I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!

Janis Joplin

Columbia / Legacy Records, 1969


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


In September of 1969, just weeks after a blistering set at the original Woodstock Festival, Janis Joplin made her solo debut in the record store bins with her new group, the Kozmic Blues Band. Bringing only guitarist Sam Andrew from the Big Brother fold, Joplin's first solo album I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama! showed Joplin partially embracing the blues roots that Big Brother began to explore on Cheap Thrills while delving into a new world for Joplin - r&b/soul music. In some ways, this album was an improvement, but it also showed that this group was to be short-lived.

Where Joplin's vocals sounded ragged and frayed on parts of Cheap Thrills, her overall sound is a major improvement on this disc. It almost seemed like Joplin knew what kind of material was best suited for her vocal style, and now that she was solely in command, she had the freedom to pick those songs.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

And, in a way, the r&b bend to the music turned out to be a good move for her. The opening track "Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)" is a perfect example of this. While this isn't pure r&b like other songs were on this album, it has a bluesy feel without being mired in 12-bar, and is a tune you can naturally groove to. The fact that it allows Joplin to set her vocals at full shred after the intro doesn't hurt matters either.

But Joplin was to delve further into r&b on I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!. On tracks like "As Good As You've Been To This World" and "Work Me, Lord," Joplin's true range as a musician and a singer begins to truly come into its own. Anyone who might have been tempted to write Joplin off as a product of the hippie generation without listening to these performances would be making a terrible mistake.

That isn't to say that there aren't mis-steps on this album. The cover of "To Love Somebody" is a song that was not meant for vocal oomph - something that Joplin and a few other vocalists would learn over time. Other tracks like "Maybe" and "One Good Man" are okay, but are nothing special.

The three bonus tracks on this remastered edition both help and hinder the original. The studio outtake "Dear Landlord" is a great track, and I can't help but wonder why it didn't make the cut for the original album. The two live tracks from Joplin's Woodstock performance are hit-and-miss. Joplin is able to breathe some life into "Summertime," a song I wasn't particularly enamored with on Cheap Thrills - but I don't like the more Otis Redding-like arrangement of "Piece Of My Heart".

There is a bonus if you listen right after "Piece Of My Heart" fades out - but for once, I'm not gonna spoil the surprise. (Kudos to Bob Irwin and the gang at Legacy for finally getting the concept of a bonus track right; they didn't make me sit through 10 minutes of silence or 200 three-second tracks to get to the gold.)

I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again, Mama! showcased Joplin as the artist in transition; the band would disintegrate at the end of 1969. But while this album still showed some weaknesses, it was an improvement over the last effort from Big Brother & The Holding Company - and was proof positive that Joplin could hold her own.

Rating: B-

User Rating: B+



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia / Legacy Records, and is used for informational purposes only.