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Big Brother And The Holding Company Be A Brother / How Hard It Is album review

All the right songs, but not necessarily in the right order

Big Brother And The Holding Company Be A Brother / How Hard It Is album cover

For any band, the loss of a charismatic lead singer and figurehead is a tricky thing to overcome. When that lead singer is a force of nature like Janis Joplin, it seems all but insurmountable.

And yet psychedelic San Franciscans Big Brother And The Holding Company did carry on, and these two later albums of deeply funky, soulful blues rock are a testament to their resilience. The songs have a loose, jam-band feel – from the swing of Black Widow Spider to the stripped-down blues of Sunshine Baby – that screams of the late-60s/early-70s dropout hippie culture they were central to.

With sleevenotes written by their late singer and guitarist Sam Andrew, care has been put into the artwork on this repacked twofer. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the CD itself, as the tracklisting is in entirely the wrong order, songs popping up in the wrong place like disorientated meerkats. It’s a shame, because the music holds up all these years later, but maybe hunt down a version that doesn’t require you to sit there with Shazam working overtime in order to get your bearings.

Emma has been writing about music for 25 years, and is a regular contributor to Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog and Louder. During that time her words have also appeared in publications including Kerrang!, Melody Maker, Select, The Blues Magazine and many more. She is also a professional pedant and grammar nerd and has worked as a copy editor on everything from film titles through to high-end property magazines. In her spare time, when not at gigs, you’ll find her at her local stables hanging out with a bunch of extremely characterful horses.