Classic Rock Review

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Jimi Hendrix Live At Woodstock (1999)

JimiHendrix-LiveAtWoodstock-FrontFrom sfloman.com

Originally released as Jimi Hendrix: Woodstock in 1994, this expanded 2-cd edition figures to be the last word on Hendrix’s famous Woodstock performance since it contains all but two songs performed that day, both of which were sung by rhythm guitarist Larry Lee. Still, though it may very well be the single greatest Hendrix live album with regards to his guitar playing, Live At Woodstock is not without its problems.

For one thing, Jimi was a highly visual artist (starting with the fact that he was left-handed but played a right-handed guitar upside down), so obviously you don’t get quite the whole effect when merely hearing him play live (but surely you’ve seen the Woodstock movie, right?). Secondly, for all his plaudits as a live musician, he was actually a pretty erratic live performer, especially in his somewhat confused last year, and this concert has its highs and lows.

The biggest problem is his backing band, consisting of Mitchell (great as always), Cox (a supporting player at best), the aforementioned Lee, and two conga players. Dubbed Gypsy Sun and Rainbows, these guys were a far cry from the original Experience. In fact, the percussionists sucked and the band hadn’t practiced enough and lacked cohesion, which engineer Eddie Kramer realized and rectified by wiping out their parts from this album, thereby presenting the new version of the Jimi Hendrix Experience as a hard-hitting power trio.

Simply put, what was heard on stage August 18, 1969 is not what is heard on this cd, and the inauthentic nature of this release is likely to offend purists, especially given the historical importance of this performance. After all, is what Kramer did here so different than what Alan Douglas was so severely criticized for doing over the years? If Kramer was willing to remove things, surely it’s possible that he added things as well, no? The whole thing makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, but with that rant out of the way let me say that what’s here sounds fantastic for the most part. Sure, some of these jams are a bit long and monotonous, his stage patter is often incomprehensible and quite goofy, and I wish that there was more material from Axis and Electric Ladyland (only one song apiece), but despite battling fatigue and less than ideal conditions (a 9 a.m. Monday morning start time), Jimi puts his heart and soul into this justifiably legendary performance. Disc one features probably my favorite rendition of “Message Of Love” (we have Mitchell instead of Miles and Jimi is on fire), plus fierce jams mark “Spanish Castle Magic” and “Lover Man.”

Again, as with Live At Winterland the band can get bogged down a bit when they try the bluesier stuff, and the improvised jam “Jam Back At The House” takes awhile to get going, but once it does boy does it ever, as does “Hear My Train A’ Comin” come to think of it. But disc one is merely a warm-up for disc two, which starts with my favorite version of “Izabella” but really gets going with a nearly 14-minute version of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).”

Simply put, this version is jaw-dropping, mind-melting, relentlessly awe-inspiring; feel free to add your own adjectives, because guitar-based jamming simply doesn’t get any better. Next up is Jimi’s monumental shredding of the “Star Spangled Banner,” which may be his signature guitar solo (he pulls out all the stops) and which evokes that war torn era like few songs. It sounds better than ever placed within its proper context here, too, and sandwiched around a couple of short, punchy, and flat-out ass kicking early Experience classics (“Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe”) are two other “songs” that showcase Jimi’s improvisational genius, and which can’t be heard on any other release. The aptly titled “Woodstock Improvisation” is basically Jimi just strutting his stuff as arguably the greatest guitar player the rock world has ever known, while the subdued “Villanova Junction” delivers the calm after the hurricane hits.

This sequence of songs on side two is Jimi Hendrix the live musician at his absolute best, and Mitch Mitchell too on the songs where Jimi also lets him let loose. They were playing like men possessed, like they wanted to steal the entire damn festival, and though the reality of the band performance on that morning was in actuality far less than what’s presented here, that shouldn’t stop your enjoyment when listening to this album. What may curb your enjoyment somewhat is the sheer exhausting nature of these long, jam-heavy songs, which likely won’t be everybody’s cup of tea even though it is mine. Note: There are plenty of other releases that have appeared over the years, many of which have been pulled by Jimi’s estate.

The two most necessary purchases that don’t appear on this page I suppose are Live At Monterey (better seen and heard on DVD) and the 4-cd box set The Jimi Hendrix Experience, which is a real treasure trove for Hendrix fanatics. That said, most of the alternate versions on the box set don’t sound all that different, some of the live tracks were previously available (the contents of the long out of print Hendrix In The West basically appears in its entirety), and some of the recordings sound like demos that should’ve remained unreleased. In short, the songs are usually good to great but on the whole it should’ve been better.

March 15, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Live At Woodstock | | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix Live At Woodstock (1999)

From Amazon

I borrowed a video of this concert from a friend and had to replace it with this CD when he made me give it back (in a distinctly more worn condition than when he gave it to me!).

This concert also introduced me to Jimi’s post-Experience work. A life-changing moment.

Rather than reiterate much of what has already been written about this concert, I would simply like to draw attention to three particular tracks (I’m a bit surprised that no one has mentioned them yet, although I have seen references to them in reviews on other CDs):

Message To Love – this, in my opinion, must be the all-time greatest festival song ever performed! The superb riff, the pounding, driving rythm, the “come alive” refrain, the usual mind-bending guitar work. For the surviving swamp-dwellers at Woodstock, this must have been the perfect rallying cry and the most exquisite reward for their endurance and faith! To me, this song sounds totally contemporary and very reminiscent of modern blues of the garage- or basement- variety, by artists such as T Model Ford or Paul ‘Wine’ Jones (although with the benefit of having been performed by a virtuoso!).

Izabella – this was the only song that the band had fully rehearsed before the show, and is clearly one of the most orderly and structured of the entire set. IMO, it also happens to be one of the most brilliant guitar riffs ever, and is without question one of my favourite Hendrix numbers. Given that this was the only song that Jimi felt entirely happy with prior to the performance, I like to think that this song represents the essence of the musical shift that he was making by leaving The Experience and by hooking up with his old army buddy, Billy Cox (on bass).

(More significantly, I think that these two tracks reveal, unambiguously, that the shift that Jimi was making was away from the melody-based material of the JHE, and towards a much more rythm-based sound – more in keeping with Jimi’s true love, the blues.)

Hear My Train A Comin’ – I think Jimi had a deep lonely streak in him, (arising from his difficult childhood and the death of his mother while he was still only a wee lad) and that this lonliness left him with the ability to feel and communicate powerful emotions through his music. Hear My Train is a beautiful, emotion-drenched, classic blues song, that, IMO, epitomises the true genius of Jimi Hendrix and the priceless gift that he left us, ie. the combination of traditional and pyschedelic blues, with virtuoso guitar-playing, deep deep feeling, and great great soul.

February 23, 2011 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Live At Woodstock | | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix Live At Woodstock (1999)

From Sfloman.com

Originally released as Jimi Hendrix: Woodstock in 1994, this expanded 2-cd edition figures to be the last word on Hendrix’s famous Woodstock performance since it contains all but two songs performed that day, both of which were sung by rhythm guitarist Larry Lee.

Still, though it may very well be the single greatest Hendrix live album with regards to his guitar playing, Live At Woodstock is not without its problems. For one thing, Jimi was a highly visual artist (starting with the fact that he was left-handed but played a right-handed guitar upside down), so obviously you don’t get quite the whole effect when merely hearing him play live (but surely you’ve seen the Woodstock movie, correct?). Secondly, for all his plaudits as a live musician, he was actually a pretty erratic live performer, especially in his somewhat confused last year, and this concert has its highs and lows. The biggest problem is his backing band, consisting of Mitchell (great as always), Cox (a supporting player at best), the aforementioned Lee, and two conga players.

Dubbed Gypsy Sun and Rainbows, these guys were a far cry from the original Experience. In fact, the percussionists sucked and the band hadn’t practiced enough and lacked cohesion, which engineer Eddie Kramer realized and rectified by wiping out their parts from this album, thereby presenting the new version of the Jimi Hendrix Experience as a hard-hitting power trio. Simply put, what was heard on stage August 18, 1969 is not what is heard on this cd, and the inauthentic nature of this release is likely to offend purists, especially given the historical importance of this performance. After all, is what Kramer did here so different than what Alan Douglas was so severely criticized for doing over the years? If Kramer was willing to remove things, surely it’s possible that he added things as well, no? The whole thing makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, but with that rant out of the way let me say that what’s here sounds fantastic for the most part. Sure, some of these jams are a bit long and monotonous, his stage patter is often incomprehensible and quite goofy, and I wish that there was more material from Axis and Electric Ladyland (only one song apiece), but despite battling fatigue and less than ideal conditions (a 9 a.m. Monday morning start time), Jimi puts his heart and soul into this justifiably legendary performance. Disc one features probably my favorite rendition of “Message Of Love” (we have Mitchell instead of Miles and Jimi is on fire), plus fierce jams mark “Spanish Castle Magic” and “Lover Man.” Again, as with Live At Winterland the band can get bogged down a bit when they try the bluesier stuff, and the improvised jam “Jam Back At The House” takes awhile to get going, but once it does boy does it ever, as does “Hear My Train A’ Comin” come to think of it. But disc one is merely a warm-up for disc two, which starts with my favorite version of “Izabella” but really gets going with a nearly 14-minute version of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” Simply put, this version is jaw-dropping, mind-melting, relentlessly awe-inspiring; feel free to add your own adjectives, because guitar-based jamming simply doesn’t get any better. Next up is Jimi’s monumental shredding of the “Star Spangled Banner,” which may be his signature guitar solo (he pulls out all the stops) and which evokes that war torn era like few songs. It sounds better than ever placed within its proper context here, too, and sandwiched around a couple of short, punchy, and flat-out ass kicking early Experience classics (“Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe”) are two other “songs” that showcase Jimi’s improvisational genius, and which can’t be heard on any other release.

The aptly titled “Woodstock Improvisation” is basically Jimi just strutting his stuff as arguably the greatest guitar player the rock world has ever known, while the subdued “Villanova Junction” delivers the calm after the hurricane hits. Simply put, this sequence of songs on side two is Jimi Hendrix the live musician at his absolute best, and Mitch Mitchell too on the songs where Jimi also lets him let loose. They were playing like men possessed, like they wanted to steal the entire damn festival, and though the reality of the band performance on that morning was in actuality far less than what’s presented here, that shouldn’t stop your enjoyment when listening to this album. What may curb your enjoyment somewhat is the sheer exhausting nature of these long, jam-heavy songs, which likely won’t be everybody’s cup of tea even though it is mine.

Note: There are plenty of other releases that have appeared over the years, many of which have been pulled by Jimi’s estate. The two most necessary purchases that don’t appear on this page I suppose are Live At Monterey (better seen and heard on DVD) and the 4-cd box set The Jimi Hendrix Experience, which is a real treasure trove for Hendrix fanatics. That said, most of the alternate versions on the box set don’t sound all that different, some of the live tracks were previously available (the contents of the long out of print Hendrix In The West basically appears in its entirety), and some of the recordings sound like demos that should’ve remained unreleased. In short, the songs are usually good to great but on the whole it should’ve been better.

May 15, 2010 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Live At Woodstock | | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix – Live At Woodstock (1999)

From Blues.about.com

Flamboyant performer and extraordinary guitarist Jimi Hendrix was one of the headliners of the three-day Woodstock Festival in August 1969, as well as the event’s highest-paid performer. Plans were for Hendrix and his new band to close out the festival on Sunday night with a bang, but bad weather and scheduling delays pushed back Hendrix’s set to early Monday morning, unexpectedly extending the Woodstock Festival by half a day.

Hendrix and his band climbed on stage to a cursory introduction, “ladies and gentlemen, the Jimi Hendrix Experience,” which the guitarist quickly corrected to “Gypsy Sun and Rainbows,” or just “Band of Gypsies.” Accompanied by Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell and his old Army buddy and early-1960s bandmate, bassist Billy Cox, Hendrix added a second guitarist in his friend Larry Lee, as well as Latin-styled percussionists Juma Sultan and Jerry Velez.

Jimi Hendrix Live At Woodstock
The core of this new six-piece band had spent weeks at a house rented by Hendrix’s management not far from Woodstock. Many believe that the addition of new players, including guitarist Lee – another chitlin’ circuit survivor like Jimi and Billy – was the guitarist’s attempt to get back to the R&B and blues music that he cut his teeth on. There is no doubt that the ‘Gypsy Sun’ line-up brought a different, and more soulful dimension to Hendrix’s typical psychedelic rock sound.

No where is this more apparent than on “Hear My Train A Comin’,” an incendiary six-string work out featuring some of Hendrix’s best blues-rock licks and a concrete-hard rhythm courtesy of Cox and Mitchell. An amped-up, electricity-charged Delta blues song on steroids, Hendrix’s often-explosive and sometimes death-defying guitar pyrotechnics here would forever write the blues-rock blueprint that would subsequently be followed by Stevie Ray Vaughan and countless others.

Something Old, Something New…
Hendrix had put together his new band in order to jam with some musicians that he enjoyed playing with, and the lengthy Woodstock set – some 140 minutes by all accounts, including false starts, sound problems, and Jimi’s apologies to the crowd – was dominated by lengthy, phenomenal jams on familiar songs. From the chattering machine-gun into of “Spanish Castle Magic” to the song’s breakneck solos and loping, funky groove, Hendrix and his gypsies stretch the song to better than twice its length on Axis: Bold As Love. Cox’s bass lines and Mitchell’s aggressive drumwork stand out on what can only be considered an urgent performance.

Ditto for the Woodstock version of the classic “Foxey Lady,” the song afforded a chaotic, TNT-strength opening before jumping headfirst into its familiar groove, Hendrix’s wiry guitar unwinding at unexpected moments while the band lays down a fragmented, stormy rhythm beneath his screaming six-string. The bluesy “Red House” is played reasonably straight, and significantly shorter than the aforementioned jams, but it retains Hendrix’s brilliant guitarplay and deliberate, note-by-note delivery.

Jam Back At The House
Built on Mitchell’s rapidfire, jazz-fusion rhythmic foundation, “Jam Back At The House” is an ambitious and rewarding performance that melds rock, jazz, and blues influences into a brand new sound. “Izabella,” which would be released posthumously on Hendrix’s Cry Of Love album, was the only real new tune that Hendrix had prepared for Woodstock, and it comes off pretty well.

After a brief into, the band hits an instant groove behind Jimi’s energetic riff, the notes from his guitar swirling around in a hypnotic morass as the band struggles to keep up with his rough-around-the-edges accompaniment. With the rhythm guitar handled by Lee, Hendrix uses the opportunity to embroider a slashing lead across the backing soundtrack.

Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner
Hendrix’s performance of the “Star Spangled Banner,” featured in the film and its accompanying soundtrack album, is often considered one of the guitarist’s legendary moments. This wasn’t the first time that he’d cranked it out, however, and you really have to hear the moments before and after to appreciate the seamless work of art that was the closing 35-40 minutes of Hendrix’s set. Starting with a breathtaking thirteen minute rendition of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” where Hendrix winds up his axe and lets it fly, “Star Spangled Banner” is just the climax.

Jimi and the band immediately jump into “Purple Haze” with the enthusiasm of a band of barbarians beating on the gates of civilization with bloody battle axes. Hendrix’s fretwork here is blistering, tonal, shredding, powerful, and so delightfully over the top that you’d think that the term “guitar hero” was coined for just this moment. After a short improvisation piece that takes Hendrix and the band into an entirely different, albeit invigorating musical direction, along with the instrumental “Villanova Junction,” they end the show with the song that launched Hendrix’s star, the garage-rock classic “Hey Joe.”

Blues-rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix
Photo courtesy Experience HendrixThe Reverend’s Bottom Line
Although this set has been on the street for better than a decade, Hendrix’s Live At Woodstock is worth revisiting for a myriad of reasons. Not the least of these is that the fifteen performances included here on two CDs present a much more comprehensive picture of Hendrix’s landmark performance at the festival that that provided by either of the two Woodstock soundtrack albums. The complete show isn’t included, as a few clunkers have been ignored, and the between-song interludes have largely been cut out, but there is still over an hour and a half of music for the listener to devour.

Fronting a band with little chemistry and no time to develop it, suffering from sound issues and poor microphone set-ups (especially of the percussionists, whom you can barely hear), Hendrix delivered a stunning display of six-string virtuosity. Cranking out a fiery set of psychedelic rock and blues, Hendrix left behind what many consider to be the defining moment of his too-brief career.

Less than thirteen months after the triumph of Woodstock, Hendrix would accidently overdose, leaving behind a world of music uncreated. Live At Woodstock is one of the artist’s most memorable moments, and a “must have” recording for any blues-rock fan. (Experience Hendrix/MCA Records, released July 6, 1999)

May 13, 2010 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Live At Woodstock | | Leave a comment