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.
So I get this one, and I’m thinking, what the hell? Another Hendrix album? How many of them are there are now? I swear, Hendrix is like the Tupac Shakur of the 1960s; he was only making music for a short time toward the end of his life, but every few years they release another album of “previously unheard” material or reissue some obscure live album or compilation or something (I wonder if they’ll still be releasing Tupac albums in 2040?).
But then I’m thinking, well yeah, they release and re-release this stuff, but that’s because it’s so damn good. Hendrix was one of the most well-rounded talents to ever be captured on tape. His three albums with the Experience frequently beat the Beatles at their own game of studio wizardry, his live material showcased an incredible tight, virtuosic trio. His songs drew from the blues, R&B and rock that he had been playing as a sideman for years, but bested most of his former bosses’ material and paved the way for new innovations in funk, jazz and rock for decades to come. His voice was incredibly deep and plaintive, capable of both ferocity and tenderness, but he also possessed a beautiful falsetto. And of course, his guitar playing, which set the bar not only for future generations, and not only for his peers including guitar “God” Eric Clapton, but also those that had come before and influenced Hendrix—people like B.B. King and Buddy Guy. Hendrix was one of those guys who possessed such a rare and extraordinary talent that he could basically do anything in a musical context that he put his mind to. So I say, hell yeah, give me some more Hendrix.
This particular album is a reissue of a live compilation put together in the early 1970s by Eddie Kramer, Hendrix’s longtime studio hand, one of those few men that Hendrix trusted to bring his artistic vision to fruition. Many of the songs come from after the Experience broke up and Hendrix’s old army buddy Billly Cox was brought in on bass, but most of the tracks feature the classic Experience lineup of Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding on bass.
Luckily for me, this coincidentally has all my favorite Hendrix songs presented in versions that are mostly much longer than their studio counterparts, especially “Red House”, “Spanish Castle Magic” and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”, all of which are stretched out to over 10 minutes each. These tracks are all scorching hot, with a band that could play their asses off and had the oft-talked about telepathy that any great live band has. These guys all play with power and finesse while never stepping on each other’s toes. They play very off-the-cuff, making things up as they go along, like after Mitchell’s drum solo in “Spanish Castle Magic” where they spontaneously break into a chunk of Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love” before launching back into the main song without skipping a beat.
Unfortunately, the other two members of the Experience often get overshadowed for their role in the band largely because the guy whose shadow they were standing in was Jimi friggin’ Hendrix. This would be the case two decades later when people often neglected to mention the role that Double Trouble played in the career of Stevie Ray Vaughn. But Mitchell and Redding were a supreme rhythm section. They had to be in order to be able to keep up with Hendrix. Mitchell was, for my money, one of the best drummers of the era, far superior to favorites like John Bonham, and his aforementioned solo is much, much more listenable than that of some of Zeppelin’s self-indulgent jam excursions. Redding, meanwhile, was the rock that held everything in place, which is exactly what the bass player in any good band should be. The bass instruments have been playing the role of anchor in musical ensembles for hundreds of years, and Redding holds it down incredibly well, adapting to the shifts instantly as Hendrix introduces them, like he does in this version of “Red House”, probably the best version of one of the greatest 12-bar blues songs ever played. The band swings into a number of permutations and extrapolations of the typical 12-bar form with ease and candor, each one more relaxed and fluid than the last, before Hendrix takes an extended unaccompanied solo, finally exploding into one of the purest distillations of the blues that I’ve ever heard. This track is the sound of emotion dripping out of the limbs of three performers with absolutely no filters and no compromises. Unfortunately this is another side of the Experience that is neglected; for all the talk of waving their freak flag high, they were at their best when they were just playing the blues. And it’s often forgotten that as much as they belonged to the hippie psychedelic movement, they also belonged to the British blooz movement of bands like Fleetwood Mac, Ten Years After and Free (Hendrix was American but Mitchell and Redding were both from England).
Likewise, Hendrix seems to be one of the very few musicians of his time or any other time who could remain popular and also rely so heavily on noise. Look at his use of feedback on any number of songs, including the version heard here of “I Don’t Live Today”, where he indulges in all manners of high-pitched squeals, low rumbles and several other shades of feedback. Now conversely, look at no wave bands from the late 1970s. None of them could get away with making that kind of noise, but Hendrix can. Why? Maybe because noise was only one component of each song. That song wouldn’t be as powerful if it didn’t have that hook, that groove, that swagger. The lesson here that Hendrix provided for future artists was that if you give the people some of what they want (in the form of a bad ass rock tune) they’ll be more willing to take the weird stuff (the feedback). Then again, maybe I’m wrong and everyone back then was cool with the feedback and dissonance ‘cause they were high as hell. Either way, as a lover of noise, I’m alright with it.
Other highlights are the speedy, burning version of “Fire”, the rollicking cover of “Johnny B. Goode” that beats Chuck Berry’s original (coincidentally, many of the autobiographical elements of Berry’s song could loosely be applied to Hendrix) and the version here of “Little Wing”, which becomes even sweeter and therefore more touching on stage with the absence of the extra instruments and effects heard on the studio version.
There are a few problems here, though. Firstly, the sound quality isn’t quite as good as I had hoped it would be. The sound is just slightly muffled, and in particular the vocals sound a little thin. Then again, the performances are so damn electrifying that they sound good anyway. And really, despite the slight problems with the fidelity, plenty of Hendrix live albums and bootlegs sound pretty much the same, including Band of Gypsys, the only live album that Hendrix approved in his lifetime. So I can pretty much overlook that, especially in light of the fact that many “live” albums these days go through almost as much tinkering as the studio albums. What you get here is the pure, unadulterated stuff.
That said, there are a few head-scratching moments on the album. Among them is the introduction with the British national anthem (perhaps only included as a reference to Hendrix’s famous rendition of the American national anthem) that segues into a brief cover of the Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, included here probably for its rarity and as an example of one of the few artists that Hendrix openly venerated on stage. Unfortunately, it’s clear that Hendrix didn’t care enough to either learn all of the words or all of the song. Any number of songs could have opened the album in its place. After all, as I said earlier there is no drought of superb live Hendrix material in the vaults, so its inclusion here was a misstep in my opinion.
Also odd is the inclusion of “Blue Suede Shoes” in a version that doesn’t resemble Carl Perkins’ original very much at all. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the feeling I got here was that the band was just messing around, jamming away and then at some point, Hendrix decided to add in the words to “Blue Suede Shoes”. If this was indeed the approach, then again there is nothing wrong with it (blues musicians, as far back as recorded history goes, have often improvised and borrowed lyrics from other people’s songs), but if this is the case then it is a bit unfair to call this a true “cover”. The performance is fine, as a band of this caliber would deliver, but the inclusion, again, feels odd, especially in light of the fact that this take was actually recorded during a rehearsal rather than an actual concert.
For those of you who had this on LP, if you’re looking for a straight reissue, this ain’t it. The two performances culled from the Royal Albert Hall concert from the original have been reissued elsewhere, but the fantastic version of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” takes their place. It’s probably an even trade. But regardless, this is a good album. If you dig Hendrix, the blues, psychedelica, rock music, etc. you’ll probably really dig this. Some of you who aren’t into the jammy aspects of Hendrix’s music should probably stay away, and for those of you who are completely unfamiliar with Hendrix, go pick up one of the studio albums or a greatest hits comp first, then make your way to this, or really, any of the other official Hendrix live albums. They’re all pretty good, and this one is no exception.
Scrape, Scrape. That sound you hear is Eddie Kramer, the proprietor of the late Jimi Hendrix’s New York recording studio, Electric Ladyland, scraping the bottom of the Hendrix barrel for the second and possibly second-to-last posthumous album of the deceased genius’ music, Hendrix In The West. But to talk about bottoms of barrels is meant in no way to deprecate this album or Kramer’s work. Jimi Hendrix was to rock what Charlie Parker was to jazz—an energiser, a vitalizer, a musician who brought to the music an instinctual sophistication combined with that elemental dash of despair and irony. (And the irony that touched both Parker and Hendrix, as Raymond Mungo might say, were the ironies that kill.)
Hendrix in the West is a patchwork quilt with different degrees of texture and shade. All seven cuts were recorded live, the three best at a 1968 San Diego concert with the original Experience, Mitch Mitchell on drums and bassist Noel Redding, three more from a concert in Berkeley, where Redding was replaced by Billy Cox, and one track consisting of the first few moments of Hendrix’s show at the 1970 Festival of the Isle of Wight, again backed by the rhythm section of Mitchell and Cox. All the cuts vibrate with Jimi’s peculiar, exciting brand of spiritual mania, and only two lack the requisite power that labels them as filler material. If there has been significant remastering and over-dubbing, it’s a job that has been pretty well done; everything sounds just the way it must have when it came blasting off the stage.
That’s Jeff Dexter, the spindly compere of London’s Roundhouse, introducing the band before an audience of half a million British and continental freaks and hoodlums on the lsle. Hendrix comes on and goes into one of his characteristically convoluted and undecipherable raps, which trails off … “it’d be a lot better if you all stand up for your country and beliefs and start singing along…. And if you don’t, fuck ya, hahaha.” Just enough feedback noise to make you slightly nervous heralds the opening to the first number, titled “The Queen” on this album, but which is actually a distorto warpo version of “God Save The Queen,” the quaint and occasionally poignant (depending on the circumstances) British National Anthem. Hendrix makes “Queen” sound as ridiculous and scary as he did that other more familiar rouser, “The Star Spangled Banner,” on the boards at Woodstock and in the studio version of the same that was stuck on the Rainbow Bridge album. This bit of japery segues into, incredibly, “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the tape of which Kramer allows to flow only for a merciful few yards before the song fades into oblivion.
Next a couple of gorgeous tunes from that San Diego concert, which sounds like it must have been a night: the gently soaring “Little Wing” gets a superb, careful performance from Hendrix that far surpasses the version of the song on the Axis album; and then, as Hendrix says to his audience, “what we call a little of the blues,” a thirteen minute “Red House” that cuts dead the version heretofore available only on Smash Hits. As far as I’m concerned, this number is the reason for this album’s existence. Hendrix’s whorehouse blues is mellifluous and powerful; it doesn’t try to drown the listener in an avalanche of chromium tears, but lifts you up as it builds into its final crescendo, taking you in and out of its many and changing moods. A masterpiece of a performance.
The second side is somewhat less intriguing. The first three numbers are from a concert given in Berkeley in 1970, a concert that was little more than a playful jam with Mitchell and Cox. “Johnny B. Goode” is just there–as John Lennon said recently, “if there was another name for rock and roll, it would be Chuck Berry.” “Lover Man” is basically new lyrics put to the chords and changes of “Can You See Me,” a number that Hendrix played at Monterey in ’67. “Blue Suede Shoes” picks things up somewhat, owing as it does (in this version) a lot more to Hendrix’s improvisatory ramblings than it does to good old Carl Perkins. Jimi stylizes the tune into something quite unrecognizable, and what comes out is only fair.
This record’s recessional is a very rushed but otherwise perfect rendition of “Voodoo Chile” from the San Diego concert, which is played so fast that it sounds like Hendrix must have had some urgent business in the dressing room. All the same, he plays brilliantly, racing those fast, chopping licks as though he was trying to best himself at his own game.
Anyway, “Little Wing” and “Red House” are the ones to hear on this album. I’m glad its out; Jimi Hendrix was quite a musician and this unreleased material shouldn’t leave a dry eye in the house. He is one man that we all miss.