Pearl is the second and final solo studio album by Janis Joplin, released posthumously on Columbia Records, catalogue KC 30322, in January 1971. It was also released simultaneously in a 4 channel Quadraphonic format in the U.S., catalogue number CQ 30322, and in Japan as SOPN 90 and a foil type cover with obi as SOPN 44005. It was the final album with her direct participation, and the only Joplin album recorded with the Full Tilt Boogie Band, her final touring unit. It peaked at number one on the Billboard 200, holding that spot for nine weeks. It has been certified quadruple platinum by the RIAA.
The Full Tilt Boogie Band were the musicians who accompanied her on the Festival Express, a concert tour by train of Canada, in the summer of 1970. Many of the songs on this album were recorded on the concert stage in Canada two months before Joplin and the band started their Los Angeles recording sessions. The band also appeared twice on The Dick Cavett Show. They also played many American cities, both before and after Festival Express, although no recordings of those concerts have been officially released.
Joplin sang on all tracks except "Buried Alive in the Blues", which remained a Full Tilt Boogie instrumental because she died before adding vocals, but she approved the instrumental track. The song's writer Nick Gravenites was offered the opportunity to sing it as a tribute to Joplin, but he turned it down. The recording sessions, starting in early September, ended with Joplin's untimely death on October 4, 1970. Her final session, which took place on Thursday, October 1 after a break of several days, yielded her a cappella "Mercedes Benz." It was the last song she recorded before her death.
A reissue of Pearl remastered for CD was released August 31, 1999. It included four previously unreleased live recordings from the Festival Express Tour, recorded on July 4, 1970, as bonus tracks. In 2003, the album was ranked number 122 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. A two-disc Legacy Edition appeared on June 14, 2005, with bonus tracks including a birthday message to John Lennon of "Happy Trails," and a reunion of the Full Tilt Boogie Band in an instrumental tribute to Joplin. The second disc included an expanded set from the Festival Express Tour, recorded between June 28 and July 4, 1970.
The album was reissued a third time on disc in 2012 as The Pearl Sessions. It contains alternate takes of the songs that constituted the Pearl vinyl album when Columbia Records released it in 1971. Recordings of Joplin and Paul Rothchild talking between takes give the listener insight into their creative musical process.