Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Jimi Hendrix Isle Of Wight (1971)


This is a rip-off of sorts, but not a very painful one.

A lot of Jimi’s performances from the Isle of Wight Festival, which, as everybody knows, was his last huge public appearance, ended up in different documentaries and stupid ‘collections’ which nobody has any reason to own. In the end, what was left was placed on this LP, and that wasn’t much: just six songs that leave the album with a shamefully brief running time. So in the end it all comes to whether you will or will not cope with the idea that the actual package could have been much better. It sure could, but let’s deal with reality, ‘kay?

The Isle of Wight performance has long been rumoured as presenting Jimi in a very poor state. Tired, disillusioned, stoned out of his mind and actually sick of live playing. On the other hand, certain Jimi fans claim that what some people view as a ‘poor’ state of playing is actually nothing but just a more refined and moderate style: simply put, Jimi was sick of his usual scene image as the tongue-waggler ‘n’ teeth-picker that casual fans regarded him to be, and for this particular show he decided to refrain from the gimmicks and just, you know, play some guitar for a change.

I think that, as usual, the truth lies somewhere in between. On one hand, Isle Of Wight is a nice album to listen to, and whatever one says, there’s plenty of energy to be found. On the other hand, I certainly wouldn’t call Jimi’s style on here spectacular or anything. He does engage in some of the usual gimmicks anyway (‘Foxy Lady’ has some teeth-picking, for instance), and also, whoever would wish to hear Jimi at his freakin’ best, should turn his attention to Woodstock; no other live performance of the man I’ve ever heard can compare with the intelligent, masterful riffage of the final thirty minutes of that show.

So Isle Of Wight is just… competent. Miles better than the stupid Band Of Gypsies album, because it’s all Hendrix, for God’s sake: it’s not Buddy Miles. Oh, by the way, Jimi’s backing band consists of the trusty Mitch Mitchell on drums and Billy Cox on bass, but I guess you knew that already. What a nice thing to know that Buddy Miles is no longer there to trouble us. Good riddance to bad circuits.
The recording quality is pretty fine, although there sure is one question I’d like to pose – what’s up with the endless ‘radio announcements’ on the quiet parts of the songs?

Is this stuff they were transmitting at the Festival at the exact same moments or is this just some kind of mixing crap that got added later through some butthead’s incompetency? Heck, this thing already looks like a bootleg of sorts; don’t make matters worse by adding further arguments. Apart from that, Jimi is perfectly audible, even if I bet you anything that Jimi is the easiest player on earth to be rendered ‘audible’. For the most part you couldn’t hear no bass or drums at all once the man started being really loud.

The six songs in question present no huge surprises. There are only two crowd-pleasing “oldies” – a lengthy ‘Foxy Lady’ and a rather brief ‘All Along The Watchtower’; the latter is performed exceedingly well, but I don’t think it beats the studio version exactly. Plus, you gotta get used to Jimi missing the lyrics all the time. As for ‘Foxy Lady’… you gotta remember that by 1970, ‘Foxy Lady’, along with ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘Hey Joe’, was probably that very ‘stone’ around Jimi’s neck that popular bands dread so much: always requested, always preferred to the ‘newer’ stuff, and it’s really amazing that Hendrix was able to master enough strength and conviction to pull it off in the usual wild manner on here.

Maybe it can’t be called ‘fresh’, but that’s quite understandable. Given the conditions, it’s fresh enough.
The other four songs are taken from Jimi’s recent compositions. ‘Freedom’ and ‘In From The Storm’ you can look up on First Rays Of The New Rising Sun, while ‘Lover Man’ and ‘Midnight Lightning’ can be found on South Saturn Delta. The only serious disappointment for me is ‘Lover Man’ – compared to the rip-roaring metallic studio performance, this version is pretty short and timid, almost like a ‘raped single version’, if you know what I mean.

The other three songs roll along pretty well, with even a minor Mitch Mitchell spotlight: he gets an economic, tolerable drum solo at the beginning to ‘In From The Storm’. ‘Freedom’ has great riffs, and ‘Midnight Lightning’ is at least more impressive than the acoustic performance on SSD, even if hardly memorable. Anyway, Hendrix fans will be glad to add this stuff to their collection, as superfluous as that phrase actually is. The stage banter is also worth a chuckle, with Jimi dedicating ‘Foxy Lady’ to certain namechecked ladies and the infamous ‘I just woke up two minutes ago’ phrase at the beginning of ‘Lover Man’. Peace, brother.

Of course, it goes without saying that, unlike the Who’s disc from the same festival, Jimi’s performance is worth far more for its historic significance, and it can form the concluding part of perhaps the most outstanding ‘historical trilogy’ of all time (from Monterey to Woodstock to Wight), so I was really hunting for this album for a long time. We all need a little symmetry and systematic treatment in our lives, you know.

But no, I didn’t raise the rating for ‘historic significance’, if that’s what you wanna know. No slandering, please!


May 31, 2013 - Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Isle Of Wight |

1 Comment »

  1. The radio announcements you hear in the slower parts of tracks is security at the show. They were on the same frequency and can be heard throughout his set.

    Comment by Peter McLeod | January 15, 2014 | Reply

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