Mail Dump: Janis, Little Richard, dBs, Donovan, Etc.

The mailbox has been truly kind the past several weeks. Sure, there are still piles of useless dreck to wade through/past/over. But those all get to go to the big box in the dark closet and await the apocalypse.

But there are standouts and surprises almost daily. Let's begin with three important reissues.

Donovan, The Essential Donovan (Epic/Legacy) : Described as the "songs that made him an icon," this is a must for both the diehard fan and the complete novice. Donovan was no Bob Dylan -- an unfair, obvious comparison that would plague him his entire career -- but that doesn't diminish his accomplishments, his chart success, and his place in folk-rock.

"Catch the Wind," "Mellow Yellow," "Universal Soldier," "There Is a Mountain," "Wear Your Love Like Heaven," and the monumental "Season of the Witch" would make a career for most musicians. With 36 tracks including alternate takes and rarities, this makes a great primer for one of the psychedelic era's true songcrafters.

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Janis Joplin, The Pearl Sessions (Columbia/Legacy): This is a must for Joplin fans. Not only does it include all of the mono versions of her radio singles, it also includes recently discovered tapes from the sessions, where Joplin can be heard joking bawdily with producer Paul Rothchild (The Doors) and her Full Tilt Boogie Band.

There are intriguing alternative versions of well known Joplin tunes that further demonstrate what a loss it was when the Port Arthur native overdosed. The lady could sing the blues.

Little Richard, Here's Little Richard (Specialty/Concord) -- As we noted in our recent piece on Grady Gaines, Little Richard was playing regularly at Club Matinee in Fifth Ward when Don Robey sold his contract to Los Angeles-based Specialty Records, who immediately dispatched Penniman to New Orleans to work with producer "Bump" Blackwell.

What came out of those sessions was "Tutti Frutti," the shot heard 'round the world, the single that turned yours truly into a rock and roll maniac for life. Life was never the same around our house once Dad brought this slab of wax home. The new release augments the original dozen tracks with bonus demos, videos, and a 20-minute interview with Specialty Records owner Art Rupe that is frank and factual.

Containing part of rock and roll's Holy Grail ("Jenny, Jenny," "Long Tall Sally" "Slippin' and Slidin'" and "Rip It Up"), owning this is like finding the Dead Sea Scrolls of rock and roll.

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