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Russ Titelman produces 'A Night With Janis Joplin' cast album

Just as Mary Bridget Davies’ performance in the title role of the Broadway musical A Night With Janis Joplin is extraordinary, the feat in recording the original Broadway cast CD was also remarkable.

CD cover of "A Night With Janis Joplin"
Broadway Records

“We went in and cut it pretty much in the order of the show,” says Russ Titelman, who co-produced the recording with the show’s sound designer Carl Casella.

“He knows every detail of the show, and it went very quickly,” Titelman says of the session, which took a mere eight hours to record 19 tracks.

“Because the band had been doing the show for two years on the road [before opening on Broadway last October], they were on it—fully prepared,” notes Titelman. “They were sticklers and more careful about little details than even I was in some cases. We didn’t have a lot of time, but I said it was going to be great—and there was no need to overdub besides some repeats on the guitars to make it sound like what you would have heard on the radio back then.”

He notes that the album was mixed in the original Hit Factory and in the same studio used by Jerry Ragovoy, who co-wrote the Joplin classics "Piece Of My Heart," "Try Just A Little Bit Harder," "Stay With Me" and "Cry Baby."

“We had all the old analog-era equipment, and all the vintage gear as we could find in getting that sound quality,” he says.

And aside from “having fun miking stuff differently” during the session, Titelman, famed for producing the likes of Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood, fulfilled his goal of achieving both a live sound in the studio and on the recording.

“I’d seen [A Night With Janis Joplin] at the Pasadena Playhouse, but the first time I saw it on Broadway I was just blown away by the energy of the show,” he says, noting the challenge of transferring that energy, and “the beauty of the performances,” to disc.

“But the most important thing was the singers—and their performances, which were so great,” he says. “Like [the cast version of] The Chantels’ performance of ‘Maybe’: You get the feel of that record, which was originally made by teenagers. And the beautiful performance [by Allison Blackwell] of ‘Summertime’—and I love the Nina Simone [De' Adre Aziza] performance of ‘Little Girl Blue,’ which was a very important recording for me as a kid.”

Titelman, in fact, saw Simone perform in Los Angeles at The Troubadour. But he also saw Joplin’s historic performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.

“You knew you were seeing something that you’d never seen before,” he reflects

Thanks to A Night With Janis Joplin, Titelman has since had the opportunity to meet Joplin’s family.

“They’re the nicest people, and so supportive of everything that’s happened with the show,” he says.

Now, having seen the show numerous times, Titelman is more impressed by how well written the show is, and credits writer/director Randy Johnson.

And he uses a choice critics’ word in saluting Davies’ evocation of Joplin.

“It’s uncanny,” says Titelman. “Anybody who wasn’t there now has the opportunity to know what it was like to have seen her.”

And even though A Night With Janis Joplin is ending its run at the Lyceum Theatre tomorrow, it's moving to an Off-Broadway theater in the very near future.

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