Classic Rock Review

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Jimi Hendrix Hendrix In The West (1972)

51YCUEh77hLFrom amazon.com

Review It is good to have Hendrix in The West back in my collection, with its fabulous cover, plus illuminating notes and lots of good photos. If you have the purple Jimi Hendrix Experience box set you will have Blue Suede Shoes, Little Wing, Red House, Johnny B. Goode and Voodoo Child (Slight Return) from the original 1972 album, however you won’t have the 2011 additional tracks which are well worth having, and you won’t have the remastered sound.

There have been some detracting reviewer comments regarding the substitution of the Royal Albert Hall versions of Little Wing and Voodoo Child (Slight Return) with versions from Winterland and San Diego respectively. If you have the Jimi Hendrix Experience box set (as any self respecting Hendrix fan should have) you can make up the original album – if that’s what you need. If you don’t have the box set you are missing a treat. If you don’t have this Hendrix In The West you are also missing a treat.

The substitute Little Wing, while not quite matching the eloquent Albert Hall performance, is still very good; a different arrangement, more relaxed. The substitute Voodoo Child (Slight Return) is less restrained (comparatively) than its Albert Hall counterpart and over three minutes longer (10:40), in fact it is far more exciting – Hendrix and the band are white hot. He finished that San Diego concert with an astounding gift to the audience.

For me, this 2011 Hendrix In The West is excellent, both in presentation and value, particularly if you take the additional tracks into consideration. The remaster is also spot on, and if you compare Red House, Johnny B Goode and Blue Suede Shoes from the 2000 issued box set against these 2011 tracks, these sound better.

For my taste the additional tracks at least maintain the high standard of the original LP. You get extensive fiery workouts from San Diego of I Don’t Live Today and Spanish Castle Magic, coming in at 7:21 and 10:14 respectively. Fire and the substitute Voodoo Child (Slight Return) are also from the same San Diego concert, along with the acknowledged definitive (so far) live Red House (13:12) – the band was surely cooking on that night! As the man said ‘Ï love to be on stage, I love to play. I know exactly what I’m doing when we are on stage’. This remastered and reconfigured CD is a superb example of live Hendrix.

Review This review refers to the 2011 release from Experience Hendrix. Fortunately, I have the Polydor version on CD. There was a certain charm about “In The West” when it was first released in 1972 that is almost completely missing here. No one really cared that more than a few tracks were not performed in the Western US or UK. The Isle of Wight is east of the mainland of England, but certainly “west” of somewhere. Same can be said of the Royal Albert Hall selections from the original “In The West” that were redacted and replaced by alternate versions from Winterland and San Diego Sports Arena. Three songs were added (“Fire”, “I Don’t Live Today” and “Spanish Castle Magic”) that were previously released on the Reprise boxed set, “Stages”. They replaced the Royal Albert Hall performance of “Little Wing” with a performance from Winterland, the performances from which “coincidentally” were also released as a boxed set on the same drop date.

To my ears, there was if not a thematic vibe, then at least a flow about the original album that is completely missing here. I think the folks who put together the first version of this strived to craft a very good album of the best available of Jimi’s live performances (at the time). Jimi had recently died and they were all still grieving. And in my opinion, EH took a wrecking ball to that concept. They do a lot of explaining in the booklet about why they removed this and replaced it with that. To my ears, the entire “In The West” vibe was shot all to hell, plain and simple. It’s not my intent to ruin this for anybody. If you’ve never heard the original “In The West”, you’ll no doubt enjoy this, because it’s Hendrix. I’d say this is an inferior “In The West”, but any (audible) Hendrix is good.

I don’t enjoy the remastering of any of the EH reissues. They sound as though they were remixed for car audio. They don’t sound good in my car and they don’t sound good on my home audio system. This one is no exception.

Nice pictures in the booklet, though…

Review Amazon’s price of $9.00 is very low considering the quality of the performances on this disk, newly mastered and finally released today on CD for the first time in the States. Originally released in 1972, In The West was the first Hendrix live album to showcase his work with both versions of the Experience as opposed to the Band of Gypsy’s. Back then, Eddie Kramer was given the daunting task of quickly recreating a Hendrix concert from a great variety of source material. The result was uneven, but some of the performances remain among the greatest examples of his amazing live work 40 years later ( Red House and Johnny B. Goode). With a single CD running nearly twice as long as a single LP, Kramer finally has achieved his goal with this remake, by filling the extra space with more great material, including Hendrix’s best version of I Don’t Live Today and a stellar Spanish Castle Magic.

Other than the nice packaging job, great sound and low price there are two other notable changes from the original package. First is the exclusion of two first-rate performances culled from the 69-02-24 Albert Hall-London show. These songs, Little Wing and Voodoo Child: Slight Return, are probably the best versions ever recorded. They were incorrectly listed on the album cover as being from San Diego 69-5-31. These were replaced on the new release by the lesser quality but still excellent Winterland and San Diego versions. This makes perfect sense when you consider that the superior Albert Hall show has been in the works at Experience Hendrix for some time, and I expect due to the fact that it may ultimately be released in combination with a film, (like what was done with the 70-08-30 Isle Of Wight concert) I expect we will have to wait at least another year for that one.

The second main difference is the inclusion of several outstanding extra tracks from the San Diego 69-5-31 show, formerly released in the late 80’s as part of the Stages live box. Indeed, San Diego was the highlight of this four CD set, the other 3 full concerts marred by poor sound or lacklustre performance. Putting so many of these San Diego songs together on In the West may tell us that Experience Hendrix may have decided not to release San Diego 69-5-31 on its own any time soon. I am happy to have these newer versions even though they are edited in places. Finally releasing “In The West” on CD was a no-brainer considering the demand for live Hendrix, especially from younger fans who haven’t heard much of the really great stuff beyond Monterey, Woodstock, Fillmore East and the sub-par Isle of Wight.

Today also marks the release of a 4-5 CD box of 3 nights at Winterland in 1968, a great gift to folks like me who have snatched up every Hendrix album over the years, including the stuff that never should have seen the light of day. For the non-hard core fans, the new version of Hendrix: In The West is a great way to expand your collection beyond the essential studio albums.

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May 20, 2013 - Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Hendrix In The West |

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