Here My Train A Comin’ (DVD) by Jimi Hendrix

December 7, 2013

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During the past several years, Jimi Hendrix material has been flying out of the vaults. Hear My Train A Comin’ is the third Hendrix release that I have reviewed this year.

This film, originally a part of the PBS American Masters Series, is an excellent two-hour documentary of his life. There are home movies by drummer Mitch Mitchell, plus commentary by the likes of Paul McCartney, Billy Cox, Noel Redding, Dave Mason, Mitch Mitchell, Billy Gibbons, and more. Several of the participants have passed away, so this will be their final comments on the person and career of Jimi Hendrix.

The film follows him from his time in the U.S, Military, to his stints as an unknown sideman for Little Richard, Joey Dee, and the Isley Brothers, to the women in his life, and finally his life as a guitar superstar. Directed by Bob Smeaton, (The Beatles Anthology, Hendrix 70: Live At Woodstock), and mixed by former Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer, the picture has a nice clarity with full 1080 high definition and the audio track features a 5.1 stereo sound.

The issue is, no matter how interesting this documentary may be, how many times will a person watch it? That is where the bonus tracks come in. Included are three previously unreleased color performances from different festivals, plus a March 30, 1967, performance of “Purple Haze” on the Top Of The Pops television program.

The best and most interesting of the bonus tracks are from his September 6, 1970, performance at the Love and Peace Festival on the Isle Of Fehmarn, Germany. “Killing Floor,” “Spanish Castle Magic,” “All Along The Watchtower,” and “Foxy Lady” may not have the picture quality of the rest of the material but they were the last performance of the Jimi Hendrix Experience as 12 days later he was dead.

Also included are three performances from the 1968 Miami Pop Festival and five from a July, 1970, appearance at the New York Pop Festival. There is nothing earth shattering but they help fill in the Jimmy Hendrix catalogue of performances.

Here My Train A Comin’ is a DVD with two distinct parts that fit together well as after watching the documentary, you are ready to actually see him play.  An excellent release for any fan of Hendrix.


Miami Pop Festival by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

October 24, 2013

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There seems to be a lot of Jimi Hendrix concert material in the vaults as it has been released on a regular basis during the past 12 months, starting with a celebration of what would have been his 70th birthday, November 27, 2012, and continuing to the present day.

The question is; does the world need another Hendrix concert release? While Hendrix would constantly change his songs through improvisation, the same songs are repeated on many of the releases. On the positive side, Hendrix was one of the seminal musicians in rock history and any new material is always welcome.

Miami Pop Festival is the first-time release of one of his more memorable concerts. It includes the first recorded stage performances of “Here My Train A Comin’” and “Tax Free.”

The Miami Pop Festival was the first major rock festival on the east coast. It took place in May of 1968 and one of the promoters was Michael Lang, who would become one of the organizers of Woodstock. Hendrix was a superstar and the concert headliner when he took the stage at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida.

He played two sets at the festival and one complete show is presented. It enables the listener to appreciate a full concert by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. There are also two bonus tracks taken from the afternoon show.

The set list is familiar to his fans. There is the rock of “Fire” and “Foxey Lady,” the electric blues of “Red House,” a laid-back version of “Hey Joe,” and the pyrotechnic performance of the concert ending “Purple Haze.”

The sound is better than expected given the technology of the day.  The selection of archival photos is a worth-while addition to the Hendrix legacy.

Miami Pop Festival catches Hendrix just after the release of Axis: Bold As Love. It may not reveal anything earth-shaking about him but it is a fine presentation of his sound and skills.


People, Hell and Angels by Jimi Hendrix

February 26, 2013

More Jimi Hendrix from the vault will be released March 5, 2013. People, Hell and Angels gathers a dozen previously unreleased performances that focus on his work outside of the Experience. Sidemen Buddy Miles, Billy Cox, Stephen Stills, Lonnie Youngblood, Larry Lee, and a host of others (including Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell) all lend a hand on this disparate group of material.

While many of these tracks were never meant for public release, they feature some fine guitar play as they find Hendrix experimenting with new styles and sounds. Some tracks are stripped to basics but others add a second guitarist and other instruments to give them a fuller sound.

During December of 1969, Hendrix, bassist Billy Cox, and drummer Buddy Miles returned to the studio to record four tracks. One of the songs was “Earth Blues,” which was released on the Rainbow Bridge album after his death. It featured backing vocals by the Ronettes, guitar overdubbing, and Mitch Mitchell re-recording the drum parts. The song returns as a raw funky version featuring only the three primary musicians.

“Somewhere” is another song that has been released in a number of forms, all of which underwent studio tinkering after Hendrix’s death. This is a very precise rendition powered by Stephen Stills’ bass playing, which forms an underpinning for Hendrix’s wah-wah guitar sound.

Hendrix always had an affinity for the blues. He takes the old Elmore James tune “Bleeding Heart” and changes the tempo. It is Hendrix at his guitar best with only a basic rhythm section in support.

An interesting track is the nearly seven-minute “Let Me Move You,” recorded during March of 1969. During the mid-1960s Hendrix had been a session musician for Lonnie Youngblood and now the roles were reversed. Youngblood provided the vocal and his sax runs are the perfect foil for Hendrix and his guitar. The track also was one of the first times Hendrix used a 16-track recording process.

“Crash Landing” is another track that has undergone a number of transitions, the most famous being on the posthumous 1975 album that bears its name. That version featured overdubbing by studio musicians. This track has now been taken from the original master with drummer Rocky Isaac, bassist Billy Cox, and unfortunately an organist whose name has been lost to history. It has a stark and simpler feel from the versions that have preceded it.

Albert and Arthur Allen were friends with Hendrix and members of first The International G.T.O.’s and then the Ghetto Fighters. Hendrix invited them to sing background on “Freedom” and “Dolly Dagger.” They brought a third song with them, “Mojo Man.” Albert Allen provided the vocal and Hendrix both guitar parts, which were spliced together by his long time engineer Eddie Kramer.

People, Hell and Angels may not be a cohesive album but it provides insight into the mind of Jimi Hendrix as his time with The Experience came to an end. The liner notes give an excellent overview of each track


Live At Berkeley by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

July 11, 2012

Jimi Hendrix kept an odd schedule during the first part of 1970. He would spend weekdays in the recording studio and his weekends in concert with the Experience, which at the time consisted of bassist Billy Cox and drummer Mitch Mitchell. The only problem with this approach was the income stream had dried up a bit, and so it was decided to record a documentary film.

It was decided to record his two concerts at the Berkeley Community Theatre, Saturday, May 30, 1970, as the basis for the film. Experience Hendrix L.L. C. and Legacy Recordings are releasing a restored and expanded version of Jimi Plays Berkeley on both Blu-ray and DVD, July 10.

The company has gone the second mile with the resurrection of the concert. The entire second show, and the subject of this review, is being rereleased on CD. This concert by Hendrix is presented in its entirety and original sequencing. Since it is one complete concert, it gives an excellent picture into the live experience of Hendrix near the end of his life. There is a lot of Hendrix concert material out there, but this release moves to the forefront of what has been available and should please any fan.

The CD really communicates a concert experience. The show began with what Hendrix called an instrumental jam to make sure everything was in tune. “Pass It One” was a seven minute introduction to the evening’s music. This was a song in its early stages and would eventually evolve into “Straight Ahead.”

The material is a little different than the usual Hendrix concert fare as the famous was combined with some deeper catalogue songs. A laid back “Stone Free” and a slow and bluesy rendition of “Hey Joe” found Hendrix on familiar ground. The show piece was “Foxey Lady,” where played his guitar with his teeth and ground the strings against the microphone. By this time “The Star Spangled Banner” had become a regular part of his live show, which was always a showcase for his guitar virtuosity. A rollicking version of “Purple Haze” set up the concert closing “Voodoo Child,” which at over ten minutes was a virtual microcosm of Hendrix on stage.

“I Don’t Live Today” was a good example of Cox’s influence upon Hendrix and his music. He was a steady bassist and that fact allowed Hendrix to take off on his improvisations without worrying about a lack of foundational sound. “Machine Gun” contained one of those guitar solos that just need to be savored. “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)” and “Lover Man” are both welcome additions to the live Hendrix experience and helped to bridge the gaps between the oft played material.

Had he lived, he would have turned 70 this year. While his material will no doubt continue to emerge and be rereleased, the Live At Berkeley CD is a fine addition the Hendrix legacy and is a worthwhile purchase for any Hendrix aficionado.

Article first published as Music Review: The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Live At Berkeley on Blogcritics.


Crosstown Traffic 45 by the Jimi Hendrix Experience

December 7, 2011

Jimi Hendrix will never be associated with top 40 radio. He had seven singles reach the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart but only one made the top forty. “All Along The Watchtower” made it to number 20.

“Crosstown Traffic” was released as a single November 10, 1968. It was not he usual AM radio fare of the late 1960s. Hendrix takes off on his guitar and the result is pure late 60s psychedelic rock.

The release managed to climb to number 52 on the singles charts. It may not have been a successful single but it was a great performance.


Winterland (Highlights) by Jimi Hendrix

October 1, 2011

On Thursday, October 10, 1968, Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell, and Noel Redding walked on stage for the first of six shows in three days at the legendary Winterland concert hall in San Francisco. The Jimi Hendrix Experience would rotate 18 different songs over the course of the six shows. The tape machines were rolling and all six performances were recorded for posterity.

Experience Hendrix LLC and Legacy Recordings have been reissuing the Hendrix catalogue. Four new titles were released September 13. Hendrix In The West, Jimi Hendrix: The Dick Cavett Show, Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix Live At The Isle Of Wight, and Winterland have all been reissued.

Winterland comes in a variety of forms. There is the deluxe four-disc box set for the Hendrix fan who wants everything. There is the eight-disc, 12 inch, 180 gram audio LP box set for Hendrix purists. Then there is the subject of this review, Winterland (Highlights), for the person who only wants a taste of the concerts without straining the budget.

Yes the four CD box set is a superior release due to the quantity of the tracks. Various versions of many of the songs allow the listener to hear the differences and nuances that Hendrix would bring to his performances. The one disc highlight set is more controlled and less complicated as the 11 tracks present Hendrix at his live best with just one performance of each song. He was just shy of his 26th birthday and was on the verge of super stardom. He had honed his concert skills by endless touring and the included tracks find his stage act mature and well developed.

The single disc contains a generous dose of Hendrix as he combines some of his classic songs with covers of other artist’s material.

“Fire” and “Foxy Lady” begin the disc in a rocking way and set the tempo for what will follow. “Are You Experienced” and “Purple Haze” both show the tightness of the three musicians. Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” at 11 minutes and “Here My Train A Comin’” at 12 minutes, give Hendrix the room to stretch out and improvise. A controlled “Little Wing” and an almost out of control “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” were concert staples for most of his career.

The most interesting track was Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love.” It’s interesting to compare the guitar solos of Hendrix and Clapton as they were very different in approach and style.

Winterland (Highlights) is an excellent overview of his six shows at the old ballroom and as it captures him at a transition point in his career. It is an economical alternative to the larger and more expensive sets.

Article first published as Music Review: The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Winterland (Highlights) on Blogcritics.


Winterland (CD Box Set) by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

September 17, 2011

The Jimi Hendrix Family and Trust (Experience Hendrix LLC), in conjunction with Legacy Recordings, has been reissuing the Jimi Hendrix catalogue. They will drop a big one on September 13th, when the four-disc box set The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Winterland will be released. For purists, it is also available as an eight-disc, 180 gram vinyl audiophile LP deluxe box set. If you just want a taste, there will be a single highlight disc as well.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience pulled into San Francisco for six shows at the historic Winterland Ballroom, October 10-12, 1968. This latest box set finds the Experience at the height of their performing powers. Each of the first three discs in the set are devoted to one days music, covering two shows. Yes, there is a repetition of material, but there are some differences as well. Disc one contains a cover of Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love,” which is replaced on the second disc by Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.” Disc three contains both songs in the set. “Killing Floor,” “Are You Experienced,” and “Wild Thing” only appear on one disc apiece.

On the other hand, staples such as “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe,” “Lover Man” and “Fire” appear on all three discs, but given the improvisational nature of Jimi Hendrix’s live performances, there are always differences and it’s interesting to compare.

The fourth disc contains performances from all three days that were not previously contained on the first three discs. It is an odd approach, and while the music is always welcome, it is the least satisfying of the four discs. It does not have the flow of a real concert experience, but rather is a series of live tracks bundled together. The highlight of the disc was an interview with Hendrix backstage at the Boston garden a couple of weeks before the Winterland concerts.

The deluxe edition comes with a 36 page book, which contains a number of unpublished photographs by Robert Knight, Allan Tannenbaum, and Jim Marshall. It also contains an essay by journalist David Fricke of Rolling Stone Magazine.

The music has been remastered and the quality is much better than I remember when some of the material was previously released. The guitar sound has a better clarity as each individual note can be heard in detail. While the instrumental focus is still on Hendrix’s guitar, the volume of Mitch Mitchell’s drumming and Noel Redding’s bass work has been enhanced and is not lost in the mix. This is most important for Mitchell as his interplay with Hendrix was always an important component of the overall sound.

Many of the songs can be considered highlights. Hendrix’s take on “Sunshine Of You Love” is interesting to compare with Clapton’s. He twists Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” in just about every way possible. “Foxey Lady” is an example of his guitar phrasing. “Wild Thing,” “Manic Depression,” and “Are You Experienced” contain hidden guitar lines that are seeing the light of day for the first time in years.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Winterland contains a lot of music. Hendix has been gone for over 40 years now, and it is a tribute to his genius that his music and guitar playing has withstood the test of time so well. This is an essential release for anyone even remotely interested in Hendrix’s music.