Hendrix In The West (Legacy Edition) by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

August 27, 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.

The Wind Cries Mary 45 by Jimi Hendrix

March 30, 2011

“The Wind Cries Mary” was the third single issued by Jimi Hendrix in The United States. It was issued May 5, 1967, and failed to chart.

It was one of my favorite tracks from his legendary ARE YOU EXPERIENCED album.

It may not have received any chart action as a single, but ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE ranked it as one of the 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time. Fair Enough!

All Along The Watchtower 45 by Jimi Hendrix

March 6, 2011

Very few people have taken a classic Bob Dylan composition and made it better. Today when a person thinks of “ALL Along The Watchtower,” it is Jimi Hendrix who comes to mind, rather than Bob Dylan.

“All Along The Watchtower” is rarely thought of as a single, but it proved to be the highest charting one of his career. Released September 21, 1968, it rose to number 20.

The vocal and the guitar work are some of the best of his career. The passion of the performance is overwhelming.

Hendrix’ short career would produce many memorable performances but this one was above the rest.

Valleys Of Neptune by Jimi Hendrix

March 13, 2010

Considering that Jimi Hendrix only released three studio albums during his lifetime, its amazing how much material has been unearthed during the forty years since his death. Valleys Of Neptune is the eleventh album of new studio material to be released posthumously.

The Legacy Label and the Hendrix Estate has embarked upon what they are calling The Jimi Hendrix Catalog Project. 2010 finds his three lifetime studio albums being reissued as deluxe CD/DVD editions, plus his greatest hits album Smash Hits is being remastered. The gem of this first wave of releases is Valleys Of Neptune which contains seven previously unreleased studio tracks and five more new recordings of some well known songs.

The material was recorded in 1969 after the release of Electric Ladyland using a variety of back-up musicians. While the album may not have a musical cohesiveness, the individual tracks are universally excellent.

The album contains only two cover songs, but both are brilliant. The old Elmore James tune, “Bleeding Heart,” was originally released on 1972’s War Heroes, but here it returns in an extended version at about twice the length. Hendrix remains true to its original style and treats it as a slow blues tune. He gives an incendiary performance on Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love.” There is no vocal, just Hendrix laying down the guitar licks which was his genius. He takes off from the original structure several times, but always brings the sound back home.

The title track is one of the legendary missing Hendrix songs. He would keep going back to the song but it would undergo a number of changes as he fiddled with it for about a year. Long time drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Billy Cox join him for this sophisticated and smooth flowing song.

“Stone Free” was first introduced to the world as the flip side of the single “Hey Joe.” This version was recorded during April and May of 1969 and again includes Mitchell and Cox. The sound is much better than its first incarnation. It is the albums lead track and Hendrix’ clear guitar style is immediately recognizable.

Whether its old friends such as “Fire” and “Red House,” or new delights such as “Ships Passing Through The Night,” “Lullaby For The Summer,” or “Crying Blue Rain,” they all present Jimi Hendrix at the top of his game in the studio.Valleys Of Neptune is a worthy addition to the Hendrix catalog and is essential for any collector of his music.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Box Set)

March 23, 2009

The Jimi Hendrix Experience box set is not for the faint of heart. This four CD box set of unreleased tracks, alternate versions of well known songs, and rare concert footage is a cornerstone of any Hendrix collection. This box set is no place to start if you are not familiar with Hendrix. I would recommend his first three studio albums for any type of Hendrix indoctrination. This set, however, is a good place to complete your collection or at least to explore his legacy a little deeper.

Engineer Eddie Kramer was in charge of the project. He is a familiar figure as his posthumous Hendrix production credits go back to The Cry Of Love in 1971. The tracks sound terrific as he re-mastered the sound with modern equipment which gives the music a polished feel. He also presents the tracks in chronological order which is always welcome with projects this extensive.Disc one finds three unreleased tracks. “Title #3,” “Taking Care Of Business,” and “Here He Comes” may not be of the quality of Hendrix’ first album but they certainly present his musical vision circa 1967. The gems of this first disc are alternate versions of such classics as “Purple Haze,” “Foxey Lady,” and “Third Stone From The Sun” which give a glimpse into the creative mind of Jimi Hendrix.

Disc two presents some excellent live tracks. “Fire” is taken from a 1968 concert at Clark University in Massachusetts. It is a frenetic version that shows just how technically sound Hendrix was as a guitarist. “The Wind Cries Mary,” from a 1967 Paris concert, shows Hendrix’s softer side as he provides subtle and melodic improvisations. “Burning The Midnight Lamp” from September 5, 1967, is just Hendrix squeezing every possible sound from his guitar.

Disc three is dominated by alternate versions. It is nice to hear “Hear My Train A Comin’” as a formative track as it was a concert staple. “Spanish Castle” and “Room Full Of Mirrors” show subtle differences from the recognized versions. Live versions of “Little Wing” and “Voodoo Child” come complete with feedback and all sorts of distortion that only Hendrix could produce on stage.

Disc four is a feast of unreleased material. “Country Blues,” at over eight minutes, “Lover Man,” “Cherokee,” and “Slow Blues” all make their debuts. Hendrix’ early producer, Chas Chandler, did not approve of Alan Douglas’ changing Hendrix’s material and even taking writing credits during the twenty years that he controlled Hendrix’s catalogue of music. When Jimi’s family won back control in a court battle, Chandler turned over a treasure trove of unreleased material to them. “In From The Storm” and “Slow Blues” close out the set as they were recorded at the Isle Of Wight Music Festival, August 30, 1970, just prior to Hendrix’s death.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience Box Set is a valuable addition to the Hendrix legacy. Not only does it expand the music that Hendrix left behind but it also solidifies him as a genius of the guitar who forever changed the use of that instrument and rock music.

Live At Monterey by Jimi Hendrix

March 23, 2009

Live At Monterey is a CD issued last year that presents Jimi Hendrix’ complete concert at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Hendrix was a star in England, but was an unknown artist in the United States. The audience at his performance had no idea that they were in for a music changing event as Hendrix, in about 43 minutes, changed the face of rock ‘n’ roll in the United States.

The music contained on this CD had been presented a number of times. There have been two different CD releases of which I am aware. Also some of the music appeared on the Monterey Pop Festival’s 30th anniversary box set. The quality of the sound has always been an issue.

While this CD purports to have cleaned it up and re-mastered it as much as possible; it just comes back to the issue that the recording equipment in use was not up to even 1967 standards. What this CD does have in its favor is that it retained all of Hendrix’s patter and conversation.

Hendrix kicks off his performance with “Killing Floor.” Mitch Mitchell’s drumming is always an interesting part of any Hendrix live show. Here he plays alongside Hendrix rather than playing behind him. He was an important and constant part of Hendrix’ sound as he provided the filler in Hendrix’ power trio format.

“Foxey Lady” is the familiar Hendrix. Psychedelic rock meets rock ‘n’ roll meets rhythm & blues, all propelled by his guitar wizardry. “Like A Rolling Stone” is a straight forward presentation of this Dylan classic. Hendrix is loyal to the structure and melody while providing appropriate guitar improvisations.

“Rock Me Baby” just rolls over the listener in waves. Hendrix is in straight rock mode here with some odd tuning of his guitar to provide a unique sound. “The Wind Cries Mary” is one of my favorite Hendrix tunes be it live or in the studio. The laid back but creative guitar playing is always a welcome relief in the frenetic Hendrix universe. “Purple Haze” is a live signature song by Hendrix and the use of distortion and feedback while maintaining the songs structure is always unique. Hendrix ends the concert with his memorable rendition of “Wild Thing” in which he burns his guitar at the end.

Live At Monterey and the live Band Of Gypsys albums are probably the two essential live albums by Jimi Hendrix. Live At Monterey also has a historic significance as it was his coming out party. As such, it should be a part of any Jimi Hendrix collection.

Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning by Jimi Hendrix

March 22, 2009

1975 saw the release of two more Jimi Hendrix studio albums. I remember being excited about the prospect of more Hendrix in the studio. I had assumed the supply of unreleased studio tracks had been exhausted. While Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning may not have been as strong as previous posthumous releases; there were still some interesting and quality tracks. Those were my thoughts before I realized just how the two albums had actually been put together.

This brings us to the controversial figure; producer Alan Douglas. He would somehow acquire control of the Jimi Hendrix catalogue and hold on to it for nearly twenty years; until Hendrix’s family would win control back after an extended court battle. Douglas would take un-issued tracks by Hendrix and erase everything except for Jimi’s contributions. He would then bring in studio musicians and create songs more in tune with his own vision.

Crash Landing was released in March of 1975 and was the first of the Alan Douglas productions. What would further anger a lot of Hendrix fans was Douglas taking a co-writing credit on five of the songs. The album would become a top five hit and make Douglas a rich man.

It is difficult at times to understand Jimi Hendrix’ original intent for these songs. I find it best to approach and appreciate them as they are presented. “Captain Coconut” is a classic Hendrix psychedelic tune. “Come Down Hard On Me” is almost straight blues and features him at his guitar best. “Message Of Love” and “Stone Free Again” may not be classics but they certainly feature some high points for him.

Midnight Lightning would be nowhere near as popular as Crash Landing. Douglas did not take any writing credits but again would erase all the contributions by Noel Redding, Billy Cox, Buddy Miles, and Mitch Mitchell. He even used this approach on the Noel Redding composition, “Trashman.”Midnight Lightning may be the weakest of the Hendrix studio releases. “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Here My Train A Comin’” pale next to the previously released live versions. “Midnight Lightning” does have some nice Hendrix guitar work but “Gypsy Boy,” “Once I Had A Woman,” and “Iszabella/Machine Gun” are only average at best and suffer from Douglas’ tinkering.

Many of the songs contained on Midnight Lightning and Crash Landing were re-released after 1995 and restored to their original intent as much as possible. These two albums are for the Hendrix aficionado only as they are interesting but ultimately are two of the weakest in the Hendrix inventory.