Name:  Joplin pearl sessons.jpg
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It's an interesting thing, to my aged mind.

Janis Joplin and Joni Mitchell were almost exact contemporaries, both born in 1943 and having first recordings released about 1968. But in my mind it's like they inhabit two different musical eras. I guess it's that Janis will always be 27 to me, without the kind of career arc that a longer lived and productive artist like Joni had.

I've been listening to both of late, courtesy of a couple of box sets. In Janis's case, it's the Pearl Sessions box set (two CDs), and in Joni's case it's Archives Vol. 1, a 5-disc set.

Haven't fully grokked all the very early Joni recordings, that's to come, but the Pearl Sessions are really interesting. I have a new-found appreciation for Janis, she was a truly great singer. It's so sad we didn't get to see where that talent and focused work would have taken her.

It's also remarkable to me that Pearl was released posthumously 50 years ago. Yes 50. That is half the way back to the very first days of popular recorded music. It still sounds fresh and wonderful.

The recording technology of the era is kind of interesting. Bobby McGee has become an ear-worm for me, I hear it in my head all the time, so have listened to the different versions quite a few times. There is no question the mono radio version is superior. To me, I think this is because of the early stereo mastering (I know, stereo had been around for quite a while, but it hadn't yet quite reached its full potential). In Pearl's case, the stereo separation for the guitar and keyboards is very wide -- almost entirely right or left channel. Vocals and rhythm are in the center. It's kind of like the early Ian and Sylvia stereo recordings, like Four Strong Winds, where Ian is entirely in one channel, Sylvia in the other.

I find this very disconcerting and not very nice, and not at all natural.

In the case of Pearl, one of the results is that in the stereo version occasional fills and dubs sit floating in the left or right channel like a weird artifact, whereas with the mono version it all sounds pretty seamless. But they are all still wonderful performances.