Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Jimi Hendrix Miami Pop Festival (2013)

81xeGIfAprL._SL1500_From amazon.com

This is a show recorded at a time when songs like Foxey Lady ,Hey Joe ect.. were still tolerable and fun for Jimi to play, so those early songs and the rest are played with a freshness and fire that would eventually evaporate due to Jimi’s musical growth, wanting to move on to other things..

Hey Joe- begings with Jimi turning the volume all the way up and creating a wall of feedback as he uses cord voicings,3rds,hammer on’s the wha wha pedal and whammy bar, to make beautiful music out of feedback as he lauches into one of the best versions (my opinion)of Hey Joe. I like the Monterey Hey Joe and the Berkeley versions the best, I now put this one up there with those as one of my favorites.
Foxey Lady- is scorching white hot and Jimi is having lot’s of fun playing it (just look at the video)

Fire- a high octane version, like most are,but again these songs at this time are not frustrating for Jimi to play and you can tell he’s having a good time playing it.
Tax Free- A rude,dynamic smokin hot early version of this tune that’s shorter than the Winterland versions as Jimi was still developing it,Jimi makes Jimi use out of the whammy bar and wha wha petal as he drives Mitch and Noel as fast and hard as they could be driven.

I Don’t Live Today- absolute feed back laced assault- sounds of guided missles flying, H- bombs expolding ,sounds of rocket ships taking off and crashing,are all simulated by Jimi coaxing feedback from his stratocaster and rocking the living daylights out of this song.

Hear My Train A Comin’- This is a new song for Jimi and the band, it’s not as formulated as it later would be, so really shouldn’t be compared to other versions like Berkeley ect.. as he says we only played this once before, so you can hear them at times feeling around the song, but who cares! Jimi burns when he solo’s and there are things done on this version that on later vesions you wouldn’t hear.

Red House- this is a really unique version- (they all are) this one, mostly beacuse Jimi puts down his strat , as he sometimes did for this tune( Stockholm 69 playing a Gibson SG, Isle Of Wright playing the Flying V) and plays this one with a Gibson Les Paul (its’ obvious by the tone,sound and riffs Jimi’s playing-Jimi had a black 55′ Les Paul that had the “Bigsby tremlo whammy bar” that you can hear him using and there’s a picture on back of the booklet from that day with Jimi playing the Les Paul, you can see some better pic of It- @www.mylespaul.com/forums/vintage-les-pauls/jimi-hendrixs-1955-les-paul-custom.)

During the first few minutes Jimi is getting a warm ,bluesy tone as he plays some really beautiful licks and runs while singing, Jimi starts to solo and plays some of his best blues riffs and expressions you’ll ever hear on Red House , ( my fav’s -Randalls Isle, San Diego,Isle Of Wright and now this version)intensifying and building up to the point where at 5:30 all hell breaks loose as Jimi turns it all the way up unleashing all the volume, power and fury from his amps and taking the blues where only Jimi could take them.

I have to give this cd 5 stars beacuse of the bands preformance and Jimi’s guitar playing,which is all top notch.

Mitch Mitchel and Noel Redding provide a tight, flawless backup for Jim and all of his unpredicable cues and spontaneous playing. Michael Lang the concert promoter said that somone slipped Jimi and the boys STP on the way to the show and were blasted when they took the stage,-how many musicians or bands today can do such a drug and turn out such a tight preformance?

Some have complained about lack of material- but how much was there at this early stage?.. Electric Lady was still being recorded and not yet released.

If you a Jimi freak you must have this. For others- it all depends on what you like and your taste in music.

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December 28, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Miami Pop Festival | | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix Isle Of Wight (1971)

jimi_hendrixight_isle_of_wightFrom starling.rinet.ru

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

Jimi Hendrix The Baggy’s Rehearsals Sessions (2002)

ibz7efFrom amazon.com

This twelve song collection titled “The Baggy’s Rehearsal Sessions” released via the official bootleg label Dagger Records is a gem for fans of this excellent short lived trio and a must buy! What you get here is the band (Jimi Hendrix on guitar/vocals, Billy Cox on bass/vocals, and Buddy Miles on drums/vocals) performing a rehearsal in preparation to the four legendary Fillmore East concerts that they gave on December 31, 1969 and January 1, 1970. The songs were recorded during two different sessions on December 18 and 19, 1969 at Baggy’s Studios in New York City.

The first version of “Burning Desire” which opens the album is in fact the very same take that was released in 1973 on the long deleted posthumous compilation “Loose Ends”. Even though it is a rehearsal, it sounds fantastic with the rhythm section of Cox/Miles playing tightly and Jimi plays a lot of memorable lead guitar. Cox and Miles even add some nice back up vocals during the slow section towards the latter half. This tune is without a doubt a songwriting highlight from this period and with all its tempo/key/chord changes, I would describe it as progressive R&B! What follows is a rare version of the blues classic “Hoochie Koochie Man” which differs from the Experience version recorded for the BBC in the sense that Miles’ drumming is more on the beat and less on the fills for a start and Hendrix’s soloing is more aggressive. This is some serious blues guitar playing! This recording was also previously released on the “Loose Ends” compilation and is good to have it available one more time. Hendrix’s sense of humor is on display here as he tries to imitate the singing style of Muddy Waters for a few bars!

Track number three is “Message Of Love” and it does not sound too different from the classic live take on the album but of course Hendrix always manages to deliver an interesting solo that radically differs from the familiar one heard on the live LP. The middle eight with the lyrics ‘I am what I am’ is my favorite part. This recording also demonstrates that the band was definitely in high spirits during this recording session as you can hear them joking around at the end. According to the liner notes, they are imitating two comedians that they enjoyed: Moms Mabley and Pigmeat Markham! It is Miles who suggests running through “Ezy Ryder” and off they go. In this case, this tune really benefits from the direct one-guitar/bass/drums format. It has an extra punch that the take on the “First Rays” album lacks and the back up vocals are more prominent. Also of note is the fact that they play the song’s middle eight (with the lyrics ‘see all the lovers say do what you please’) twice albeit with different lyrics in this case. After they finish playing, the sense of humor is again heard when Miles makes a reference to the “Third Stone From The Sun” lyric ‘…and you’ll never hear surf music again’!

Next they settle into “Power Of Soul” and this version is noticeably longer than the BOG live take clocking at over seven minutes. Vocally speaking, Hendrix is in better form here than on the live album in my opinion and the soloing is as good if not better. Miles even added a short ‘ooh’ of back up vocals for one second during the first verse. They should have expanded on that idea and add the back up vocals throughout the song! Very nice version but I still prefer the studio take from “South Saturn Delta” with the killer wah wah soloing! Still any version of this tune always does the trick for me…such great riffs throughout.
Song number six equals the first version of “Earth Blues” on this album and in this particular take the emphasis is put on the vocal sections as opposed to the jamming improvisation. Hendrix keeps the wah wah solo short and they quickly go into a third verse. This is one of my favorite compositions from the Gypsies period because it seems to bring together a gospel influence with funk and the intro/chorus rhythm guitar motif is unusual! Also of note is the cool ending where Hendrix seemingly deconstructs the main riff to finish off with an ascending dissonant riff! A superb coda idea that Hendrix used on other songs such as “Freedom” and “In From The Storm”. After its conclusion the Miles written “Changes” starts with its ear catching melodic intro and this version is very close to the BOG live take with Miles’ vocals taking main role and Hendrix guitar prowess taking a noticeable back seat. That issue aside, I’ve always enjoyed this R&B song and the chorus riff is killer! However, track number eight is a real treat: this is so far the only chance to hear the Band Of Gypsies tearing through the rocker “Lover Man” in a studio setting. The lead guitar playing is simply fantastic and matches his lead work from the Experience take featured on the “South Saturn Delta” album. This song would have made a nice single A side in my opinion.

The second Miles composition “We Gotta Live Together” is interesting but at the same time brought down by the fact that the recording only last for about forty five seconds. What the tape captured was essentially the very last seconds of the performance. You’ll hear the three guys singing in harmony the ‘home sweet home’ vocal line with Miles getting busy on the hi-hat and Cox providing a funk style bass line before they quickly wrap up. The next recording titled “Baggy’s Jam” makes up for the previous one though. The title is self explanatory and you’ll hear Jimi leading his rhythm section through a series of key changes while delivering some nice funky rhythm and some sporadic bursts of lead guitar. Cox does great on the bass with all the key changes adjusting his riff accordingly as the jam marches along. This is cool but clocking only at five minutes, I wish it was longer!
The two closing numbers on the album are alternate takes of “Earth Blues” and “Burning Desire” which provide further insight into Hendrix’s exceptional improvisational skills with plenty of killer playing to keep them interesting and noticeably different from the previous takes! In the former, the arrangement mirrors the live versions more closely with the usual extended solo and no third verse. The latter features the instrumental intro also heard in the Fillmore East live version as opposed to the previous take that opened this album that begun directly with the verse. The only negative aspect is the fact that it fades out before its conclusion.

In brief, this official bootleg release is essential listening for die hard fans of Jimi Hendrix, especially if you are big into his Band Of Gypsies phase and appreciate Hendrix’s effort to bring his R&B/soul/funk heritage to the fore with the ultimate end of producing a combination of said styles and rock!
Two more things though…on the official Hendrix website you can listen to two additional recordings from these rehearsal sessions. Head over to the page and click on ‘media’ and then select ‘concert broadcasts’ and scroll down until you see the ‘baggy’s sessions’ link. Hear the trio tear through a medley of “Izabella/Machine Gun” and “Who Knows”. Nice bonus!
Last but not least, if you purchase the “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” EP, you’ll hear another recording from these same sessions, in this case being an interesting instrumental medley of “Silent Night”, “Little Drummer Boy” and “Auld Lang Syne” as only Hendrix would have played them back then!

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix The Baggy's Rehearsal Sessions | | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix Hendrix In The West (1972)

51YCUEh77hLFrom amazon.com

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.

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Hendrix In The West | | Leave a comment

Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix & The Post-War Rock ‘N’ Roll Revolution by Charles Shaar Murray (1991)

42106From amazon.com

This book is an attempt at a scholarly study of Hendrix’s music, its cultural and social significance, its influences and those whose music it influenced. While fascinating at times, the author seems more interested in over displaying his education, vocabulary and being politically correct than he does writing a well researched, reader friendly study of this important subject matter. His obvious bias against certain musical genres and his desire to make everything about race further mars his ability to write an objective study.

The first four chapters are by far the weakest. Long winded ramblings and lack of thorough research render much of the first hundred pages useless. The mini-biography in chapter two is so filled with inaccuracies one is tempted to dismiss Murray’s work before going any further on the grounds that he’s too lazy to research the life of the man who is the central subject matter of his book. Chapter three wastes twenty pages blubbering about sexism in popular music and spouting pseudo intellectual blather just to come to the conclusion that anyone who listens to Jimi’s music already knew: some of Hendrix’s songs contain put downs of women and some attribute to them almost divine qualities, and some fall somewhere in between.

Murray also figured out that women song writers do that, too. What a genius! Then we have a chapter about “the black artist and the white audience”. This is where it gets really bogged down in meaningless meanderings and intelligence and coherency are sacrificed upon an altar of trying to appear politically correct. Anyone whose listened to popular music from the 60’s and also blues, jazz, psychedelic and even country knows that black and white music was thoroughly and irretrievably cross pollinated by this point and thus almost impossible to any longer make an absolute clear distinction between the two. Charles more than proves this point himself but seems loathe to admit it. The arguments here reminded me of a TV critic back in the 80’s who was trying to decide if The Cosby Show was about a black man who happened to be a doctor or a doctor who happened to be a black man. In other words, another 25 pages that really has very little to contribute to our knowledge or enjoyment of Jimi’s music or music in general.

After wading through 105 pages of mostly hot air, my perseverance and patience was finally rewarded and Murray finally digs into subject matter on which he is able to sometimes make a relevant point. Chapter five deals with blues great Robert Johnson and jazz guitarist pioneer Charlie Christian, their similarities with Hendrix and their influence on his music. Fascinating stuff and hard to put down. Murray quotes from some sources that I will definitely be checking out ASAP, both for their subject matter, and the fact that after chapter two I feel a need to fact check this book. The next couple of chapters are devoted to the blues and jazz respectively, and provide a lot of food for thought. At the end of the book there’s a discussion of the gear Hendrix chose to make his music with which is great. Though I really enjoyed the last 100 pages of this work, there were still numerous errors about Jimi and others.

He says the Byrds’ Eight Miles High came out before George Harrison ever heard a sitar. Sorry Charlie, but Rubber Soul containing Norwegian Wood was released in ’65 and Eight Miles High in ’66. He says Sly Stone wrote Somebody To Love that was recorded by both of Grace Slick’s bands, The Great Society and Jefferson Airplane. Wrong! Grace’s brother in law Darby Slick wrote it. He continually refers to Jimi’s Woodstock band as being named Electric Church though it was Gypsies, Suns and Rainbows. He says of guitarist Larry Lee who played in this band that “little has been heard before or since.” That depends on if you’ve ever read in other books on Hendrix. If Murray had done the slightest bit of research he’d know Hendrix and Lee had been friends and played music together since the early 60’s but that Lee spent a couple of years in Viet Nam just before Woodstock and since then has been quite easy to locate by Hendrix biographers and documentarians. And there’s more.

I like the idea behind this book, but it is very flawed in execution. When Murray’s not trying to impress us with what a genius and great musical critic he is, he’s a pretty good writer with a descent sense of humour. He does need to spend a little more time on research and realize that it doesn’t make you less intelligent to make a clear point in 5 pages as opposed to running in circles for 20. While he may have felt Jimi’s impact on rock music was out of the scope of a book this size, he should have at least mentioned artists like German guitarist Uli Jon Roth who have moulded not just their music but their life and spirituality on Jimi’s. Instead Charles heaps praise on pop poser Prince as a worthy example of Hendrix’s influence. This book has more than enough of interest and relevance to make it worth reading, but I must disagree with the other reviewers who shower it with such high praise.

May 19, 2013 Posted by | Book Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix & The Post-War Rock 'N' Roll Revolution by Charles Shaar Murray | , | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix Live At The Fillmore East (1999)

jimi1From musicdish.com

I have said this before when covering any Hendrix reissues, the best thing that could have ever happened to Jimi’s work is that his family took care of it. The Hendrix family, in cooperation with MCA Records, have been reissuing a tremendous amount of the live concert recordings and entailing the history of Jimi and his two groups, “The Experience” and “Band Of Gypsys.”

While Jimi’s studio work remains as relevant today as the day it was recorded, it’s the live work that has been shedding new light upon the musical genius of the man and the people that played keyed roles in developing his stage presence and sound. This particular reworked package comes from the Universal Music Group archives.

Buddy Miles (drums) and Billy Cox (bass) were the two new members of the Hendrix camp that assisted Jimi in taking his music in new directions. Although he kept things exciting with the use of wah-wah pedals and other technical wizardry of the day, he utilized the experience of Cox and Miles to create a blend of rock, soul, and rhythm and blues that remains unrivaled to this day. This two CD set expands upon the original release. The tracks “Burning Desire” and “Izabella,” make their debut, as do alternate versions of “Power Of Soul” and “Machine Gun.”

“We Gotta Live Together,” with the lead vocals handled by Miles, who has a very powerful voice, are a welcome change to the Hendrix sound. This newly found freedom and diversity allowed Jimi’s guitar playing to push itself to new boundaries in several genres simultaneously. As it states in the revealing liner notes- “The audience didn’t know what to expect from us, but from the time we hit that first note, they were in awe.” Yes indeed, this was jaw dropping playing by the entire group. The sound is phenomenal, and it will transport you to those four historical nights with ease.

Hendrix was right on the cusp of something big in the development of his music and persona, it’s a shame that it had to end as quickly as it began.

May 18, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Live At The Fillmore East | | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix Morning Symphony Ideas (2000)

zmch7pFrom musicdish.com

“Morning Symphony Ideas” is a fantastical journey into the creative process and musical genius of James Marshall Hendrix.

This unbelievable collection of songs of previously unreleased songs and home demo’s gives you a bird’s eye view into Jimi’s intensity and complexities as an artist. These tracks never would have been released if he was alive. He demanded painstaking meticulous perfectionism with every song before it was ready to master for production. Just the same, this material is absolutely phenomenal, whether it’s a demo or unfinished track.

What are all the styles covered on this CD? Well, you name it and Hendrix did it. He basically could have picked up his guitar on any given day and decide to record a blues, jazz, or rock album without even thinking about it. The first song, “Keep On Groovin,'” is nearly 30 minutes long. I had to keep looking at my CD player to see if it had changed over to another track, amazingly it just kept going.

Jimi plays everything from rock, blues, jazz, and funk that would put George Clinton to shame. The kicker is that he accomplishes it all in one song. “Scorpio Woman” is another marathon fusion excursion with just as much musical diversity, clocking in at over 21 minutes. You also will hear some Latin Flamenco and island influences that are similar to reggae with a harder rock edge in “Jungle.”

Just when you thought you just heard the latest and greatest from the archives from this guitar legend they unearth another gem. If you think about the period of time he was around its mind boggling how much material he had committed to tape. It’s obvious that if he wasn’t playing live he was in the studio or at home recording something. The evolution of his music is breathtaking; I cannot even imagine how he would have evolved as an artist if he had lived. I am just beside myself as I delve further into this man’s legacy. This is jaw dropping six-string dexterity.

Another absolute must for any guitar aficionado or Hendrix fan.

May 18, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Morning Symphony Ideas | | Leave a comment

Hendrix: Setting The Record Straight by John McDermott & Eddie Kramer (1992)

Jimi-Hendrix-Setting-The-Recor-337311From amazon.com

Review Disclaimer: Huge Hendrix worshipper! When this book appeared in 1992 it was (and still is) the most even-handed biography on Jimi. Previous bios were from either muckrakers who were trying to damage his legacy, or by people who never met him and were trying to make grand statements about his talent. In this book McDermott has taken the time to get first-hand accounts from those who knew Hendrix best, including band mates and business associates.

The most valuable asset here is engineer Eddie Kramer, who was Hendrix’s close friend and trusted creative confidant. (However, it seems that Noel Redding was consulted less than other band mates, possibly because he had a more unflattering story to tell).

Getting these valuable first-hand accounts gives us a very balanced view of Jimi’s personality, and both sides of the coin are shown. You get the expected admiration for his talent, and the good sides of his personality. You also get the not-so-good parts, such as Jimi’s paranoia, insecurities, and appallingly poor business sense. This book is not afraid to give bad reviews of Hendrix’s poor live performances with the Experience when they were on the verge of splintering, or with the undeveloped Band of Gypsys. Also, his pathetic death (choking on his own vomit) is not dwelled upon and is treated as the senseless mistake it really was, rather than the noble, romanticized exit from this world (or even suicide) that you’ll hear about in other accounts.

The excessive details about Hendrix’s sloppy business arrangements provide valuable information, even though these passages get very long-winded and detract from the focus of the book – which is the man and his music. Also, be suspicious of character descriptions of people who are not around to give their side of the story. This doesn’t apply to Hendrix himself, as described above, but to late manager Michael Jeffery. This man surely left plenty of evidence that he was paranoid and power-hungry, but the descriptions of his personality by the people in the book, most of whom didn’t like him, should be treated with suspicion, as he’s not around to have his say. To a lesser extent, the same applies to Jimi’s sexy but dangerous girlfriend Devon Wilson.

The coverage of the posthumous Hendrix musical catalog is getting outdated (fortunately). Certainly after his death, the managers and record companies flooded the market with inferior material, most of which was either impromptu jam sessions or sub-par live performances which were never meant for release. Until the mid-90’s this avalanche of so-called “lost” material blurred the brilliance of the smaller amount of official records that Jimi really tailored for the public. This situation has been mostly resolved since 1994 when the Hendrix family finally gained control of the musical copyrights. They’ve given us great reissues of the official albums, as well as the incredible “First Rays of the New Rising Sun” which consolidates the album Hendrix was creating at the time of his death. But with things like “South Saturn Delta” and “Live at the Fillmore East” the Hendrix family is almost as guilty of barrel-scraping as the bad guys were in the 70s.

Review I’ve read three different Hendrix biographies and each came at the subject of Jimi Hendrix from a different direction. Setting the Record Straight is good because there is a lot of input from people who were close to Hendrix, especially people who were part of his organization, but who were not particularly well known. Like all of the Hendrix biographies, this book does have its faults, I mean, how many times should an author state that Jimi was growing wary of Michael Jeffries, Jimi was trying to keep his distance from Michael Jeffries, Jimi was avoiding Michael Jeffries. I found one spot where there were at least 4 references in a 2 page span about how Jimi as getting tired of Michael Jeffries. Ok. We get it. Yawn.

The book is very good in explaining how the Hendrix “image” was deliberately created to be controversial (most of us grown-ups had already figured that one out). It tells us how the “real” Jimi started to emerge after the release of Electric Ladyland. It tells us the story of the Electric Lady studio and how it came about from the initial idea of creating a club much like Steve Paul’s Scene club. It also tells us about when and why Chas Chandler excused himself from the organization. Actually Chas turns out to be one of the few really classy people in the Hendrix organization.

You also learn about a host of disastrous gigs and shows where Jimi just didn’t want to play. In some ways you feel sorry for him and in other ways you begin to understand that the guy’s work ethic really sucked. If you lived through the era I guarantee you will end up feeling pretty embarrassed about your generation’s behaviour.

Unfortunately, this book doesn’t tell some of the stories that I am interested in. I wanted to read about the jam session in the studio that produced Voodoo Chile for example. There really isn’t much emphasis about how the music was made. In my opinion, when it comes to Hendrix, that’s a no-brainer; that’s what people want to read about.

From a musical perspective, I would have to say that Crosstown Traffic is a much better biography as it does much to show Jimi’s importance within the context of American art and culture. Really, I don’t care about Jimi’s business and I don’t care about his depraved social life either. I just love his music. Setting the Record Straight is really more about the business side of Jimi Hendrix and the Hendrix “product”. Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky is probably the least interesting of the three I’ve read, it’s more about Jimi’s social life than anything. That particular book tries to be sensational by asserting that Jimi was murdered and then downplaying that idea in the same paragraph. That was rather like when a lawyer coaches a client witness to blurt something out on the stand that they know the judge is going to strike down, but the jury is going to hear it anyway. Shabby.

I would pick up both Setting the Record Straight and Crosstown Traffic if you really want to get to know Jimi and his significance with respect to American art and culture.

Oh yeah, one little factual nugget I finally learned after years and years and years (decades really) of wondering… It was Jimi who played the freaked out recorder solo at the end of If Six Was Nine. Hooray! Mystery solved! That was driving me nuts!

May 5, 2013 Posted by | Book Hendrix Setting The Record Straight by John McDermott and Eddie Kramer | , | 1 Comment

Jimi Hendrix Radio One (1992)

51klLDEYnfLFrom amazon.com

Review If you don’t have at least one Jimi Hendrix album in your CD collection, you really need to rethink your musical priorities. I don’t think I need to explain the revolutionary legacy of Hendrix to anyone, so I’ll just get right to the content on this particular CD. The year was 1967, and Hendrix’s career had just blasted off in the UK, when The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Hendrix, Noel Redding, and Mitch Mitchell) came together for several recording sessions for BBC Radio. You will find a number of Hendrix’s most memorable songs in this collection, but they differ from the versions most fans are familiar with. Alongside these more familiar tracks are a number of very interesting covers and blues-oriented recordings, a few of which could and should be considered true rarities.

Appropriately enough, this collection starts out with an anthem song, Stone Free. With the funk established, it’s time to jam. Hendrix standards emerging from these early recordings are Fire, Foxy Lady, Purple Haze, and Hey Joe. Hendrix pulls out all of the heavy guitar stops on the short but enervating Killing Floor. This killer track is then followed by what is still, as far as I am aware, the only live version of the classic Love or Confusion. Hendrix’s mastery of the guitar is made most evident in a scintillating performance of Drivin’ South.

I find the background vocals on Wait Until Tomorrow somewhat questionable, but this track is a real treat indeed, as this was a song Hendrix never performed on stage. You get a somewhat light version of Hear My Train a Comin’, infused with a lot of interaction with the small studio audience. Spanish Castle Magic is pretty faithful to the later studio version, but this is probably the earliest recording made of this standout song. Yet another significant recording is Burning of the Midnight Lamp, a much different version from that which appeared on the Electric Ladyland album of the following year.

Radio One Theme is a playful bit of filler, really, a half-joking new theme song for Britain’s insurgent Radio One rock station. Hendrix’s cover of the Beatles’ Day Tripper takes the song to heights never imagined by the team of Lennon and McCartney. The novelty of this cover still pales in comparison to that of Hound Dog, which comes complete with all sorts of barks and howls from band members.

For me, the best this album has to offer are the blues-oriented recordings, in which Hendrix pays tribute to some of the strongest influences of his youth – the legendary Muddy Waters, in particular. Catfish Blues is great, but Hoochie Koochie Man is easily my favourite song on this album.

All told, these 17 early recordings showcase the variety of musical styles that Jimi Hendrix made his own, and the entire album has a fresh and jubilant feel that differs from the heavier sound of Hendrix’s later career. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Radio One as someone’s first introduction to Jimi Hendrix, but Hendrix fans will definitely love every one of the 59 – plus minutes of this album.

Review Radio One is a collection of material recorded by the Jimi Hendrix Experience live in the studio for various BBC Radio shows during 1967.

BUT.

There is one BIG difference between what you would have heard with those original radio broadcasts, and what you hear with this CD today. The original recordings were created (and broadcast) in mono. This modern CD uses digital trickery to turn that mono into fake stereo, and the result is certainly NOT for the better.

The manner in which producer Alan Douglas seems to have achieved the fake stereo effect was by splitting the frequencies, the higher frequencies to one speaker and the lower to the other. This has resulted in the album being almost unlistenable through headphones because it gives the impression of the bulk of the tracks being “lopsided”, with the sound coming out of one speaker or being noticeably off-centre. Out of the 17 tracks on this compilation only about 5 sound normal, properly centred. The effect is so bad that the first time I heard this CD through headphones I thought the headphones themselves were faulty.

Heard through regular speakers this strange “wonkiness” isn’t really noticeable – but because of the fake stereo effect the sound is somewhat flat and at times lacking in definition.

Only a couple of years after this CD was released an American radio station named Westwood One broadcast the original mono mixes of these same recordings (which have since also appeared on at least a couple of CD bootlegs). In mono all of this material has more punch, energy and definition than can be found on these fake stereo alternatives. Quite simply, in mono these tracks sound more “alive”, more powerful. The difference really is extreme, one of night-and-day.

Why on earth Alan Douglas decided to reprocess the mono tapes in a manner which degraded the sound quality and sonic impact is a question only he can answer. I can think of no justification for converting this material into fake stereo other than simply converting it for the sake of converting it. The mind boggles.

The music itself can’t be faulted. Recorded live in the studio, these sessions catch The Jimi Hendrix Experience during their initial rise to stardom. So what you largely get are raw and raucous 3 minute (or less) versions of Are You Experienced material, interspersed with some impressive extended bluesy numbers (the latter clearly showing the direction in which Hendrix and the band would develop onstage over the following couple of years).

There are also a couple of covers where Jimi is clearly having fun, Hound Dog and Day Tripper (the latter NOT featuring John Lennon on backing vocals, as the myth claims. It’s Noel Redding), and Drivin’ South (of interest because it’s an instrumental which Hendrix originally played in his pre-fame days with Curtis Knight’s band. This Experience version ups the tempo and turns into a tour de force of Hendrixian guitarisms).

It’s not an understatement to say these BBC recordings are essential for any fan of the Are You Experienced period. There’s none of the brain-twisting or mellow psychedelia of his latter years. This is almost garage-band Hendrix, knocking it out rough and ready, pure Rock and Roll, Proto-Rock, Rhythm and Blues or however you choose to label it. It’s the nearest you’ll today get to actually attending a live Experience concert in one of London’s small nightclubs in 1967.

So how would I grade this album?

Well, the music on this CD (and the manner in which its performed) I’d grade a solid 5 stars. But simply down to the recordings having been fudged into fake stereo, I have to give it an overall single star rating.

The tragic thing is that when Experience Hendrix re-released these sessions (with extra material) a few years ago, they also used the fake stereo masterings. A few of the tracks on that double-CD set were the original mono, but some also had added modern reverb. And of course that release has compression missing from this edition.

So if you wish to hear the best official release of Hendrix’s BBC material, it’s a toss-up between two evils because there is currently no official version of this album available which matches the original untampered mono tapes for impact. If you want to hear this stuff sounding at its most powerful and in its best quality, the record company have left you no choice but to seek out unofficial and illegal product.

That’s a shameful state of affairs. This set DESERVES better. It captures Hendrix at a crucial time in his development, playing some unique material. It’s screaming out to be released in full, in the original MONO mix. Only when that day comes will the true majesty of these BBC recordings be unleashed.

Maybe when those handed the care of the Hendrix legacy divert their attention from branding his image upon tin boxes, plastic mugs and air fresheners, to refocus completely upon presenting his music in the best possible manner, we will get to see that day. Maybe.

May 3, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix Radio One | | Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix First Rays Of The New Rising Sun (1997)

28103416_700x700min_1From amazon.com

Review I bought this album awhile ago, and unfortunately, the first review I wrote was somehow lost in the system. Since I have a poor at best memory, I had to just hunker down, listen to the CD again and do a proper review….

While definitely not the best Hendrix album, it is probably the best posthumous one (that’s in print, at least), as far as studio work goes. Jimi had an obsession with capturing his ideas on record, and this just further exemplifies that obsession. While I’d obviously get his official recordings (AYE, A:BAS, EL, and BOG) and probably a live record or two (Woodstock, Fillmore East), this does prove to be an excellent record for the person who just can’t get enough Jimi…

Much more polished than “South Saturn Delta,” the release that followed “First Rays…”, this album was meant to compile the material that was to end up on Jimi’s fourth studio effort of the same name. While Jimi originally planned to keep recording and produce a second LP to go with the first, his death unfortunately cut that plan short, and record producers were forced to spread out what had been completed over three posthumous, now out of print releases (Rainbow Bridge, Cry of Love, and War Heroes).

What we have now on “First Rays Of The New Rising Sun,” is an attempt to compile the available material onto one disc, in an order as close to Jimi’s original wishes as possible. Unfortunately, any claims that the CD was produced directly from Jimi’s notes is a half-truth at best. No one could have possibly known Jimi’s plans, especially considering Jimi’s distinct style. He knew of a broad range of music, and so tracks may have been altered to give some a bluesy feel, or a jazzy feel.

Despite this, “First Rays of The New Rising Sun,” is still an incredible album, and still worth picking up if you are an intense Jimi-phile like me. Although some tracks weren’t mixed by Hendrix himself, and at least two tracks weren’t the masters that Jimi had been working at, they still provide fantastic insight into one of the most creative minds of the twentieth century. Intensely beautiful tracks like “Belly Button Window,” “Angel” and “Drifting” are separated by heavy rockers like “Ezy Rider” and mild blues/rock tracks like “Dolly Dagger,” and “Izabella.” Throughout, the album retains a sense of “togetherness,” with a feel that most of the songs fit where they are on the CD. It definitely is an intense listening experience, one that cannot totally be felt by just casual listening while performing other tasks. No, instead, invest in a good pair of headphones, turn out the lights and lay still as you take everything in…

While not being perfect, “First Rays” is probably the best of the posthumous Jimi releases, and definitely worth the time and money it may cost you. Even the liner notes are fantastic, including many rare photos, and almost 25 pages of fantastic track descriptions and essays.

If you fancy yourself a Jimi fan, than this record is for you. If you respect Jimi’s work, than this is for you. Get it, it’s probably one of my top 15 favourite CDs…

*(one warning though): If you have a multi-speaker surround sound system, then you might want to invest in a smaller unit. The mixes are sometimes fuzzy or tinny, and sometimes only are audible from a single speaker. Other than that, I don’t have any real complaints.

Review I think it’s important to understand that this is the closest thing to what Jimi had intended to release in 1971 as the follow-up to the seminal Electric Ladyland album of 1968…

Having said that I have to say that I think this is the most impressive material of his career. These are the tightest batch of songs he recorded in that none of them are too long and all have tremendous hooks and content. The performances here are considerably better than past recordings due in part to the fact these are musicians who have played and toured together for successive years and are literally at the top of their game. And it shows!!!

Hendrix’s vocals are more controlled and less gimmicky and he displays a lot more vocal range in general than before. His guitar parts are more structured and intricate. His solos less sloppy and more developed. His overall aura more tightly defined. And let’s face it. Noel Redding wasn’t the most impressive bass player (he was actually a guitar player by trade) and hearing Billy Cox on bass here makes you realize that Hendrix’s material is far more fluid and soulful w/ him in the mix.

Also, the production quality of the overall sound is better than his previous efforts. So much of it was recorded at his newly built Electric Lady Studios the Summer of 1970 and the fact that they were able to utilize the most state-of-the-art and up to date recording equipment is obvious when you hear the results.

It may be silly to say since Jimi Hendrix has become a bigger rock star since his death, but had he lived and kicked-off the decade w/ this release he would have owned the 70’s. Zeppelin? Sure they were huge then but he would have been THE rock star defining the decade, I’m sure of it.

Just have a listen to “Freedom” w/ it’s locked-in beat, searing, white hot guitar licks, and Jimi’s soulful vocal delivery. THAT is rock n’ roll. “Izabella” continues right where “Freedom” leaves off and that’s a good thing because “Freedom” seems way too short. “Dolly Dagger” and “Ezy Rider” are just pure ear candy. “Stepping Stone” has some of the hottest guitar licks ever recorded. Period. Just listen to the outro solo. “My Friend” is a pleasant surprise w/ it’s Dylan-esque vocals and overall vibe. “In From The Storm” slams you over the head from the first notes of the guitar riff w/ it’s dramatic hard rock delivery. The CD ends w/ the mellow blues of “Belly Button Window” and it’s incredibly creative and sensitive lyrics from the perspective of drummer Mitch Mitchell’s then unborn child.

I realize this was originally compiled and released in CD form back in 1997, but this is the first I’m hearing it and I have to say I’m completely blown away….

April 29, 2013 Posted by | Jimi Hendrix First Rays Of The New Rising Sun | | Leave a comment