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

December 7, 2013



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.

The Street Giveth…..And The Street Taketh Away by Cat Mother And The All Night News Boys

April 8, 2013

The debut album by Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys is a forgotten gem of the late 1960s. Despite moderate commercial success, a hit single, and some fine music, the release is usually only remembered for the fact that Jimi Hendrix co-produced the album. I can’t think of another non-original album that Hendrix produced, but in any case it was rare for him to assume that role.

Roy Michaels (bass, guitar) began his career during 1964 as a member of The Au Go Go Singers with Stephen Stills and Richie Furay. When his bandmates moved on to the Buffalo Springfield, he formed a trio with Bob Smith (keyboards) and Michael Equine (drums and guitar). During 1967, Larry Packer (lead guitar) and Charlie Chin (rhythm guitar, banjo) joined the group and Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys was born.

During 1967 they were noticed by Hendrix and his manager, Michael Jeffrey, who invited the band to open for The Experience on a number of occasions and signed them to a recording contract. When they entered the studio, Hendrix went with them as their producer.

Oddly their hit single is the only non-original track and is very different from the rest of the material. “Good Old Rock ‘n’ Roll” is a medley of “Sweet Little Sixteen/Long Tall Sally/Chantilly Lace/Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On/Blue Suede Shoes/Party Doll.” It is simple, energetic, straightforward, likeable rock and roll and a fine introduction to the band and their music as the album’s first track.

The individual tracks are well-crafted, many are catchy, and the band members were excellent instrumentalists and vocalists. The weakness of the album is the eclectic nature of the music, as the songs don’t really fit together, which gives the album a disjointed feel.

“Can You Dance to It” has a smooth pop feel to it. The nine-minute “Track In A (Nebraska Nights)” is an extended jam that shows just how adept the band members were as musicians, especially lead guitarist Packer. On the other hand, “Favors” and “Charlie’s Waltz” have a spacey psychedelic rock flavor with some predominant keyboards, a style that sounds dated today.

The Street Giveth…and the Street Taketh Away was a unique stop for the band as they would move to California and explore a country rock fusion sound on their next three albums before disbanding in 1977.

Today the band may be a nostalgic after thought but their debut album is well worth exploring. It may be tied to its era but it is still nice to have it back in circulation.

Article first published as Music Review: Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys – The Street Giveth…and the Street Taketh Away on Blogcritics.

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

Good Old Rock N Roll by Cat Mother And The All Night News Boys

January 7, 2013

Cat Mother

Cat Mother And The All Night News Boys were a rock band from New York consisting of guitarist Larry Packer, pianist Bob Smith, banjo player Charley Chin, bassist Roy Michaels, and drummer Michael Equine. All of the band members were vocalists. They are best remembered for Jimi Hendrix having been their producer.

Their only hit was “Good Old Rock N Roll” which peaked at number 21 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart during the summer of 1969. The song was actually a medley of “Sweet Little Sixteen, Long Tall Sally, Chantilly Lace, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Blue Suede Shoes, and Party Doll.”

While “Good Old Rock N Roll” may be a somewhat forgotten song today, it was a fine piece of rock music. Their album is also worth seeking out. Unfortunately they were one hit wonders and never had another single reach the charts.

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.

Hendrix In The West (Legacy Edition) by Jimi Hendrix

September 17, 2011

Calling all Jimi Hendrix fans! The Jimi Hendrix family (Experience Hendrix LLC), in conjunction with Legacy Recordings, has been resurrecting and reissuing the Jimi Hendrix catalogue. This latest wave of reissues consists of four new releases: Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix Live At The Isle Of Wright on DVD, Jimi Hendrix Experience – Winterland (4 CD set), Jimi Hendrix: The Dick Cavett Show DVD, and Hendrix In The West (Expanded).

When Hendrix In The West was originally released during early 1972, it was less than 18 months after his death, and any new Hendrix material was a big deal at the time as it was unknown how much was actually out there. It proved to be his most popular and highest charting live album.

The release has now returned in an expanded and cleaned-up form. The biggest difference in sound is the quality of his guitar. The notes and tone is now crystal-clear and given the technology of the recordings at the time, this may be about as good as these recording are going to get. All in all, it’s worth the price of the purchase just for the improved sound.

The album is a collection of live tracks culled from a number of performances. Therefore, it is not a complete concert experience but, rather, Hendrix live in short bursts. All tracks were with his basic trio. The drummer is Mitch Mitchell, while Noel Redding and Billy Cox both apprear on bass.

The new tracks, “I Don’t Live Today,” “Spanish Magic Castle,” and “Fire,” have all appeared in many forms and on multiple releases down through the years, but these versions are welcome as Hendrix was a consummate improvisational artist and his songs are rarely similar when performed live. The placement of the tracks make more sense on this reissue, fitting together and flowing into one another better.

“The Queen” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” now lead off the album and are a good introduction even though they appear to be truncated versions.

The best track is the old rocks ‘n’ roll classic “Johnny B Goode.” His high octane performance bends and stretches the songs original structure without breaking it. It’s fun to compare it with his funky interpretation of “Blue Suede Shoes.”

“Fire” and “I Don’t Live Today” are presented back to back and prove just how important Mitch Mitchell was to Hendrix’s sound. “Fire” is at its usual frenetic best. “I Don’t Live Today” contains all the elements of a Hendrix psychedelic classic. The feedback, the insertion of notes from “The Star Spangled Banner” and some great improvisational riffs all add up to a superior performance.

The perennial live favorite “Red House” benefited greatly from the remastering. It is a slow blues tune and each note is crystal clear, with his finger speed on full display. “Little Wing” has also been enhanced and is a good example of his ability to bend the strings to create his unique sound.

“Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” concludes the album and contains the line “If I don’t see you no more in this world.”

Hendrix In The West has been out of print for decades so it’s nice to have it back in circulation, especially in an expanded and remastered form. It should please Hendrix’s large fan base, and if you have never owned the album, then this reissue becomes essential.