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Jimi Hendrix: Blues (1998)

4059f39359bd72aa0ebf1c3e8839d90d_fullFrom Guitar World

Let’s get the paradoxes out of the way right up front: the blues was a musical space to which Jimi Hendrix would always return in order to recharge his musical and spiritual batteries but, once refreshed, he generally couldn’t wait to leave.

The blues was ever-present in everything he did; it was something that traveled with him into musical realms unimaginable to others, something he carried with him into songs and pieces which had nothing whatsoever to do with the conventional structures and themes of the blues, into worlds which the music’s traditional grandmasters wouldn’t recognise as blues – or even as music. When he started out from a classical blues theme, he as likely as not ended up with something else entirely; but when he began with something strangely, terrifying, beautifully alien, it always turned back, one way or another, into the blues.

This collection of vault-gleanings – some never before released, others disinterred from long-deleted vinyl, all new to the US CD market – can therefore tell us only part of the story of Hendrix’s complex love affair with the blues. Mostly jams and outtakes, they find Hendrix with his pants down: goofing, exploring and just plain havin’ fun. We get two versions of ‘Red House’: one a jam with organist Lee Michaels, the other from the original UK version of Are You Experienced and, for my money, an infinitely deeper and funkier take than the one on the current CD.

There are two radically different versions of ‘Hear My Train A-Comin’’: an impromptu 12-string acoustic performance which provides a vague idea of how Robert Johnson might have sounded if he’d smoked a lotta weed and lived to hear James Brown, and a monumental 12-minute live jam marred only by severe tuning problems and the fact that the rhythm section – Billy Cox (bass) and Mitch Mitchell (drums) – drag the tempo down a notch as soon as they make their entrance. There’s an early take of the slow-blues version of ‘Voodoo Chile’, the one just before it coalesced into the monumental performance you can hear on Electric Ladyland. There’s an ear-opening romp through Muddy Waters’ ‘Manish Boy’ – better known to Bo Diddley fans as ‘I’m A Man’ – which gets the same uptempo funkanisation that Hendrix gave Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Killing Floor’ and B.B. King’s ‘Rock Me Baby’ at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.

There are a couple of intensely variable slow blues efforts, ‘Bleeding Heart’ (a.k.a. ‘Blues In C Sharp’) and ‘Once I Had A Woman’, the former a fine and funky performance with the Experience and the latter flawed by some truly rotten mouth-harp and the audible wax-ing and waning of Hendrix’s interest in the proceedings. And there’s an insanely bouncy 12/8 shuffle, ‘Jelly 292’, which – along with the Are You Experienced ‘Red House’ – should be this album’s first port of call for Stevie Ray Vaughan fans. There’s another Muddy dive with ‘Catfish Blues’, similar to the cut on Rykodisc’s Radio One CD but with the added bonus of a revved-up ‘showtime’ finale.

And then there’s ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’. This Albert King standard, custom-composed for the late lamented Big Guy by Booker T. Jones and William Bell in 1967 and covered by Cream almost immediately after its original release, starts out as you’d expect, with Hendrix putting his own unique spin on Albert’s time-honoured licks and bends, but before he even has an opportunity to open his mouth and sing the song, the Strat runs away with him. That riff becomes the springboard for some of the most thoroughly ‘outside’ stuff Hendrix ever played, a full guided tour around the musical attic where Hendrix kept toys old and new. You can leave if you want to – just jammin’ is all – but you won’t want to. Tone, timing, phrasing, attack, sense of space: if anyone needs reminding that Hendrix had it all, here’s your wake-up call.

Needless to say, some of this stuff is rough as hell: as well it might be, since most of it was never intended for release. Fluffed words, out-of-tune guitars and dropped beats fly all over the place, and if that kind of stuff upsets you, consider this a 3-star album and stick to the regular Hendrix albums. This one is for blues buffs and Hendrix freaks, and for them – or should I come clean and say us – this one earns all of its five stars.

This music was made around a quarter of a century ago. Nevertheless, despite all that’s happened since in the guitar world via the Eddies and Randies and Yngwies and Stevie Rays and Joes and Steves and Nunos and Dimebags, Hendrix still sounds like a contemporary. And a leading, cutting-edge contemporary at that. If you play blues and you want to step up to some new ways of approaching traditional materials – or if you play rock and you want to inject some tough new blues into your musical muscles – just walk this way.

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March 30, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix :Blues | Comments Off on Jimi Hendrix: Blues (1998)

Jimi Hendrix :Blues (1994)

zap_hendrix6From starling.rinet.ru

This is one of the more recent releases, but before the Hendrix family managed to wrestle control over his legacy from Alan Douglas and his company of greedy cash-craving sharks. Due to this sad state of affairs, most of these ‘releases’ over the years have been fairly unlistenable (poor live performances, lousy outtakes, mix-ups of previously released and unreleased stuff, etc.), and I’m pretty sure ninety-nine percent of this stuff will disappear over the next few years. So, while it still hasn’t, better go ahead and acquire this record with such a fairly modest title, ’cause it might be one of the few worthy items in the 1971-1996 Hendrix catalogue, with a solid track listing and at least a sense of unity.

Basically it’s just what the title says: a load of tracks with Jimi playin’ and singin’ the blues at various periods of his short career. Many of them have been available earlier on various rip-offs, but the album’s value lies in that it has no overlaps with the ‘standard’ catalogue reviewed above, so I felt free to treat it as a regular archive release rather than a compilation (which, frankly speaking, it is). I don’t have the re-issued booklet version, so I don’t know about the exact source of most of these performances, but then again, who really cares?

Not that the songs are really spectacular, of course: fans will love this for the incredible solos and further displaying of the man’s technique (as if they didn’t have enough proof already), but average Jimi lovers will probably just yawn and scratch their back. This record just isn’t able to disclose any surprises, if you know what I mean: one lengthy wankfest after another. Some are more inspired, some less, but it’s really hard to tell without sitting in and giving this a hard, hard listen. Blues is blues, and even if I’m not one hundred percent sure about Jimi’s songwriting genius, it’s obvious that an album like Blues can’t even come close to reveal it; neither does it reveal his talents as arranger or gimmick-producer. This is strictly Jimi the guitar player, Jimi the soloist. You’ve been warned.

Nevertheless, the performances certainly could have been worse; many of the long jams are played at the utmost level of inspiration, some even achieving that inhumane brilliancy Jimi displayed at Woodstock. The standout tracks for me are as follows. First, there’s a great acoustic version of ‘Hear My Train A-Comin” which is a rare thing by itself, because, you get me, you don’t often hear Jimi plucking an acoustic. I mean, his playing on here is anything but spectacular, but, on the other side, it’s typically Hendrix, and he does feel at home with the instrument, and of course nobody played that guitar like that. The strange improvisatory piece ‘Jelly 292’ is memorable for its peculiar boogie-woogie riff, and the solos on the instrumental ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’ and ‘Catfish Blues’ are terrific. Likewise, a major highlight is ‘Voodoo Chile Blues’ – for me, this version is far, far more crunchy and ecstatic than the rather boring original fourteen-minute version of the song on Electric Ladyland. Jimi sounds far less restrained here, playing at full volume and speed – turn your volume up loud and cover your ears as the walls crumble into dust all around you and the voodoo chile steps up to the skies! It really is hard for me to understand how come nobody, not a single guitar player on Earth, not Robin Trower, not Eddie Van Halen, nobody could play like that after Hendrix. It’s so simple! Only thing you have to do is to imagine your guitar is a vital organ of your body, not an alien ‘musical instrument’. Turns out it’s not so simple after all.

The rest of the album, though, just falls into background music category. If you already know what to expect from Hendrix, you won’t be shocked. Personally, I even find it problematic to sit through two versions of ‘Red House’ and the electric, twelve-minute jam on the same ‘Hear My Train A-Comin’. If you don’t have that problem, good for you; but for me, if I hear a long Hendrix jam, I know that it must be of the utmost quality to be satisfying – considering how many superior Hendrix jams there are in existence. The darn album is seventy minutes long! And it’s, just, well, you know… bluesy guitar solos. You should be careful with that kind of things. On the other hand, I can’t accuse the record of inadequacy: it says Blues, and basically you get what you pay for.

I mean, I do admit that the man’s playing is awesome, he’s a friggin’ genius indeed. I do envy people who get carried away with every single solo he ever put out, but me, I can only follow their example in exceptional cases. For me, a lot of Jimi’s playing still lacks emotion. He’s certainly more on the technical side, and I’m not the one who says that it all depends on how fast and fluently you can play. But maybe I’m just a dumbass. Whatever. Anyway, the record is a must for you if you really want to test your love for Jimi. Here he won’t even bug you with crazy feedback experiments or psychedelic motives. He just stands and wails on his guitar for a bloody seventy plus minutes. If, after having listened to this all the way through, you’ll prefer putting it on again immediately, call yourself a true Hendrix aficionado and prepare for a visit to your local psychoanalyst.

February 28, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix :Blues | | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix: Blues (1994)

From Guitar World

Let’s get the paradoxes out of the way right up front: the blues was a musical space to which Jimi Hendrix would always return in order to recharge his musical and spiritual batteries but, once refreshed, he generally couldn’t wait to leave.

The blues was ever-present in everything he did; it was something that traveled with him into musical realms unimaginable to others, something he carried with him into songs and pieces which had nothing whatsoever to do with the conventional structures and themes of the blues, into worlds which the music’s traditional grandmasters wouldn’t recognise as blues – or even as music. When he started out from a classical blues theme, he as likely as not ended up with something else entirely; but when he began with something strangely, terrifying, beautifully alien, it always turned back, one way or another, into the blues.

This collection of vault-gleanings – some never before released, others disinterred from long-deleted vinyl, all new to the US CD market – can therefore tell us only part of the story of Hendrix’s complex love affair with the blues. Mostly jams and outtakes, they find Hendrix with his pants down: goofing, exploring and just plain havin’ fun. We get two versions of ‘Red House’: one a jam with organist Lee Michaels, the other from the original UK version of Are You Experienced and, for my money, an infinitely deeper and funkier take than the one on the current CD. There are two radically different versions of ‘Hear My Train A-Comin’’: an impromptu 12-string acoustic performance which provides a vague idea of how Robert Johnson might have sounded if he’d smoked a lotta weed and lived to hear James Brown, and a monumental 12-minute live jam marred only by severe tuning problems and the fact that the rhythm section – Billy Cox (bass) and Mitch Mitchell (drums) – drag the tempo down a notch as soon as they make their entrance. There’s an early take of the slow-blues version of ‘Voodoo Chile’, the one just before it coalesced into the monumental performance you can hear on Electric Ladyland. There’s an ear-opening romp through Muddy Waters’ ‘Manish Boy’ – better known to Bo Diddley fans as ‘I’m A Man’ – which gets the same uptempo funkanisation that Hendrix gave Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Killing Floor’ and B.B. King’s ‘Rock Me Baby’ at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. There are a couple of intensely variable slow blues efforts, ‘Bleeding Heart’ (a.k.a. ‘Blues In C Sharp’) and ‘Once I Had A Woman’, the former a fine and funky performance with the Experience and the latter flawed by some truly rotten mouth-harp and the audible wax-ing and waning of Hendrix’s interest in the proceedings. And there’s an insanely bouncy 12/8 shuffle, ‘Jelly 292’, which – along with the Are You Experienced ‘Red House’ – should be this album’s first port of call for Stevie Ray Vaughan fans. There’s another Muddy dive with ‘Catfish Blues’, similar to the cut on Rykodisc’s Radio One CD but with the added bonus of a revved-up ‘showtime’ finale.

And then there’s ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’. This Albert King standard, custom-composed for the late lamented Big Guy by Booker T. Jones and William Bell in 1967 and covered by Cream almost immediately after its original release, starts out as you’d expect, with Hendrix putting his own unique spin on Albert’s time-honoured licks and bends, but before he even has an opportunity to open his mouth and sing the song, the Strat runs away with him. That riff becomes the springboard for some of the most thoroughly ‘outside’ stuff Hendrix ever played, a full guided tour around the musical attic where Hendrix kept toys old and new. You can leave if you want to – just jammin’ is all – but you won’t want to. Tone, timing, phrasing, attack, sense of space: if anyone needs reminding that Hendrix had it all, here’s your wake-up call.

Needless to say, some of this stuff is rough as hell: as well it might be, since most of it was never intended for release. Fluffed words, out-of-tune guitars and dropped beats fly all over the place, and if that kind of stuff upsets you, consider this a 3-star album and stick to the regular Hendrix albums. This one is for blues buffs and Hendrix freaks, and for them – or should I come clean and say us – this one earns all of its five stars.

This music was made around a quarter of a century ago. Nevertheless, despite all that’s happened since in the guitar world via the Eddies and Randies and Yngwies and Stevie Rays and Joes and Steves and Nunos and Dimebags, Hendrix still sounds like a contemporary. And a leading, cutting-edge contemporary at that. If you play blues and you want to step up to some new ways of approaching traditional materials – or if you play rock and you want to inject some tough new blues into your musical muscles – just walk this way.

May 15, 2010 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix :Blues | | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix: Blues (1994)

From The New Musical Express

For Jimi and his peers, there was no room for analysis, soul-searching or retrospection. For them, the 12-bar rhythm and the sex-frenzied solo was a direct line to the heart of perfection. And this is why, when you look in the face of the blues guitarist, it is always enveloped in the throes of orgasmic tension. It is often said that Hendrix could play the guitar in more positions than anyone else. If that isn’t a double entendre, I don’t know what is.

Jimi Hendrix was arguably the sexiest blues player that ever graced the planet. Unlike many of his mentors he didn’t look insane or wretched – instead he paraded his wares with all the psychedelic nous he could muster and dressed accordingly. And this is important because without that image, or Jimi’s balmy vocal stabs, this compilation could just be another meandering blues jam conjuring up horrifying images of university muso societies. Alas, such is the bludgeoning, all-pervasive effect of white-boy imitation.

Still, nothing can really detract from the definitive electric blues sound that Hendrix pioneered. Here, we get the upbeat impertinence of ‘Jelly 292’, the proto-metal of 1968’s ‘Electric Church Red House’, the Kravitz blueprint that is ‘Catfish Blues’ from ’67, or Hendrix’s homages to the true grass roots of the genre, ‘Hear My Train A-Comin” and the legendary ‘Red House’, the latter from ’66. The man respectfully took everything he needed, held his own, and injected his playing with a cocky youthfulness that popularised the blues in a way that no-one had ever done before.

Digital remastering might not be an exciting reason for repackaging a compilation, but the excellent Experience Hendrix series – a reissue programme designed to better benefit Hendrix’s surviving family – has again done the right thing. Sometimes, the best is history.

May 13, 2010 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix :Blues | | Leave a comment