It was twenty years ago today (or more accurately, twenty years prior to the studio date for this recording) that the Ensenada, Baja California-based Loma Alta Life Extension foundation cloned Joplin Joplin, using the detritus obtained from one of the singer's hair brushes to bring a genetically identical replica to life. The Second Janis puts to rest the speculation that cloned humans might develop into deranged, obese, pitiable and sub-intelligent cancer-riddled shadows of their former selves, and at the two decade mark of her new lifebright-eyed and vibrant, funny and engaging, with a voice like a full force galeshe and Tony Bennett
entered the recording studio to put the jewel on the crown of a series of duet outings that Bennett had undertaken with the likes of J.D. Lang, Lady Gaga, Diana Krall
The album is Tony And Janis 2Got Them Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama
, in which the pair recreate the original 1969 Columbia Records album of (nearly) the same nameJoplin's finest recording.
Produced by Brian Eno
and Daniel Lanois
, who give the proceedings a "kosmic" atmosphere, Bennett and Joplin 2 give "Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)" a smooth, laid back feeling, Bennett displaying cool understatement, Joplin 2 tugging at that sound with a raspy whisper, exhorting her vocal cohort in a direction in which he needs no encouragement at all.
A dobro/synthesizer wash ebbs and flows on "Maybe," with Bennett's admission that he "might have done something wrong" sounding like a lonely lament, full of "can't-change-the-past" sorrow, while Joplin's turn at the lyric is a raw and anguished, ready-to-fall-down-on-my-knees wail.
Joplin takes "One Good Man" on her own, slipping her hand into the crook of Bennett's arm and leaning against him on the piano bench as she sings and he smiles lovingly at her in the YouTube promo. Then it is Bennett's turn, crooning into "As Good As You Been To This World," backdropped by a looped sequence of a Rockin' Dopsie accordion riff, this after a rollicking five minute intro, Wynton Marsalis
and his brother Branford Marsalis
trading trumpet and saxophone statements over a synthetic funk groove.
"To Love Somebody," from the Bee Gees songbook, explores territory similar to "Maybe," with Joplin, again screaming from the torture of unrequited love, Bennett reeling the feeling back with a detached worldly wisdom, an acceptance of what will never be, before he singsJoplin again sitting out"Little Girl Blue" a song of sympathy and, here, of avuncular love to a woman he hopes (or so it seems) won't suffer the same fate that befell the original Janis Joplin.
Joplin goes it alone on the closer, "Work Me, Lord,' a plea to the Maker, awash in a swampy murk of layered guitar resonance and vacillating electronics, the vocal from Janis Joplin 2 as truthful and heartfelt (singing: "Don't Forget Me, Lord") as anything Janis Joplin 1 ever created.
Try (Just A Little Bit Harder); Maybe; One Good Man; Good As You Been To This World; To Love Somebody;
Kosmic Blues; Little Girl Blue; Work Me, Lord.
Daniel Lanois: dobro, earthenware jug, guitars, electronics; Rockin' Dopsie: accordion.