14 Songs, 1 Hour 10 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Taped by the legendary soundman Owsley "Bear" Stanley, Live at the Carousel Ballroom, 1968 features—in beautifully intimate sound quality—a previously unavailable concert by Big Brother with Janis Joplin on June 23, 1968. It's the first in a proposed series of concerts recorded by the man best known as a LSD manufacturer. The performances are revelatory and capture the band on an excellent night, with Joplin in prime form and aware of the tunes that made her legend. Gershwin's "Summertime," "Ball and Chain," and "Piece of My Heart" are all here, with Joplin still playing the songs with a free hand. Guitarist James Gurley, an underrated player due to the band's reputation for being inconsistent, shines throughout, as does the rhythm section, who play the blues like they're running for their lives. Jamming on its home turf, the group is loose and comfortable. Owsley refused to overdub phony applause, so the sound is quiet, and the performance is exactly as it happened. Press materials suggest the stereo speakers be pushed together to best hear Owsley's intended effect. 

EDITORS’ NOTES

Taped by the legendary soundman Owsley "Bear" Stanley, Live at the Carousel Ballroom, 1968 features—in beautifully intimate sound quality—a previously unavailable concert by Big Brother with Janis Joplin on June 23, 1968. It's the first in a proposed series of concerts recorded by the man best known as a LSD manufacturer. The performances are revelatory and capture the band on an excellent night, with Joplin in prime form and aware of the tunes that made her legend. Gershwin's "Summertime," "Ball and Chain," and "Piece of My Heart" are all here, with Joplin still playing the songs with a free hand. Guitarist James Gurley, an underrated player due to the band's reputation for being inconsistent, shines throughout, as does the rhythm section, who play the blues like they're running for their lives. Jamming on its home turf, the group is loose and comfortable. Owsley refused to overdub phony applause, so the sound is quiet, and the performance is exactly as it happened. Press materials suggest the stereo speakers be pushed together to best hear Owsley's intended effect. 

TITLE TIME

Ratings and Reviews

3.6 out of 5
11 Ratings
11 Ratings
cyberghostx13 ,

Sounds Bad

I love Janis Joplin, but this album just doesn't sound good at all, and nostalgia is only as good as it sounds. Sorry JJ RIP.

mcfripp11 ,

1960

not bad at all...the lead guitar playing is quite good...the backing vocals as usual are the weak point to every s.f. 60's band or maybe just all american bands from this era...don't believe all the hype...brit rock bands absolutely dominate from '68-'82...i've been trying to figure out exactly why this is my whole life but it just is...american bands simply can't compete...oh well

ListenUp (~)\(~) ,

Fifty Years & Still Sounding Raw w/Energy

Janis may have been a brief phenomon from the late 60's. But her power trancends time. Hearing this live 1968 San Fran concert for the first time, reminds us of the emotiomnaly charged expressive raw energy Janis capitivated listeners with. My only dig here is i wish her male counterpart here was a tad bit muted... after all, Janis has it, just fine... as the years ahead would prove. That being said, this si a fine live rendition of Janis & Big Brother in their early days. Thanks Bear. Thanks for captiring sucha remarkable show.

About Big Brother & The Holding Company & Janis Joplin

Big Brother are primarily remembered as the group that gave Janis Joplin her start. There's no denying both that Joplin was by far the band's most striking asset, and that Big Brother would never have made a significant impression if they hadn't been fortunate enough to add her to their lineup shortly after forming. But Big Brother also occupies a significant place in the history of San Francisco psychedelic rock, as one of the bands that best captured the era's loosest, reckless, and indulgent qualities in its high-energy mutations of blues and folk-rock.

Big Brother were formed in 1965 in the Haight-Ashbury; by the time Joplin joined in mid-1966, the lineup was Sam Andrew and James Gurley on guitar, Peter Albin on bass, and David Getz on drums. Joplin, a recent arrival from Texas, entered the band at the instigation of Chet Helms, who (other than Bill Graham) was the most important San Francisco rock promoter. Big Brother, like the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service, were not great songwriters or singers. They didn't entirely welcome Joplin's presence at first, though, and Joplin did not dominate the group right away, sharing the lead vocals with other members.

It soon became evident to both band and audience that Joplin's fiery wail -- mature and emotionally wrenching, even at that early stage -- had to be spotlighted to make Big Brother a contender. But Big Brother weren't superfluous to the effort, interpreting folk and blues with an inventive (if sometimes sloppy) eclecticism that often gave way to distorted guitar jamming, and matching Joplin's passion with a high-spirited, anything-goes ethos of their own.

Big Brother catapulted themselves into national attention with their performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, particularly with Joplin's galvanizing interpretation of "Ball and Chain" (which was a highlight of the film of the event). High-powered management and record label bids rolled in immediately, but unfortunately Big Brother had tied themselves up in a bad contract with the small Mainstream label, at a time when they were stranded on the road and needed cash. Their one Mainstream album (released in 1967) actually isn't bad at all, containing some of their stronger cuts, such as "Down on Me" and "Coo Coo." It didn't fully capture the band's strengths, and with the help of new high-powered manager Albert Grossman (also handler of Bob Dylan, the Band, and Peter, Paul & Mary), they extricated themselves from the Mainstream deal and signed with Columbia.

The one Big Brother album for Columbia that featured Joplin, Cheap Thrills (1968), wasn't completed without problems of its own. John Simon found the band so difficult to work with that he withdrew his production credit from the final LP, which was assembled from both studio sessions and live material (recorded for an aborted concert album). Cheap Thrills nonetheless went to number one when it was finally released, and though it too was an erratic affair, it contained some of the best moments of acid rock's glory days, including "Ball and Chain," "Summertime," "Combination of the Two," and "Piece of My Heart."

Cheap Thrills made Big Brother superstars, a designation that was short-lived. By the end of 1968, Joplin had decided to go solo, a move from which neither she nor Big Brother ever fully recovered. That's putting matters too simply: Joplin never found a backing band as sympathetic, but did record some excellent material in the remaining two years of her life. Big Brother, on the other hand, had the wind totally knocked out of their sails. Although they did re-form for a while in the early '70s with different singers (indeed, they continued to perform in watered-down variations into the '90s), nothing would ever be the same. ~ Richie Unterberger

ORIGIN
San Francisco, CA
GENRE
Rock
FORMED
1965

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