Big Brother and the Holding Company Cheap Thrills on Numbered Edition Hybrid SACD from Mobile Fidelity
Quintessential 1968 Record a Potent Mix of Psychedelia, Blues, Folk,
and Rock: Janis Joplin Delivers Cathartic Vocal Performance on Major-Label Debut
That Includes Powerhouse "Piece of My Heart"
Mobile Fidelity Hybrid SACD Touts Excellent Spaciousness, Punchiness, Dynamics, and Texture: Cheap Thrills Sounds As Close to Live as Music Gets and Features Robert Crumb Artwork
Ranked #338 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time List: Big Brother and Joplin Convey Fearlessness, Toughness, and Synergy on Every Note
In many facets, Big Brother and the Holding Company's Cheap Thrills is the quintessential album to spring from the outcome of the Summer of Love. Best known as Janis Joplin's
major-label debut, the 1968 set arrived when the countercultural
movement was in full swing and before co-optation, drugs, and violence
signaled the fall of the era. Ranked #338 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time,
it puts a female singer in the prominent position traditionally given
to a male and showcases a band pouring a potent cocktail of fiery
psychedelic, blues, and folk sounds that informed the unfettered
creativity of the San Francisco scene. Produced by John Simon, Cheap Thrills also features one of the most iconic and elaborate album covers in history. Now, thanks to Mobile Fidelity, the instantly identifiable effort also possesses sonics equivalent to its visual and musical status.
audiophile label's SACD reissue intensifies the quintet's storied
sophomore effort, enhancing airiness, punch, energy, pacing, and dynamics. Joplin's
hurricane-force singing reverberates with texture, grittiness, and
volume. An arresting array of instrumental colors and tones comes on
with clearer separation and depth. While previous pressings find the
band and Joplin's voice in competition with one another for room, both emerge as distinct entities. Always noted for its rawness, Cheap Thrills sounds
as close to live as it gets, an unadulterated portrait of nervy rock n'
roll delivered with exuberant enthusiasm and all-out determination. This is music at is most visceral.
Having drawn national attention for their legendary performance at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967, Big Brother and Joplin faced huge expectations to deliver a studio set that would convey their onstage vibrancy and potency. Cheap Thrills does this and more, becoming one of 1968's most commercially successful releases that remained on the charts the week Joplin announced
her separation from the ensemble. Contrary to popular belief, only one
of the album's songs, "Ball and Chain," was recorded live. Everything
else owes to the unhinged, spirit-elevating performances and true
collaboration between vocalist and band that manifests itself throughout
the record's 37-minute-plus running time. Merging biker-babe
ruggedness with wounded-bird poignancy, Joplin's expressive belting,
mega-watt moaning, and sensitive crooning take center stage. Yet her
bandmates match every step with explosive rhythms, heavy guitar-driven
blues, and assertive solos that take inspiration from free-form jazz.
Indeed, Cheap Thrills still exhilarates not only due to Joplin's
almighty singing but because of boundary-shredding arrangements that
reflect the period's anything-is-possible mindset. More so than any
other musicians Joplin encountered, the members of Big Brother
pushed limits on convention via soirees into acid-dipped psychedelia
and its orbiting sonic galaxies. Together, they aim and achieve an aural
mythos that makes a permanent connection between artist and audience by
way of eliminating traditional divisions. Such communal power is
evident on the mind-bending version of Big Mama Thornton's "Ball
and Chain" and insistent, sinewy "I Need a Man to Love." It's also
obvious during quieter moments, whether the tripped-out, twisted, and
curvaceous contours of George and Ira Gershwin's "Summertime" or restrained, throwback acoustic blues of "Turtle Blues."
Yes, Joplin presents – and rallies against – loneliness and desperation in a cathartic language few had heard before or since.
What's even more significant is the fearlessness, toughness, synergy,
and sexual danger pulsing through every song, including the
take-on-all-comers challenge "Piece of My Heart," which the collective
attacks with career-making ferocity. Like Robert Crumb's daring
pop-art illustrations that grace the cover, they simultaneously lure and
dare the listener to enter a space where outsiders run free and where
outlaws are heard above the mainstream din.
Big Brother and the Holding Co. Cheap Thrills Track Listing:
1. Combination of the Two
2. I Need a Man to Love
4. Piece of My Heart
5. Turtle Blues
6. Oh, Sweet Mary
7. Ball and Chain