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Cheap Thrills

4.7 out of 5 stars 191 customer reviews

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Audio CD, December 11, 2012
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Editorial Reviews

Released in 1968, Cheap Thrills became a #1 album and sold over 1 million copies as well as cementing Janis Joplin's status as the first, true female Rock superstar. This 24K Gold classic contains 7 hits including 'Piece Of My Heart,' 'Summertime' and 'Ball And Chain.'

Product Details

  • Audio CD (December 11, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Audio Fidelity
  • ASIN: B009Q6ADM4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (191 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,559 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Dying young may be a good career move for a rock star, but it precludes any possibility of cashing in on that one last comeback tour. Janis Joplin became an icon and celebrated public figure in August of 1968, immediately after this album, "Cheap Thrills" was released and was dead three short years later. She didn't even live long enough to pay off advances from Columbia Records against future royalties. In the long run, Columbia Records was the primary beneficiary of Janis Joplin's premature death. Her record label has made a fortune from repackaging her catalog as deluxe boxed sets and anthologies over the years. It's ironic because no deluxe Columbia product has distilled the pure undiluted essence of Janis as much as this humble debut album.

For all its ragged glory, "Cheap Thrills" endures as the best showcase of Janis Joplin's extraordinary singing talent. Among the songs are the chart topping R&B classic "Piece of my Heart", the funky rhythm driven "Combination of the Two", a raw and soulful recasting Gershwin jazz classic "Summertime" and Janis' signature tune the show stopping "Ball and Chain."

A number of music critics took aim at Big Brother's musicianship and criticized the band as unprofessional and not up to par with Janis' talents. Janis, being young and riddled with insecurities, was wounded by the barbs. She left the band four short months after "Cheap Thrills." It's a shame, because Big Brother's ramshackle and reckless playing was uniquely attuned to the explosive dynamics of Joplin's "take-no-prisoners" approach to blues singing. She never found another group of musicians she bonded with like Big Brother. Her last album "Pearl" is technically better than "Cheap Thrills", but musical virtuosity is over-rated. Ask any hardcore fan of Janis and they will tell you that "Cheap Thrills" is the first CD they'll grab when their house is burning down.
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Format: Audio CD
Janis Joplin has been gone for more than 32 years. That's a timespan five years longer than she actually lived! (She died, as did Hendrix and Morrison, at age 27.) In the intervening years, there has been some debate among critics,as well as the listening public, regarding her actual contribution to popular music. Did she single-handedly reinvent the role of the female popular singer, and if even she did, does that make her recordings still listenable 30 years hence. Or was her music in fact a "you-had-to-be-there" phenomenon?
You'll find plenty of people in both camps, to say nothing of all the adjacent camps in between. But Janis Joplin was just as controversial in her own day. For every listener who hailed her as "the greatest white blues singer of her generation," there were plenty who found her "screaming" unmusical and, basically, intolerable, just as they do today! The more things change, the more they stay the same.
As for the notion that "you really had to be there...," well, I kinda was and kinda wasn't. I grew up in the sticks and never saw Janis perform live, much to my regret. But I listened intently to all her records and watched her on TV and film. And I did GET IT, but not right away. Having read about Janis before I ever heard her, I imagined her having some dark, rich soulful voice. The raw, cracked "whiskey voice" evidenced on CHEAP THRILLS came as something of a surprise and, admittedly, took some getting used to, but eventually I acquired the taste, and then some. Janis's voice was indeed huge, but it was also raw, scorching and often painful.( I did eventually hear that dark, soulful voice too, by the way, but it belonged to another singer entirely--Mother Earth's equally great, but decidedly diferent Tracy Nelson.
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Format: Audio CD
CHEAP THRILLS has always been a favorite album of mine and the digitally remastering of the classic record comes off well. "Combination of the Two" starts the album off with a bang, then segues into "I Need a Man to Love", what I think is the best song on the original album! "Summertime" and "Piece of My Heart" are classic Janis standards, "Turtle Blues" goes back to Janis' Texas roots, "Oh Sweet Mary" gets as acid-rock as you can get, and "Ball and Chain" finishes off what has been quite an experience! Now, everyone knows there was a wealth of material left over from the CHEAP THRILLS recording sessions and only two are here (for the others, look for FAREWELL SONG and JANIS 3-CD). "Road Block" is the best version of the song I've heard, but the band members' voices are toned down to make Janis sound like lead singer. It gives it a phony sound. The same with "Catch Me Daddy" the live track, which is horrible! "Flower in the Sun" is a good studio track, not the best version around (see LIVE AT WINTERLAND '68), but it is very good! "Magic of Love" is the best version I've heard of the song. I do think the bonus tracks throw off the atmosphere of the complete original album: hard, deep, dark, FANTASTIC rockin'! But they're nice to have. Any Janis released is good Janis, in my eye. But sometimes they need only be heard once.
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Format: Audio CD
Until recently, Janis Joplin was among the relatively few Woodstock-era artists I hadn't given much consideration to. The only times I'd heard her sing previously were on videos of the 60's mega-festivals, and my impression from these clips was that Joplin was extremely overrated. Her growling voice just didn't do it for me.

However, I was recently listening to demos at Borders, of some mannequin-looking girls who are apparently quite popular today (Hillary Church Duff Spears--I don't know, I can't tell them apart), when I suddenly had a craving to hear *good* music. So I started going through the Woodstock-era selections again. Mainly because I had seen a parody of the cover art elsewhere, I scanned Cheap Thrills, and was immediately blown away by the fact that Big Brother and the Holding Company really rocked! They reminded me in some small way of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, complete with guitar noises that shouldn't be possible.

Still, I was somewhat dreading to hear Janis' voice. But when she finally started singing I realized that Big Brother was a perfect vehicle for her. That wasn't growling I'd heard before at all--it was emotion in its most raw form. I just hadn't been putting her style into the proper context. It was beautiful. SHE was beautiful. What a startling contrast to the fashionable mannequins who only appeared uglier to me the more I heard their "music"!

Of course I bought Cheap Thrills on the spot, and I can only say that listening to it makes me feel good inside, in a nostalgic way. It reminds me of when musicians were human beings, and didn't attempt to hide their flaws. Yes, it's a terrible shame that Janis was a junkie, but what exactly do you call all the beer and pot that middle-class Americans consume today?
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