Janis Joplin – “Live at Carousel Ballroom 1968”

JANIS JOPLIN- “Live At Carousel Ballroom 1968”

Live At The Carousel Ballroom 1968 is a previously unavailable live recording of Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company at a venue that was to become Bill Graham’s Fillmore West after a short six month run.

Big Brother and the Holding Company in 1968 were Janis Joplin (vocals), Sam Andrew (guitar, vocals), James Gurley (guitar), Peter Albin (bass) and Dave Getz (drums).The attraction to this kind of release is the time period in which it was recorded. This is when Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco was becoming legendary for being the center of counter culture, art and music. Bands like The Grateful Dead and The Jefferson Airplane were rapidly building their own communities, which would eventually spread across the US then worldwide. Back then there was no internet and countless websites to promote your music, it was grassroots publicity through playing live every chance you could.

A hint at what was going on then and the type of people that were in attendance at these events is made apparent by the MC announcing after the eighth track “Call On Me,” to all the Hell’s Angels and more specifically to Tramp and Tiny, warning them that the policeman were going to be “on” their bikes shortly so they should move them before they had them towed. Things like this really give you a glimpse into another time and world that seems mild now in comparison to some of the things that have happened over the years at concerts. And of course more importantly the intent of this release which is to give listeners a chance to hear the two nights that this powerful force of music displayed to their fans. Keep in mind this is the non-stereo mix that you will hear, complete with all the imperfections that live concerts could bring in 1968, which notably does not distract from the musicianship and personality of the performances. Live At The Carousel Ballroom 1968 was recorded by soundman Owsley Stanley AKA “Bear” who died in a fatal car accident March 12, 2011. Bear supervised the remastering of this recording prior to his untimely death.

Joplin is at her fiery best on these tracks and the band is incredibly powerful. Much care was taken to preserve the original integrity of these recordings and there is little overlap between the right and left channels so you are warned that the album will sound a bit strange with your current configuration of your stereo (mine being 5.1 Surround Sound) and the best way to enjoy this sonic experience is to push your left and right front speakers together if you want to hear it like the crowd did the day it was recorded. This is good advice if it applies to your system and can be arranged as such. Even though I could not do that I thought this recording was quite good. Everything that I have discussed so far runs parallel to the music. The history of the artists and people involved with these live performances is what makes it so interesting and captivating. The first listen to a recording such as this is always the most important because if it does not find a way to consume you in some way then there is nothing there to motivate you to play it again. I was blown away by the how they managed to make this performance sound so good, making you feel like you were there that day. I listened several times so it worked for me.

Some of the best tracks on the CD are “Light Is Faster Than Sound,” “Piece Of My Heart” and “Ball & Chain.” “Coo Coo” was a change in direction and sounds as if it could have been on a different album played by someone else, until it really starts moving further into to meat of the track. It starts off with surf like guitar riffs and it is as clean and bright as can be, almost like it was cut in the studio, not live. It definitely is live because you can hear Janis at the beginning before the music starts saying coo, coo, coo.

The 13 tracks on this monumental piece of rock history take up 71 minutes of your time, and time well spent indeed. This type of remaster is a quintessential part of musical history and culture that should be celebrated and recognized for what it really is. Most certainly young and old music fans alike will find some sort of connection inside the music because of the originality and meaning. The cover art captures the time and spirit of the music as well as the singer’s passion and soul. If that is not enough to peak your curiosity well then you just don’t have the music in your heart to go any further. From the cover to the last note played you will always have a reserved seat at the Carousel Ballroom with this fascinating recording.

Stars 4/5
Key Tracks: Light Is Faster Than Sound, Piece Of My Heart, Ball & Chain

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-Founder MuzikReviews.com