Classic Rock Review

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Jimi Hendrix The Jimi Hendrix Experience (2000)


As a ‘final golden touch’ to all the excellent Hendrix family releases, comes this 4-CD boxset with not a single track overlapping with the rest of the family releases. This is golden stuff, mostly, and there are only two reasons for which I deny it the ultimate rating: (a) like every boxset, it’s essentially a collection and so the rest of the albums are at a formal disadvantage; and (b) it’s NOT for the Hendrix beginner – it’s for that experienced connoisseur who wants to get his hands on everything the guy had given his angelic consent of releasing. It could have been better, too.

Could have been better because, frankly speaking, I’m not sure we need all those billions of ‘alternate takes’ of classics that are not all that different from the well known studio versions. Some ARE radically different; but I’m pretty sure the releasers could have thrown out at least about a dozen or so tracks off here and replaced with them with more obscure material, or at least more ass-kicking live versions of said songs. And I do not at allL approve the inclusion of two cuts from Monterey and two cuts from Isle of Wight, even if they’re “remixed” and all that. I already have ‘Rock Me Baby’, ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, ‘All Along The Watchtower’ and ‘In From The Storm’ on separate CDs. Gimme something less famous!

But to hell with nitpicking; I’ve yet to see – heck, we all have yet to see – a collection or archive release or boxset which would satisfy all of our wishes. On the positive side, these four CDs are all perfectly listenable. Quite unlike, say, the Beatles’ Anthologies: stuffed with patched-up demos and endless studio failures and mistakes, those collections, for the most part, could only be listened to as historical curios. But take my word: get The Jimi Hendrix Experience and you can fall in love with the music on this boxset just as fine as you could treat the original studio albums. All the ‘alternate takes’ are untampered with and they always select versions which look quite completed and enjoyable for pure musical reasons. And if there’s a studio gaffe or two, it only adds spice! Here, now, is a brief account of what you’re going to get with emphasis on the numerous ‘surprises’ (note, though, that if you already have been a rabid Hendrix collector for years, there probably will be very few surprises, as most of the ‘new’ tracks actually date from earlier official and half-official recordings – thus, the live collection In The West, often proclaimed to be Jimi’s best live album, is made pretty much redundant by the boxset).

Anyway, CD 1 is the early period. Jimi is young, fresh, healthy and arrogant, and the Experience are tight and intent upon conquering the world. A ‘Purple Haze’ alternate take with Jimi giggling and singing ‘Mary had a little lamb’ at the end. Breathtaking rendition of ‘Killing Floor’ from a Paris concert in 1966 (yeah); ‘Hey Joe’ from the same concert – back when the song was yet totally fresh and Jimi was singing it with conviction and devotion, not as an obligatory crowd-pleasing moldy standard. A rollickin’, firey studio outtake called simply ‘Title # 3’. ‘Third Stone From The Sun’ with a special section where Jimi and Chas Chandler are recording the vocal overdubs for the song (later those would be slowed down and “astralized”, but it’s really cool to hear Jimi go ‘…may I land my kinky machine? Pshhhh pshhh pshhh…”). ‘Taking Care Of No Business’ – a hilarious lounge sendup, probably during a drunken break in the sessions. A particularly early and restrained instrumental version of ‘Lover Man’… hmm, I just realized that the song is essentially just a re-write of ‘Rock Me Baby’, but who cares? Jimi fooling around the harpsichord recording the intro to ‘Burning Of The Midnight Lamp’. And the Monterey numbers. And a few more tracks I haven’t mentioned because they aren’t that specially surprising, but they’re still nice. And that’s just the first disc!

CD 2 is The Experience at the height of their power. The post-Monterey period. Ever heard Jimi perform ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’? He did it quite often back then, but this is currently the only widely available place to hear it, from a Stockholm concert in September 1967. ‘Burning Of The Midnight Lamp’ from the same venue as well. Instrumental rehearsal of ‘Little Wing’. Fiery, inhuman renditions of ‘Catfish Blues’ and ‘Fire’ and a mastodontic runthrough over the looks of ‘Bold As Love’. Interesting obscure tracks like ‘Somewhere’ and ‘It’s Too Bad’. Jimi’s take on Van Morrison’s ‘Gloria’, which runs for a full nine minutes and steals the show from the master (well, heck, then again, so did Jim Morrison and Patti Smith, so who cares?). And to top it all, the studio version of ‘Star Spangled Banner’ which really must be heard to be believed. As mind-boggling as the classic Woodstock version was, it was still way too noisy… you’d thought Jimi played it with the sole intent of ‘mocking’ the national anthem, but this studio take shows that he really was in experimental overdrive when he tackled it. Listen to all those amazing warp-speed overdubbed guitar runs; you could SWEAR these are synthesizers. As the liner notes say, that was Jimi’s first experience with a 16-track, and he really made the best of it.

CD 3 is my favourite, I guess, because it has the majority of live numbers. ‘I Don’t Live Today’, ‘Red House’, ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ all blow the roof down. Note that although it’s 1969, it’s early 1969, so it’s still the Experience – past their glory days, but only as a band, not as a joint unit of talented musicians. This stuff should be played loud ‘n’ proud, blasted out of the windows to instigate little earthquakes. And, of course, there’s ‘Little Wing’ – THE ultimate live rendition of the song. It’s only been occasionally performed live, as far as I know (too personal for Jimi?), but this is one of those rare occasions; Jimi plays it short and sweet, with a couple solo passages of ultimate beauty. (Even if I still insist that Clapton was able to insert even more emotion into the song that Jimi did – but this live version would probably bring the two guys on par).

CD 4, then, is the least favourite, since for the most part it’s dedicated to outtakes from First Rays Of The New Rising Sun; definitely not Hendrix in finest form as a songwriter, and the outtakes can’t hope to beat the originals either. Plus, there are those Wight numbers I already have elsewhere.Still, some of the outtakes sound just fine, and you do get a few lost classics like the fascinating psychedelic instrumental ‘Cherokee Mist’; and of course, one cannot neglect Jimi’s unique live rendition of ‘Johnny B. Goode’ and ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ (the latter, strange enough, taken in mid-tempo). ‘Johnny B. Goode’ sounds particularly mesmerizing after undergoing the ‘Hendrixification’ procedure.

All in all, it’s a wonder-treat for the devoted Jimi fan. It wouldn’t be particularly recommendable for the neophyte, of course, because there’s just too much material and one could lose one’s footing in among all the outtakes. But I sure know that I spent a wonderful two-day period listening to these four discs and I’ll definitely be coming back to them again. The only thing I hope for is that this is going to be the conclusion of the endless flow of Hendrix releases, a certain sort of ‘final point’ after which the releasers will finally stop. There’s gotta be an end to everything, you know. At least, if they’re planning on something else, let it be something concise – say, a release of an entire live show, or a bunch of so-and-so demos from so-and-so sessions. No more mixed bags, please! (Note: this doesn’t really apply to the boxset, as it’s very thoroughly arranged in chronologic order. Rather, it can apply to stuff like South Saturn Delta).

March 23, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix The Jimi Hendrix Experience | | Leave a comment