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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Big Brother and the Holding Company

Supper on the River Rhine (vinyl EP)

Review by Gary Hill

This cool EP is a limited edition release on green vinyl. It is a very classy little set with four songs (three live and one studio). The live songs are from a 1993 show. The whole thing was previously released on a small run of cassettes, but is just now coming out in this format.

I suppose the biggest thing hanging over this band is the shadow of Janis Joplin. Michel Bastian has some big shoes to fill, and she pulls it off with style and grace. While I'd consider her performance an equal to Joplin's, she doesn't really try to sound like her to my ears. She seems to have her own identity which most often comes across somewhere between Joplin and Grace Slick. The rest of the band here is Sam Andrew (guitar and vocals), Peter Albin (bass and vocals), David Getz (drums) and James Gurley (guitars and vocals).

It should be noted that the recording is definitely not perfect. The sound quality issues are more pronounced on the opening "Ball and Chain" than anywhere else. There is even a little disclaimer about it on the back cover. Still, this is definitely good enough to bear repeated spins and not really detract from the enjoyment of the music. It should be noted that the track listing is wrong on the back cover - the two songs on the second side are listed in reverse order. I've listed them here in the sequence in which they actually appear on the record.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Side One
          
Ball And Chain

A smoking hot blues jam open this number. The instrumental introduction is packed full of magic. The vocal join and we're fully involved at that point forward. While Joplin isn't on hand here, I have think that she'd really respect the performance. It's a bluesy, soulful and powerful one.

Fly With Me
This number makes me think of Jefferson Starship to a large degree. It's more of a mainstream hard rocker. It has some killer guitar textures built into it. While it's every bit aas powerful as the previous cut, it has a completely different vibe. Here Bastian sounds more like Grace Slick than she does like Joplin.
Side Two
       
Piece Of My Heart

A real classic, I've always loved this number. This is another case where it's quickly obvious that it's not Joplin, but the performance stands just as tall as you would expect it to if it were Joplin. This rocker really works so well here. In fact, I like this better than the "Ball and Chain" performance here.

Women Is Loosers
This blues rocker is so cool. I love the guitar soloing on it. The more traditional blues texture works really well. Again Bastian sounds a lot like Grace Slick on this, but still channels some Joplin at the same time.
 
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