The Monterey Pop festival made the world take notice. Cheap Thrills made Janis Joplin a star, and Woodstock made her a mega star. She released I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama during September of 1969 and one platinum award album for sales later she stood atop the rock world.
Joplin’s studio output was minimal, so it is difficult to place this album in context since it is unknown what musical paths she would have traveled had she lived. Kozmic Blues does show that her musical vision was expanding beyond the sound of her former group, Big Brother and The Holding Company. Brass was added to a number of tracks as she explored rock, blues, and soul. Through it all her unique, tortured, and powerful voice provided the foundation for her music and appeal.
She attracted a stellar cast of musicians to support her solo debut. They included guitarists Sam Andrew and Mike Bloomfield, bassist Brad Campbell, keyboardists Richard Kermode and Gabriel Mekler, drummers Maury Baker and Lonnie Castille, and a brass section consisting of Terry Clements, Cornelius Flowers, and Luis Gasca.
The album blasts out of the gate with “Try (Just A Little Harder)” as it shows she is just fine on her own. She moves on to one of the most inspired song choices of her career. On “Maybe,” which was a big doo-wop hit for the Chantels during the late fifties, Janis gives a smooth performance that showed a new maturity.
The album is solid from beginning to end. Barry and Robin Gibb originally wrote “To Love Somebody” as a soul song. Their own hit version was light rock but Joplin’s interpretation was anything but. Her vocal captures the original intent as she turns it into a soulful tour de force. She reached back to 1935 for the Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers tune “Little Girl Blue.” Rodgers was still alive when this album was released and I have always wondered what he thought about his old Broadway show stopper being turned into a great blues song. “Work Me Lord,” at close to seven minutes, is a song she works until you think it can’t go on and then it does. It leaves you drained just listening to it.
I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama is a strong musical statement by Janis Joplin which has withstood the test of time. It remains a key ingredient in the career of one of the first legendary female rock
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