Big Brother And The Holding Company - Do What You Love

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Mystic Records
Catalog Number: MYS CD 152
Format: CD
Total Time: 48:20:00

Okay, I'm going to date myself (no sarcastic comments please). Now, usually that means someone is going to reveal just how old they really are. In this case, it's quite the opposite. I'm going to reveal how old you are. But only to you, it'll be our little secret. When Big Brother And The Holding Company released their first, self-titled, CD in September 1967, I was all of about four months old. The band first split in 1968, reformed in 1969, and had split up again in 1972. I was five. I tell you this because I don't have a long history with the band, but I'm not so "green" as that I don't know who they were/are, or who their one time vocalist was -- I'm speaking of Janis Joplin, of course. So, the significance of this album means something different to me than to those of you "were there when it happened, man." The whole Haight-Ashbury scene, The Fillmore West, etc. Perhaps my lack of a historical perspective is a good thing though, as I don't have to wrest with nostalgia hearing Lisa Battle sing Joplin songs like "I Need A Man To Love" or "Women Is Losers" ... neither of which would go over well in these more "enlightened" times, and yet, at least with the latter, you know there was something sardonic in Joplin's words. Battle doesn't sound like Joplin, but she captures that feeling. While Lisa may be new to the band, long time members Peter Albin (bass), Sam Andrew (guitar, vocals) and Dave Getz (drums, percussion) still form the core. Second guitarist Tom Finch joined 1997.

There is a bit of confusion as to when and where Do What You Love was recorded, as the liner notes say 1999, the website history says it was released in 1998. Nevertheless, it is contemporary, and released by Mystic this past March. Guests on the recording include Anna Schaad on viola and Johnny Thompson on guitar. While the recording is modern, the music on it harks back to those heady days of the mid-to-late 60s. The band must have wanted to leave you with this impression as a bit of backward playing zips you back in "Take Off." Oh, you don't want to be driving while this is playing...or maybe you do? This is driving rock, and the only drawbacks are some awful sounding "ooohs" in the middle, and that Schaad's viola is too far back in the mix. You know she's giving her all, but she needed to me more in the mix. But, this is so high energy you can't help but love it.

"Save Your Love" is a smooth, vaguely sultry piece...with a reggae like rhythm. Thoughts of both The Jefferson Airplane and The Fifth Dimension come to mind. "I Need A Man To Love" struts with a self-awareness, and assuredness. I don't know if Bonnie Raitt has ever covered this track, but it sounds like something she'd do, and Battle does sound a bit like Raitt, come to think of it. Come the end, when she sings "it just can't be..." you know she'll find a way, even if temporarily.

"Women Is Losers" is a funky tune, really neat bass and guitar work from Albin and Andrew. It's a fun track, hard to resist singing along ... dancing even. It's a track that you listen to once for the vocals, twice for the guitar leads, three times for the bass lines, four times for the percussion... so much his going on, that the simple lyrics belie a very complex track.

"Do What You Love," is a quick paced R & B piece. This is the point where I realized really just what great guitarists Andrew and Finch are. To be honest, I'm not sure which of the two is playing the terrific, hot leads, especially as this is the track where Thompson is the guest. But notes cascade and fall easily from his fingertips. It makes me miss that from modern rock (though we still get it in prog) - grunge killed tasty jazz influenced guitar licks, and this makes you realize what was lost, but could be found again. Do what you love indeed!

"It's Cool" is a quirky jazz-rap-funk track with some tasty guitar work and deep-throated horn (uncredited). There must have been a reason why I reviewed this CD now along with OnOffOn's Surrender Now, and more appropriately, their Your Mind CD last issue ... this makes me think of OnOffOn, suggesting in influence and mission springing from the same well. One can compare this with "For Hell's Sake" on Your Mind, it swings in the exact same manner.

"Looking Back" vaguely echoes various bits of music from the 70s, without directly quoting anything. But if you think of R & B before disco, the airy pop of Pablo Cruise, Player, and Ambrosia, with a touch of funk...then you'll have an idea. I say no direct quote, but it sounds for a moment as if they are quoting from "Long Train Runnin'" by The Doobie Brothers, which is the second time this week I've thought of that song.

The prevaling feel is that this was recorded live... so much so, that if you close your eyes, you can see them up there on the stage...heck, Woodstock. Now, the production (my quibble above aside) makes this sound like a top notch live recording. But here's a telling fact: "[The band] put down the rhythm tracks as if they were playing live." Success, because this gives everything a very warm feel. The intertwining of Andrew's and Battle's voices is wonderful, giving the tracks a warm glow. Ah, warm, warm, warm... everything's warm. You're comfy in this 60's cocoon, you may not wanna leave. Until...until...

"X Factor" is an experiment better left to die a quick's one alien monster that Mulder, Scully, Wolverine, Flame, et al. would leave unsolved and unrescued. It is an atmospheric bit of noise that might sound trippy when tripping... it is the sound of a fly caught in a very small space, amplified by microphones, while a group of zombie women pray aloud outside. Though their "ooh-oohs" have a Middle Eastern quality, I think that's more a case of trying to put some shape to it, some concrete explanation. It goes on far to long and totally, and I mean totally, kills the record. It's at the very end, fortunately, so one can program it out. I love ambient, atmospheric music but this was torture. Perhaps it was the audio equivilent of bringing us reluctantly back into the present. We will bear the scars forever. Speaking of bear...or rather bare, I was amused by the background photo inside the jacket. It took me a few moments, looking past the main pictures (some then/now comparisons), to notice that everyone in that shot is bare...naked... talk about freedom. Oh, I hadn't yet. One other comment, "Freedom" is a heavy rock track that kept making me think of Ricky Nelson in a revved up version of "Garden Party" ... the vocal melody, at least, bears some similiarity. Coincidence? I heartily think so.

This is a terrific album (minus the "X Factor," naturally), and one that long time fans will want to snap up and one that will make new fans of the band, for sure. Very recommended.

Take Off (3:25) / Save Your Love (5:19) / I Need A Man To Love (6:13) / Bo's Bio (3:16) / Women Is Losers (4:45) / Freedom (3:08) / The OK Chorale (0:49) / Do What You Love (4:14) / Back Door Jamb (0:52) / Feed The Flame (4:42) / It's Cool (3:38) / Looking Back (3:48) / X Factor (4:11)

Peter Albin - bass
Sam Andrew - guitar, vocals
Lisa Battle - vocals
Tom Finch - guitar
Dave Getz - drums, percussion

Guest Musicians:

Anna Schaad - viola
Johnny Thompson - guitar (2, 8)

Big Brother And The Holding Company (1967)
Cheap Thrills (1968)
Be A Brother (1970)
Confusion (1970)
How Hard It Is (1971)
Cheaper Thrills (1984)
Big Brother And The Holding Company Live (1984)
Joseph's Coat (1986) (combo of Be A Brother & How Hard It Is)
Can't Go Home Again (1997)
Live At Winterland '68 (1998)
Nine Hundred Nights (live) (2001)
Live In San Francisco, 1966 (2002)
Do What You Love (2002)
Rockin' Out

Genre: US

Origin Ro

Added: August 25th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 912
Language: english


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