Classic Rock Review

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Jimi Hendrix The Baggy’s Rehearsals Sessions (2002)

ibz7efFrom amazon.com

This twelve song collection titled “The Baggy’s Rehearsal Sessions” released via the official bootleg label Dagger Records is a gem for fans of this excellent short lived trio and a must buy! What you get here is the band (Jimi Hendrix on guitar/vocals, Billy Cox on bass/vocals, and Buddy Miles on drums/vocals) performing a rehearsal in preparation to the four legendary Fillmore East concerts that they gave on December 31, 1969 and January 1, 1970. The songs were recorded during two different sessions on December 18 and 19, 1969 at Baggy’s Studios in New York City.

The first version of “Burning Desire” which opens the album is in fact the very same take that was released in 1973 on the long deleted posthumous compilation “Loose Ends”. Even though it is a rehearsal, it sounds fantastic with the rhythm section of Cox/Miles playing tightly and Jimi plays a lot of memorable lead guitar. Cox and Miles even add some nice back up vocals during the slow section towards the latter half. This tune is without a doubt a songwriting highlight from this period and with all its tempo/key/chord changes, I would describe it as progressive R&B! What follows is a rare version of the blues classic “Hoochie Koochie Man” which differs from the Experience version recorded for the BBC in the sense that Miles’ drumming is more on the beat and less on the fills for a start and Hendrix’s soloing is more aggressive. This is some serious blues guitar playing! This recording was also previously released on the “Loose Ends” compilation and is good to have it available one more time. Hendrix’s sense of humor is on display here as he tries to imitate the singing style of Muddy Waters for a few bars!

Track number three is “Message Of Love” and it does not sound too different from the classic live take on the album but of course Hendrix always manages to deliver an interesting solo that radically differs from the familiar one heard on the live LP. The middle eight with the lyrics ‘I am what I am’ is my favorite part. This recording also demonstrates that the band was definitely in high spirits during this recording session as you can hear them joking around at the end. According to the liner notes, they are imitating two comedians that they enjoyed: Moms Mabley and Pigmeat Markham! It is Miles who suggests running through “Ezy Ryder” and off they go. In this case, this tune really benefits from the direct one-guitar/bass/drums format. It has an extra punch that the take on the “First Rays” album lacks and the back up vocals are more prominent. Also of note is the fact that they play the song’s middle eight (with the lyrics ‘see all the lovers say do what you please’) twice albeit with different lyrics in this case. After they finish playing, the sense of humor is again heard when Miles makes a reference to the “Third Stone From The Sun” lyric ‘…and you’ll never hear surf music again’!

Next they settle into “Power Of Soul” and this version is noticeably longer than the BOG live take clocking at over seven minutes. Vocally speaking, Hendrix is in better form here than on the live album in my opinion and the soloing is as good if not better. Miles even added a short ‘ooh’ of back up vocals for one second during the first verse. They should have expanded on that idea and add the back up vocals throughout the song! Very nice version but I still prefer the studio take from “South Saturn Delta” with the killer wah wah soloing! Still any version of this tune always does the trick for me…such great riffs throughout.
Song number six equals the first version of “Earth Blues” on this album and in this particular take the emphasis is put on the vocal sections as opposed to the jamming improvisation. Hendrix keeps the wah wah solo short and they quickly go into a third verse. This is one of my favorite compositions from the Gypsies period because it seems to bring together a gospel influence with funk and the intro/chorus rhythm guitar motif is unusual! Also of note is the cool ending where Hendrix seemingly deconstructs the main riff to finish off with an ascending dissonant riff! A superb coda idea that Hendrix used on other songs such as “Freedom” and “In From The Storm”. After its conclusion the Miles written “Changes” starts with its ear catching melodic intro and this version is very close to the BOG live take with Miles’ vocals taking main role and Hendrix guitar prowess taking a noticeable back seat. That issue aside, I’ve always enjoyed this R&B song and the chorus riff is killer! However, track number eight is a real treat: this is so far the only chance to hear the Band Of Gypsies tearing through the rocker “Lover Man” in a studio setting. The lead guitar playing is simply fantastic and matches his lead work from the Experience take featured on the “South Saturn Delta” album. This song would have made a nice single A side in my opinion.

The second Miles composition “We Gotta Live Together” is interesting but at the same time brought down by the fact that the recording only last for about forty five seconds. What the tape captured was essentially the very last seconds of the performance. You’ll hear the three guys singing in harmony the ‘home sweet home’ vocal line with Miles getting busy on the hi-hat and Cox providing a funk style bass line before they quickly wrap up. The next recording titled “Baggy’s Jam” makes up for the previous one though. The title is self explanatory and you’ll hear Jimi leading his rhythm section through a series of key changes while delivering some nice funky rhythm and some sporadic bursts of lead guitar. Cox does great on the bass with all the key changes adjusting his riff accordingly as the jam marches along. This is cool but clocking only at five minutes, I wish it was longer!
The two closing numbers on the album are alternate takes of “Earth Blues” and “Burning Desire” which provide further insight into Hendrix’s exceptional improvisational skills with plenty of killer playing to keep them interesting and noticeably different from the previous takes! In the former, the arrangement mirrors the live versions more closely with the usual extended solo and no third verse. The latter features the instrumental intro also heard in the Fillmore East live version as opposed to the previous take that opened this album that begun directly with the verse. The only negative aspect is the fact that it fades out before its conclusion.

In brief, this official bootleg release is essential listening for die hard fans of Jimi Hendrix, especially if you are big into his Band Of Gypsies phase and appreciate Hendrix’s effort to bring his R&B/soul/funk heritage to the fore with the ultimate end of producing a combination of said styles and rock!
Two more things though…on the official Hendrix website you can listen to two additional recordings from these rehearsal sessions. Head over to the page and click on ‘media’ and then select ‘concert broadcasts’ and scroll down until you see the ‘baggy’s sessions’ link. Hear the trio tear through a medley of “Izabella/Machine Gun” and “Who Knows”. Nice bonus!
Last but not least, if you purchase the “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” EP, you’ll hear another recording from these same sessions, in this case being an interesting instrumental medley of “Silent Night”, “Little Drummer Boy” and “Auld Lang Syne” as only Hendrix would have played them back then!

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May 20, 2013 - Posted by | Jimi Hendrix The Baggy's Rehearsal Sessions |

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