Big Brother and the Holding Company – Cheap Thrills

Janis Joplin had a voice that was unmistakable. Constantly cited as an inspiration to women singers in the generations that followed, she sang with an emotional intensity that could always take a Piece Of My Heart and will forever remain an inspiration to singers of any gender in any generation. This was her last album with Big Brother and the Holding Company, before pursuing a sol career with backing band Full Tilt Boogie.

The album is a combination of studio and live material. It kicks off with an introduction by Bill Graham, owner of the original Fillmore concert halls, that by today’s standards would probably be considered politically incorrect: “Four gentleman and one great, great broad: Big Brother and the Holding Company”. It then kicks off into high gear with mostly blues laden rockers that are played as passionately as they are sung by Janis. There’s some psychedelics that creep in from time to time too (this was 1968 after all) most notably on “Oh Sweet Mary”. With a perfect Combination of the Two, the blues and psychedelic sounds meet up in the closing track “Ball and Chain”.

The cover artwork for “Cheap Thrills” was done by 1960’s underground artist R. Crumb. It was supposed to be the back cover of the album, but Janis was a huge fan of his and pushed to have it used on the front instead. Rolling Stone has ranked it as one of the 10 best album covers of all time.