Exposé Online banner

Big Brother & the Holding Company — Be a Brother
(Acadia ACA 8026, 1970/2002, CD)

Big Brother & the Holding Company — How Hard It Is
(Acadia ACA 8028, 1971/2002, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2005-09-01

Be a Brother Cover artHow Hard It Is Cover art

This band will forever be remembered as Janis Joplin’s backing band, though their relationship with the singer only lasted two years and two albums. After Joplin’s departure, they regrouped and put out these two long-players, but found very little interest in the music-buying public. By 1970, the kind of psychedelic country blues they produced was perhaps passé, so it’s likely they would have fizzled even if the quality had been up to the standards of Cheap Thrills. That being said, Be a Brother and How Hard It Is are quite enjoyable listens along the lines of Quicksilver Messenger Service or the Grateful Dead. There’s a loose vibe pervading the sessions; member Sam Andrew writes in the liner notes that the band felt their sound was “experimental,” though today it’s hard to see what he could have meant. Lead vocals are handled by Andrew in turns with Nick Gravenites, and they both have serviceable voices, though (have to say it) they’re no Janis (who does show up on some backing parts). On Be a Brother, a large cast of supporting players (including the Tower of Power horns) augment the core six-piece, three of whom played guitar. The genre mix tilts to the country side on “I’ll Change Your Flat Tire, Merle,” which provides both a tribute to country star Merle Haggard and a commentary on his rah-rah patriotism.

By 1971, the band was down to four (losing Gravenites and guitarist David Shallock, both of whom show up as guests), and the music is a little more focused, straying less from the blues-rock base, but providing enough variety in tempo and feel to keep things interesting. Some of the album’s best moments come when guest keys man Mike Finnegan lets loose on the Hammond. Just get yourself into a hippie frame of mind, block out the fact that you’re listening to a little silver platter of digital information instead of a fat slab of black vinyl, tip your chair back on the front porch, and nod your head to the beat.


Filed under: Reissues, Issue 32, 2002 releases, 1970 recordings, 1971 recordings

Related artist(s): Big Brother & the Holding Company

Latest news

2019-04-24
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more

2019-04-10
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more

2019-03-25
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more

2019-03-20
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more

2019-03-03
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Gentle Giant - Artistically Cryme, The Missing Face & Playing the Cleveland – Gentle Giant’s headlining and support tours are further documented in three more marginal bootleg renditions from Voiceprint in the UK. Artistically Cryme is the first release, and a complete two...  (2004) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues