When Janis Joplin died during the early '70s sessions for Pearl, there was no vocal on "Buried Alive in the Blues"; the instrumental track was included on the posthumous album as something like a moment of silence. The tragedy of the singer's lost life was doubled by the absence of an artist sensing a new power in herself. More controlled than the psychedelic blues of Cheap Thrills, thanks to her new Full Tilt Boogie Band, Pearl was nonetheless awash in what made Joplin great. Even if she had lived, her elegiac "Me and Bobby McGee" and a cover of Howard Tate's wise soul ballad "Get It While You Can" would have carried huge emotional resonance. Without her, even the jokey a cappella "Mercedes Benz" stung. "Pearl" was one grand lady, as this album continues to remind us.

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