Strangers In The Night”, for example) whereas a mediocre singer can fail with the best. A case in point here is “One Good Man” – a fair enough song, but superstar Janis Joplin raises it to her own level, singing it as a ringing call out of an emotional jungle. An even stronger example would be the old Rodgers & Hart classic “Little Girl Blue.”
Generations of indifferent performances have worn it so thin – it is a good song – that we have long since ceased to expect anything more from it. Just a few bars into Joplin’s persuasive interpretation, however, and you will be in the middle of a new and revelatory musical experience.
The other songs here are just as good, and Joplin’s voice, it seems to me, is better – mellower, stronger, more focused. I could go on, but there really isn’t much point. “Kozmic Blues” is going straight to the top of the charts and will probably stay there for months. Try it; you’ll play it endlessly now, and at least every six months for the foreseeable future. JANIS JOPLIN: “I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again, Mama!” Janis Joplin, vocals; orchestra. Try; Maybe; As Good As You’ve Been To This World; One Good Man; To Love Somebody; Kozmic Blues; Little Girl Blue; Work Me Lord. Columbia KCS 9913 $5.98 HC 1211 (3 3/4) $7.98