Janis Joplin didn't have time to leave a sizable legacy. And aside from her posthumous Pearl, her albums didn't always support the shifting weight of her physically rigorous talent. So The Essential Janis Joplin is accurately named and better than other, similarly titled compilations: Unlike her box sets or her skimpy Greatest Hits, this two-disc, thirty-track anthology gets the balance right for everyone but collectors and completists. Essential combines all necessary album tracks (including almost all of Pearl) with satisfying live renditions. Capable of both a respectful rendering of George and Ira Gershwin's "Summertime" and a sweaty reworking of the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody," Joplin remains the ultimate rock interpreter — the iconoclast who could rewrite songs with a single scream.
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