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"I wanna show you different emotions - I wanna run to the sounds and motions"

Class B

Main Category: Guitar Heroes
Also applicable: Psychedelia, Hard Rock, Rhythm & Blues
Starting Period: The Psychedelic Years
Also active in: The Artsy/Rootsy Years




Disclaimer: this page is not written by from the point of view of a Jimi Hendrix fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Jimi Hendrix fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.

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I s'pose you already know everything about the guy, so why should I write anything at all in this stupid introductory passage devised specially with the one and only purpose - to present my long-winded and totally incomprehensible personal considerations to people who certainly have got a lot of their own personal considerations and don't need mine any more than anybody else's. Okay, now that I've gotten that off my chest, I'll still go ahead and repeat the same mistake. There is one particular thing about Jimi Hendrix that strikes me most of all whenever I listen to a recording of his or, more obviously, when I watch him on video. I'm totally amazed at the way he practically 'straddles' his guitar. Most great (and not great) guitarists treat the guitar as a musical instrument. Some, like Pete Townshend, treat it like a sonic tool. Jimi Hendrix treated his guitar like an inseparable part of his body. Every lick he produces, every chord he squeezes out of it seems so natural, so homely, so fluent, that I'm really left wondering whether he was born with a guitar in his hand. This way of playing produces mixed results for me, of course, because from time to time I really get annoyed with that raw, almost sloppy sound, as compared to the sharp, crystal clear chords of Clapton or almost mathematically precise distortion effects of Townshend. But I guess we just have to get over ourselves and force our poor souls to appreciate that sound.

Needless to say, he was the best guitar player of his epoch and probably could be dubbed 'best guitar player on Earth'. I wouldn't say that, though, because, like I said, he didn't really play it - at least, he played it in a way that no single person on Earth ever did before or after. This means that, when it comes to discussing best guitarists, I usually put Mr Hendrix aside, just because it's useless and impossible to compare him with anybody else at all. He plays stuff that no other guitarists play and other guitarists mainly play stuff that he doesn't play. He's just a unique and totally separate phenomenon. You might hate him or you might love him, but if you try to deny that this was the real thing - well, then I guess you can't understand what the essence of rock music is all about.

So when it comes to choosing my favourite guitar player, I usually say 'Eric Clapton', but believe me, this isn't really to do Jimi an injustice. When asked what was my favourite Italian city I've seen, I say 'possibly Florence, but I'm putting Venice aside, as this city is in a class of its own and impossible to be compared with the others simply because it has a completely different basis'. Same thing with Jimi - I can only discuss him separately.

That said, I'll also have to state that, talented as he was as a player, he was a next-to-none songwriter - and that's a real tragedy. I must say I'm really amazed at how few songs in Jimi's entire catalog (and it's actually rather large, if we consider all the posthumously released stuff) can really qualify on the same level with the ones written by the major songwriters of the decade. 'Purple Haze', 'Little Wing', 'The Wind Cries Mary', 'Voodoo Chile' (which, by the way, just has a cool riff, but essentially it's a generic blues), maybe a couple more, and that's about it. Everything else that he's written - well, we love it still, sure as hell, but we love it mainly because of the atmosphere and that incredible guitar playing, according to the formula 'the more he pounds on that dingus, the better it gets'. I could count all the great melodies actually written by Jimi on my ol' trusty ten fingers, and I'm serious about that. Maybe it would have been better for him to get together with a band (I mean, a real band, not a backing band like the Experience), where prolific songwriters would deliver the material and Jimi would carve his soul into it. By the way, did you know that there was a project of Hendrix joining forces with ELP in 1970? It seems that only his death prevented him from doing so. Imagine what could have been the effect!

Then again, this would probably overshadow his talent. Maybe it's best to leave Jimi as he was and not ponder about his fate. Even with his small songwriting skills, he could muster enough forces to produce a couple fantastic records and leave behind a huge legacy (I really don't know how many posthumous Hendrix releases there are in the world, but there should be at least a hundred. Maybe more). And I honour the guy by gladly presenting him with a 4-star rating because he truly was one of the greatest rock symbols of the Sixties. But mostly just because there hasn't been (and there probably won't be) another Hendrix. John Lennon had Paul McCartney as a counterpart. Eric Clapton had Jeff Beck. They were all great, but they were all within the limits of comprehensibility. Jimi Hendrix hardly belongs to this planet of ours. I wonder, does 'Third Stone From The Sun' give us any hint about his origins?

Lineup of The Jimi Hendrix Experience (okay, let us be honest and not forget these dudes made some fine contribution to the music, too): Jimi Hendrix, of course, on guitar and vocals; Noel Redding on bass; and Mitch Mitchell on drums. You should remember these guys, not only because they formed the first interracial band, of course, but also because Mitch Mitchell is an outstanding drummer in his own rights - fed up on the Keith Moon/Ginger Baker tradition, but somewhat more restrained and (probably, as a result) sometimes more inventive.



Year Of Release: 1967
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 14

Amazing guitar tone, great hard-rockin' songs. The first ever Hard Rock Album, in fact!

Best song: PURPLE HAZE

Track listing: 1) Hey Joe; 2) Stone Free; 3) Purple Haze; 4) 51st Anniversary; 5) The Wind Cries Mary; 6) Highway Chile; 7) Foxy Lady; 8) Manic Depression; 9) Red House; 10) Can You See Me; 11) Love Or Confusion; 12) I Don't Live Today; 13) May This Be Love; 14) Fire; 15) Third Stone From The Sun; 16) Remember; 17) Are You Experienced?.

The best thing about this album is that my version starts with six bonus tracks - Jimi's first three singles that didn't make it onto the LP first time around. Except for the rather stupid B-side '51st Anniversary', the other five songs are actually better than most of the stuff on the LP itself. And this, considering that the stuff on the LP is shattering, is fun! The three A-sides on here - 'Hey Joe', 'Purple Haze', and 'The Wind Cries Mary' - could probably serve as a mini-Hendrix anthology. 'Hey Joe', his first recorded tune and first significant hit, is yet somewhat insecure and wary. He rarely lets go, except for the short, economic solo, and mostly sticks to displaying the thing that's most essential to Hendrix music - his riffing techniques. The melody is jagged, twisted, rough, dirty and exciting, and the group's harmonies and Mitchell's mad drumming make the song an unbelievable 'experience'. However, this is just the beginning. 'Purple Haze', on the other hand, has the quintessence of Hendrix's sound embedded into it: the menacing riff, the wild soloing, the psycho lyrics, the screams, the smoke, the everything. Let's face it, as much as the song can be overplayed on radio (I wouldn't know, though, never listening to radio), it's still a dang classic, and easily Jimi's best songwriting effort. Finally, 'The Wind Cries Mary' presents us Jimi the balladeer, Jimi the Dylan-imitator: this is certainly his best attempt at imitating Bob's lyrics, and the gentle melody is also sparse, economic and haunting. Even the other two B-sides are good: 'Stone Free' is the first example of the 'manic' Hendrix (it's more typical of his sound than 'Hey Joe', by the way), and 'Highway Chile' probably marks the beginnings of rap, doesn't it? I mean, whatever you might call Hendrix' music, it's black music rather than white music, and it shows: no British or American white boy band at the time could have thought of a melody as exciting as that of 'Highway Chile'. Mind you I can't stand rap music, but this probably derives from the fact that it's been overexploited and overabused during the past fifteen years. 'Highway Chile' is great, though!

Now if you axe me 'bout the LP itself, this is what I'm gonna tell you. It rules. It was a huge sensation back then, and it still continues to amaze me even now. These songs pound, smash, crack, whirl, cringe... they're totally unbelievable. This was the place on which Jimi's only purpose was to display all his talents as a guitar player. Later on, he would start becoming arty, long-winded and, in the long run, rather screwy. Here he just revels in his newly-found studio freedom. In fact, the only 'alien' vibe he'd incorporated at the time was psychedelia, in both its 'flower power' and 'astral' form; but this is just what was needed to give his playing a little, you know, 'serious' backing. If you don't get my meaning, lemme just give you one example: the half-instrumental 'Third Stone From The Sun' might be treated as just a bunch of cool noises and outstanding guitar picking, were it not belonging to 1967. As it was, it's a groovy cosmic fluke, dude! The main melody is among the best ever written by Jimi, and is nicely complemented by special effects-laiden, encoded vocals pronouncing all kinds of space incantations.

My favourite tunes on here are the ones built on solid,. memorable riffs (because, believe it or not, riffing, not soloing, is what Jimi does best), like the sexist stage favourite 'Foxy Lady', or another sexist stage favourite 'Fire'. These songs are all incredibly simple and, frankly, I don't think they were that hard to compose, yet nobody tried doing it before Jimi! Why? Was it bravery on Jimi's part? Who can tell? That opening riff on 'Fire': why wasn't it done earlier by, say, the Rolling Stones? Drop me a line if you know the reason... You also get a couple generic, but convincing, blues tunes, like the fascinating 'Red House', and some straightforward R'n'B, like the psycho-flavoured 'Can You See Me'. Apparently, this wasn't enough for Jimi who decided to pull all the stops. For that reason, he also included some total noisefests, like the raving, bashing and crashing, appropriately-titled 'Manic Depression', and the fading in and fading out of 'I Don't Live Today' (later reprised properly only by the Beatles in 'Helter Skelter'). Of course, as Jimi was never a perfect songwriter, the album also has its share of stinkers: as soon as he relinquishes his gimmickry to play some 'normal' tunes, they quickly become infatuatingly boring, like the silly nostalgic 'Remember'. I'm also not a big fan of the mellow ballad 'May This Be Love', although I've softened my attitude a little over time - the most redeeming moment on the entire track, though, is the charming little guitar 'bleep' before the beginning of each new verse. And the title track isn't that groovy as well, except for the cool backward drums; I know I may get flamed for this, but it's far too slow, monotonous and repetitive for me. Still much better than that crazy answer from Eric Burdon, 'Yes I'm Experienced', that he put on the Winds Of Change album. At least, 'Are You Experienced?' is notorious for its lyrics which could serve as a kind of introduction to the whole hippie movement ('have you ever been experienced? not necessarily stoned, but... beautiful').

All in all, this is the kind of album that has already evaded judgement. Like it or not, it's legendary, and rightly so. What would happen if I were to give it a lower rating? Nothing. Simply nothing.



Year Of Release: 1986
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 10

If you can draw the burning guitar in your imagination, get this at all costs.

Best song: ROCK ME BABY

Track listing: 1) Can You See Me; 2) Hey Joe; 3) Purple Haze; 4) The Wind Cries Mary; 5) Killing Floor; 6) Foxy Lady; 7) Like A Rolling Stone; 8) Rock Me Baby; 9) Wild Thing.

Certainly the most historically important Hendrix live performance, just because it really introduced him to vast American audiences in that crucial Summer of Love, 1967: actually, he impressed the audiences so much that the fat guys immediately signed him up as a warm-up act for... the Monkees. Heh, heh; poor Jimmy, he was always stuck in a somewhat unsuitable company. (His next States tour was with mister Humperdinck, if I'm not mistaken). To be serious, though, the concert simply made Jimi an overnite international star and basically changed the course of rock music: after the festival, hard electrifying rock really became a terrifying force to be reckoned with, and this is for the most part due to performances by the Who and Jimi.

However, if you take away historical importance (and you should: I'm not reviewing these albums as archive units of interest to rock music historians, dammit, I'm reviewing them as pieces of music for one's overall enjoyment, to be listened to today!), it's not that great. Jimi is in top form, of course: he really wanted to be in top form, and, seeing as he was following the Who, he needed to be in top form (there's a humorous little tidbit, in fact, about Jimi arguing with Townshend over who was gonna go first on stage, but I'm not gonna reproduce that bearded story right here). And the song selection is quite okay: all of his incredible early A-sides, some groovy material from Experienced and some immortal covers. But...

...believe it or not, I can't really imagine what these performances add to the original versions. In that respect, I'd much prefer listening to a late, half-improvised Hendrix jam session, or, better still, confine myself to his studio albums. See, while it might have originally been Pete Townshend's idea to bring the live sound of their concerts into the studio, he never quite succeeded at it: after the initial shy attempts of 'Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere', 'My Generation' and 'The Ox' he drifted off into 'artistic wasteland', and from then on the Who live and the Who in the studio became two different bands. Likewise were the Stones and Cream - two other essential live bands of the late Sixties. Jimi, on the other side, mastered the effort of going berserk in the studio completely - so much, in fact, that his terrifying, uncompromised guitar howls in the studio are often downright more exciting than the live ones. This means one thing: you don't really need any live Hendrix albums if you're not a complete fan. And Monterey is a clear proof. The early singles sound like carbon copies of the originals, and the Experienced numbers ('Can You See Me' and 'Foxy Lady'), although done with enough verve and fire, are still inferior. Yeah, it's interesting to see how Jimi plays all these things in a totally 'raw' manner, but problem is, his studio playing was quite 'raw', too; in any case, the band didn't really employ that much special tricks on their first album (full-blown experimentation wouldn't begin until Axis), and the tunes where they did employ special tricks, like 'Are You Experienced?', aren't performed here, although Jimi does insert the 'not necessarily stoned, but beautiful' motto into the spoken sections of 'Purple Haze'.

That leaves us with the four covers, and you might think they would at least be worth your money. Don't think that. Okay, the two R'n'B numbers - 'Killing Floor' and 'Rock Me Baby' - are totally shattering, mainly because they're faster than anything Jimi tried on his debut LP. They roar and tear, and you get to witness that Jimi was just as well a speed master as anything else. 'Rock Me Baby' is particularly good, with Jimi almost throttling his guitar through every verse. However, the seven-minute long cover of 'Like A Rolling Stone' is dull (it was Mark Prindle's remark that he says 'okay, now let me bore you for five or six minutes' and then proceeds to do so, and I agree completely): his first attempt at covering a Dylan tune makes it lose most of the charm that the song ever contained. And the album (and show) closer 'Wild Thing'... well, I know it's a classic, of course, and as a song, it's funny, but the thing is, he finishes it with that guitar-burning/smashing trick, which should be watched (I saw it in the movie Hendrix, actually, and it's fascinating). When just listened to, it doesn't produce any effect at all, at least, not on second listen. Just a bunch of horrendous, totally unbearable noise. Truthfully. You'll just have to switch off your CD player five minutes too early. Which leaves us with two indispensable covers, five inferior versions of superior originals, and two unbearable 'jams'. I deem it worth a 6, but that's not Jimi's fault. Mind you, the show was certainly terrific. But if you want to get some entertaining live Hendrix, you'd better find something later (like Woodstock, for instance), where he goes on that improvisatory vibe and actually adds something to your listening experience.

Actually, the grooviest sections of this whole album are probably Jimi's on-stage banter: all these remarks depict him as a really friendly and talkative kind of guy, even if his endless rapping does sometimes get on my nerves, plus I often can't even decipher a thing he says. And who knows what he was talking about when he said he was gonna 'sacrifice' something before he tears into 'Wild Thing'? Was that his doomed guitar he was talking about?



Year Of Release: 1967
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 12

Hendrix as the Guru of Psychedelia. If you're interested in that aspect of his, this, not RUX, should be your first buy.

Best song: LITTLE WING

Track listing: 1) EXP; 2) Up From The Skies; 3) Spanish Castle Magic; 4) Wait Until Tomorrow; 5) Ain't No Telling; 6) Little Wing; 7) If 6 Was 9; 8) You Got Me Floatin'; 9) Castles Made Of Sand; 10) She's So Fine; 11) One Rainy Wish; 12) Little Miss Lover; 13) Bold As Love.

Hrr, hmm. Obviously, Mr Jimi Hendrix didn't want to imagine himself as a simple guitar-burning hero already at this early point in his career. That's perfectly understandable, but it hurts his next record significantly. Experienced? was such a perfect recording in the first place that there was nothing left to prove about Jimi: he was the greatest guitarist, he was THE experimentator, showing these wusses the Who some real tricks, and the 'really cool dude', too. So on Axis he tried a more complicated approach, putting care into his lyrics and reveling in Dylanish imagery. There's also not as much guitar craze: apart from special distractions like 'If 6 Was 9', the experimentation is less wild and, I'd say, more artificial - read the liner notes to find out what pains the band members had to go through in order to find some new amusing kind of feedback or anything like that. And, since your attention isn't really drawn to gimmicks this time, you can't but try to concentrate on the melodies. And this is where the obvious becomes evident (my, that's a good way I have with words): these melodies are all trivial, if existent at all. Lots of songs are really one and the same, and even Jimi's masterful riffing doesn't save them nohow.

'EXP' begins the record quite fine, with a humorous 'cosmic' sound collage devoted to Paul Caruso and flying saucers, but immediately afterwards lovers of heavy guitar rock will be disappointed because, one after another, Jimi just delivers mellow pop songs! There's just about a couple of songs which have that old rockin' magic about them, and both are certainly inferior to the older ones. Well, I've grown to like them more than I once used to: originally, I just considered 'Spanish Castle Magic' a bore, for instance, while now I'm able to recognize the melody and the fact that the song really has substance, not just an overwhelming, powerful beat borrowed from 'Foxy Lady'. Now I simply regard the song as a nice, strong psycho anthem - but still, nothing more. And the magnum opus of the record is the schizophrenic chaos of 'If 6 Was 9', which is just a bit too schizophrenic for my tastes: in the long run, it is saved only by some interesting lyrics reflecting Jimi's life philosophy and the cool noises in the end, including a flute imitation.

But none of the other songs have even a tenth part of this power. Worse, they all resemble each other (I think I said that already): they start with some dirty, Hendrix-style sloppy rhythm playing with Jimi humming some rappy lyrics along to himself so that nobody can hear him at all, after which he goes wheeez! and we go off into the fast and heavy part which features exactly the same components, only everything is louder (songs sometimes include backing vocals by Noel and Mitch; strange enough, these often save the songs in the end). 'Up From The Skies', 'Wait Until Tomorrow', 'Ain't No Telling', 'Little Miss Lover', 'You Got Me Floating', they're all really the same song. Well, maybe not exactly the same song, but they all sound samey to me. They set the same mood, get it? Strike the same chord! Bite the same nerve! thank God, they're all short: Jimi wasn't yet willing to go for lengthy structures that would surface on his next album. And thank God, they're all quite listenable. They're all catchy and very nice, in fact, and the guys do some lovely work on the vocal harmonies, especially on 'Wait Until Tomorrow' and 'You Got Me Floating'. Dang, 'Ain't No Telling' might even be one long-forgotten classic on here - I love it how Jimi sings 'well there ain't no' and Noel and Mitch echo 'ain't noooooooo...' But what can really be done? I can easily call these songs good and solid, but definitely not outstanding. Something is only outstanding when it stands out, see, and these tunes don't stand out - they're all so similar it's sometimes maddening.

Still, not everything is that pathetic. In between all the 'artistic' filler, you'll find inserted several eternal gems, like the beautiful ballad 'Little Wing' (IMHO, it was later done much better by Eric Clapton as a posthumous tribute, but that's just me; I regard Clapton's version as far more emotional, maybe because it works better when taken in the context of Jimi's death), or the Dylan-inspired musing 'Castles Made Of Sand' (still far inferior to 'The Wind Cries Mary'). And Noel Redding's often overlooked contribution, the trippy love ballad 'She's So Fine', turns out to be better than most of Jimi originals on here. Which says a lot for me, really. Finally, I'm an active hater of the title track: a misguided, melodyless raving which distinguishes itself only by featuring phasing for the first time on a rock record (even if the liner notes say that they were preceded by the Small Faces). Don't condemn me. I sat through it ten times in a row once trying to figure out what the heck is the big deal with it. I'm still at a loss.

Why do I give the record such a high rating then, would you ask? Well, I really don't know. I might be saying a very strange thing, but the record cooks on the general level. The individual songs might nearly all be so-so, but this is one album that must be listened to as a whole - even if it is not, strictly speaking, a concept album at all. There's just something about the general atmosphere of it that's intoxicating. A kind of chemistry, because, if you try to analyze it element by element, you'll be highly disappointed. Maybe it's just that Hendrix sound that seems so enchanting, regardless of anything he is really trying to produce. Like I said - he sounds as if he was born with a guitar attached to his arm. This is just such a friendly, inviting record. He's, like, trying to really tell you: 'Look here, brothers and sisters, forget about the macho sexism, the revolutionizing of the guitar, the wild behaviour in the studio, let's just play guitar and have a good time'. For me, the album works even better if I'm not trying to listen to it carefully - it works as great, moody background music, a music which I don't have to get deep into, but neither do I have to dance to it. I just can live to it, if you get my drift. Anyway, that's what Jimi always wanted, isn't it? Wasn't he the one who said that he was trying to use his music as a call to action? Well - there you go.



Year Of Release: 1968
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 11

The famous Hendrixopaedia, it just isn't that easy to assimilate, and, frankly speaking, I'm not sure whether it's even worth assimilating.


Track listing: 1) And The Gods Made Love; 2) Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland); 3) Crosstown Traffic; 4) Voodoo Chile; 5) Little Miss Strange; 6) Long Hot Summer Night; 7) Come On (Let The Good Times Roll); 8) Gypsy Eyes; 9) Burning Of The Midnight Lamp; 10) Rainy Day Dream Away; 11) 1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be); 12) Moon Turn The Tides Gently Gently Away; 13) Still Raining Still Dreaming; 14) House Burning Down; 15) All Along The Watchtower; 16) Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).

Oh, well, at least we may be sure Hendrix wasn't one of those types that were happy with re-doing the same record over and over again. This is probably his most well-crafted and meticulously conceived project - the aim was to take all the best from the previous albums and add something new. So it manages to combine the ooomph! and wild guitarmanship of Are You Experienced? with the artsiness, psychedelia and, er, lyrical wit of Axis, and does it in a good way, so that it becomes possible to think of Hendrix the axeman and Hendrix the guru as the same person. But, since the album is a double one, you also get lots of cool grooves: lengthy blues jams, tons of Floydian special effects, as well as Jimi's newly-found soul identity and a beautiful, definitely 'physical', naked ladyland on the album cover (apparently, there are several variants of the cover floating around, but mine is the original one). Terrific!

Unfortunately, Jimi blew it on one count. The individual songs, when carefully processed and assessed, just aren't that good, which means his songwriting clearly had no way of improving itself. The best numbers on here are either covers of straightforward blues/R'n'B ripoffs, and the few moments of genuine enjoyment are usually provided by tidbits of phenomenal guitarwork (some of his best ever chops are hidden in the depths of the record) or by straps of his newly-found singing voice which turns out to be a good one after all. The melodies? Nada. The album is, in fact, dominated by two mega-huge (at least, for 1968) compositions, both of which have their moments but are totally unbearable when taken in their wholeness. The 14-minute 'Voodoo Chile' jam (featuring Stevie Winwood on piano) is good at first listen, because, after all, a Hendrix jam is always something special, but it's not the kind of thing you'd like to turn to again and again, if you're not a diehard, of course. There's some good soloing, of course, but the non-soloing part is deadly boring (and long), and the solos themselves are often superated in smaller songs throughout the album (most notably in the last three numbers). And the second number is even longer: a multipart psychedelic suite ('Rainy Day Dream Away' and the following) which starts okay, like a hip-hopping rocker, then becomes a plaintive chant with an actually beautiful melody ('1983'), and finally degenerates into a seven minute noisefest which doesn't have anything to do with Hendrix - it's just an obligatory tribute to the 'artsy' sound collages of the epoch. I do, however, admit, that 'Rainy Day' and its reprise 'Still Raining Still Dreaming' do feature one of the most fascinating guitar bits I've ever heard. It's the little instrumental passage before Jimi starts singing ('rainy day dream away...') where there's a wah-wah guitar sounding like two people talking to each other. It's so cool I could listen to it for hours - unfortunately, it's maybe about fifteen seconds long. Now here's a truly creative idea, Jimi, why didn't you milk this one instead of fuckin' up on 'Moon Turn The Tides Gently Gently Away'?

So, anyway, it's mostly some of the short numbers that make the grade. 'Have You Ever Been To Electric Ladyland' has Jimi sounding like a really great soul star (which he more or less was). 'Crosstown Traffic' is one of the few Axis-tinged numbers on here, a cute little pop tune with Experience backing vocals I like so much. Noel gets his last chance to shine on 'Little Miss Strange' - I don't know why everybody hates the guy's songwriting so much. Me, for one, thinks he had at least as much talent for songwriting as Jimi himself. He just wrote soft pop numbers, that's all, but Jimi often did even softer numbers. Then there's the rave retro rocker 'Come On (Let The Good Times Roll)'; it's a cover, and good for it, 'cause Jimi couldn't write a song nowhere near as good. He sure could play an old rock'n'roll song, that's for sure! Ever heard him playing 'Johnny B. Goode', by the way? No? Blows the original to pieces! 'Gypsy Eyes' is good, but my favourite part is where Jimi sings 'well I realize I really need those eyes', it's such a weird guitar line over there. Unfortunately, it turns into a pedestrian rocker soon afterwards. So screw it and take 'Burning Of The Midnight Lamp', an old rewritten single with a fascinating wah-wah intro and a sea of guitar sound. 'House Burning Down' does nothing for me just as well, but the final two songs are a real something.

First of all, there's the famous cover of Dylan's 'All Along The Watchtower' which just can't go wrong. Since Jimi's main problem lied in creating melodies, how could he ruin such a great one? It's an all-time classic, and rightly so: the stellar guitarwork on the solos certainly presages Jimmy Page's solo on 'Stairway To Heaven' and is actually one of the first and best examples of these 'heavenly', climactic solos that would later become so popular and, unfortunately, so abused among prog rockers and metalheads. My only complaint is that, try as he might, Jimi just can't beat the master at his own game: the song's lyrics do not fit in with his arrangement at all (not that he cared, there are multiple live versions where he sings the first verse three times). Whoever calls this version an improvement over Dylan's original should better not listen to Dylan at all. It's just something very different - okay, not necessarily worse, just different.

Finally, the album closer (for which I specially raised the rating one point) ranks among the most guitar-powerful songs of all time. Yeah, yeah, I know I said I hate 'Voodoo Chile', but this five-minute '(Slight Return)' isn't really like that boring jam at all! It's a steamy, powerful rocker where Jimi plays just one guitar but it seems like he's playing at least three at the same time - one for rhythm, one for solo, one for the wall-of-sound! And he spews out some amazing licks which you'll never get to hear from him on any other studio track: if you ever doubted his being in excellent form on the album, this is his final remembering to you that he really is.

So I'm tired. Tired of everything. Tired of having to sit through the album, tired of having to write this review, tired of life, and Jimi's to blame. Nope, kidding again. It's a good record, but no sir it doesn't live up to its reputation. I still think the two previous albums stated the point much more precisely and effectively. If I want a fourteen-minute long jam, I'll go and get myself a live album. Hmm. Come to think of it, 'Voodoo Chile' is a live jam. Just not a very good one.



Year Of Release: 1999
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 11

Just one thing: you won't find Jini playing like this anywhere else.

Best song: VOODOO CHILE (SLIGHT RETURN) and everything that comes after it

Track listing: 1) Message To Love; 2) Hear My Train A-Comin'; 3) Red House; 4) Lover Man; 5) Foxy Lady; 6) Izabella; 7) Fire; 8) Voodoo Chile (Slight Return); 9) Star Spangled Banner; 10) Purple Haze; 11) Woodstock Improvisation; 12) Villanova Junction; 13) Hey Joe.

Historically important? Without a doubt. But to hell with historical importance; this is probably the best live Hendrix album ever released. Beware: like so many other Hendrix artefacts, this performance has also been subject to lots of rip-offs over the years. Recently, though, the Hendrix family has finally cleaned up the product and released a double CD-set that contains the complete performance, remastered and cleared and with all the audience interaction and probably tons of liner notes and stuff, so any diehard Hendrix fan should immediately start tracking it down. Me, I have a single-CD variant of the album (possibly a pirated copy? ah, who knows - Russia is a land of surprises) which omits a couple of songs, notably 'Spanish Castle Magic' and some other instrumental whose name I've forgotten. I'm quite happy with this single-CD copy, though - it's eighty minutes long, and it does wear me out when it comes to the end of the rope.

The usual complaint is: for Woodstock, Jimi had assembled his worst backing band ever; the players barely knew each other and the material, and this was so far from the tight gel of the Experience that some consider the concert to have been quite shitty. There are several counterarguments to this theory, though. First, I never feel any real trouble with the backing band. If I don't listen too close to a Hendrix live recording, I never hear anything much except for Jimi's guitar anyway - okay, guitar and drums, maybe, but Mitch Mitchell is drumming at this concert, and he hasn't lost a thing (why should he?) So I don't care, really, if it's Noel Redding or Billy Cox on the base - who pays attention to bass guitar at a Hendrix live show, anyway? The only evident minus is that there are no band harmonies at all, and thus, for instance, this version of 'Fire' seems pathetic because there are none of these robotic 'let me stand next to your fire' backing vocals that made the tune so fascinating in the first place.

The second counterargument has been said many times before - Jimi tried to compensate for his backing band's lack of prowess by completely overshadowing everything with the guitar and going off into lengthy, thunderstorm-like jams. And boy, does he really pull all the stops on here. If it's Jimi's amazing guitar techniques that attract you most of all (and, well, they should), Woodstock is the place to start. Or, maybe not - maybe it's the place to finish; after you've sat through the final quarter of the album even once, every other guitar passage on any other selected album, live or studio, will seem pale in comparison.

The main section of the concert, to be quite frank, isn't all that fascinating. 'Fire', like I said, sounds pathetic, and Jimi brings on a couple of weaker tracks from his 'new' upcoming project like 'Izabella' which hardly go anywhere. 'Red House' and 'Foxy Lady' are good, but formulaic; 'Hear My Train A-Comin' is too slow and too long, and the real excitement is only provided in the album opener, 'Message To Love', where Jimi solos like a demon. But if you ask me, well, he'd simply been saving his most impressive efforts for the end - starting from 'Voodoo Chile', it's really hard to get distracted from even a single note.

I've always loved 'Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)' in its studio variant, but let me tell you: if you haven't heard the live version off Woodstock, you haven't lived. It's impossible even to start describing it here - the intro sounds like a couple hundred guitars joined in unison, as Jimi masterfully adds his staccato solos onto the main crunching riff, and the main solo of the tune crushes every possible barrier on its way. The poor fans who'd already gone home (Jimi played his set on the very last morning of the festival when the site had already been half-cleared) must have spent the rest of their lives cursing themselves for having missed this moment. It seems that Jimi simply set himself a goal - to examine every single fret and every single knob on his guitar and to squeeze out every possible sound it could ever reproduce in given conditions. However, 'Voodoo Chile' is a song, after all, not just chaotic noisemaking; what follows it, though, is chaotic noisemaking, as Jimi successfully butchers 'Star Spangled Banner'. I guess that everyone has heard Jimi butcher the national anthem at least once in his or her life, but it certainly sounds better when placed in this context, jarred between the breathtaking versions of 'Chile' and 'Purple Haze', than isolated on a hits collection.

But I'd also like to point out that the album ends with 'Woodstock Improvisation' and 'Villanova Junction' (not to mention the encore of 'Hey Joe') - two improvised tracks the likes of which you'll simply never meet anywhere else. Because these two tracks are something different - they're not even rock music. On 'Improvisation', Jimi simply strums his guitar at an alarming rate, resulting in a series of strange, upbeat sequences that are somewhere in between jazz and Latin, but are neither; and on 'Villanova Junction', he quiets down the band, calms down himself and plays this moving, captivating melody that has no aggression at all - just a deep sense of mystique, compassion and wiseness. This piece of music is also used in the Woodstock movie - it is synchronized with the security and cleaning guys walking through the heaps of garbage left by the hippies and cleaning everything up. Time to relax and analyze the festival's consequences, eh?

Actually, much of this piece, starting with 'Voodoo Chile' and ending with 'Junction', is present in the movie itself, albeit severely cut (and on the movie soundtrack, too). In that way, I'd probably recommend you to start with the movie - and if you like it, well, you can proceed to the album from there. But believe me, this sequence of five tracks - and I'm not exaggerating - might well be the culmination and the quintessence of everything Jimi was ever up to. Mindblowing.



Year Of Release: 1970
Record rating = 5
Overall rating = 9

Too much crappy soul jams for my taste, but Jimi is such a good player that this is somewhat endurable.

Best song: MACHINE GUN

Track listing: 1) Who Knows; 2) Machine Gun; 3) Changes; 4) Power To Love; 5) Message Of Love; 6) We Gotta Live Together.

A transitional album by all means, and by 'transitional' I don't mean transitional between life and death (since, sure enough, Jimi died within a month of the album's release). No, what I'm talkin' 'bout is a sheer change of musical direction. The Jimi Hendrix Experience had happily disbanded a year earlier, and Jimi decided to go back to his Afro-American roots by assembling an all-black band with his former mates Billy Cox on base and Buddy Miles on drums. Rumour actually has it that he was feeling guilty about betraying his black roots, and was only too happy to assemble an all-black combo at long last, thus satisfying both himself and the entire black population, finally taking him for "own blood". Unfortunately, the result is sadly predictable: Jimi is transformed into a soul/R'n'B performer, and his guitar pyrotechnics becomes just a tasty supplement to the standard R'n'B riffage. It's not that he's degraded to a, say, state like Eric Clapton's in the mid-Seventies, when the latter energetically got rid of his image as a guitar god. No, the strength and the will are still there, but the whole album sounds tired, tired and almost senseless. And hey, nobody actually ever put forth the proposal, but I think it would have been way more cool for Jimi to join Sly and the Family Stone as lead guitarist - just imagine what an ass-kicking machine this would have made.

The album itself is a live recording (the 'Band Of Gypsys' didn't even have a chance to use a proper studio booking) from a concert at the Fillmore on New Year's Eve, and the material is all new, written partly by Hendrix, partly by Buddy Miles. The performance has recently been released in its entirety by the Hendrix family under the title Live At The Fillmore, if I'm not mistaken, and is presumably better because some of the classic Hendrix material is included as well; here, though, the songs are all new, written more or less on occasion.

Anyway, not even a single song on Band Of Gypsys rocks with the classic Hendrix power, although the only acknowledged classic, 'Machine Gun', comes close. The longest song on here (about twelve minutes), it's also the most emotionally moving, being one of the few direct Hendrix anti-war songs, and the most perfect technically: the rattling, furious solos are enough to get your best friend scraping you off the wall. However, these are not the kind of lively, psychedelic, radiant solos you'd meet on any standard Hendrix album. These are what I'd call 'paranoid' solos: slow, wailing, vibrating and moody. They sound good, but they also reflect a certain state of soul - a state of fear and tiredness, maybe? Of course, Jimi's death might have been a coincidence, but if you forgive me my romanticism, I'd say that 'Machine Gun' is certainly a hymn of death - his own death. When these delirious, phrenetic vibratos come on at the fourth minute, you really understand there's something wrong with the man, some Morrisonesque influence in his playing, and that only makes the album press on you even harder.

But as for the other material, I can hardly find any good words for those songs. The Buddy Miles numbers are atrocious, mostly dated, incompetent soul crap ('Changes', 'We Gotta Live Together') with no melodies at all. Jimi doesn't even bother to play his guitar on these ones - his best soloing is mostly reserved for his own compositions, while Buddy is often engaging in self-indulgent and not very pleasant 'singing'. 'We Gotta Live Together' is supposed to be an anthemic crowd-pleaser, but the audience's bleak clapping clearly shows that the people were clapping more because they were required to rather than of their own will. Being anthemic doesn't mean you can happily dispose of the melody, Buddy.

Jimi's own compositions are also in the soul vein, and they're notably better because the man at least knew that a song needs to have at least a certain essence to it, with a catchy bit or a neat riff or a memorable vocal melody or anything like that. But there's still too few essence for me. 'Power Of Soul' has a chorus that's quite sing-along-ey, but otherwise just rambles on pointlessly; 'Message Of Love' is all right because it manages to recreate at least a little of that happy heavy energy that made songs like 'Killing Floor' so damn attractive, and I like the riffage on that one, but it's still not one of his best efforts; and the album opener 'Who Knows' is just a groovy dance number with more tolerable riffing and some absolutely embarrassing cooings from Buddy in the middle. All of these songs have one particular defect: they are generic. Jimi might not have been a great songwriter, but at least he was original, and he always used the music of his roots as just a polygon for his experimentation and burning spirit. Here he just plays generic soul and rhythm and blues with no passion at all. Stupid, simply stupid stuff; not the worst I've ever heard, but such a huge letdown from his usual songwriting style that it's bound to get you disappointed.

What else can be said about it? The only thing I can say is repeat that this is just a transitional album (between the Experience and Jimi's last studio recordings, that is, not between the Experience and his death, I mean) - it's hard to believe in fact, that he was recording this depressing set of half-baked numbers almost at the same time with Cry Of Love. As it is, you don't need this one if you aren't a completist or if you're not interested in the origins of hip hop.



Year Of Release: 1999
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 10

Giving us more perspective is reasonable, but these are the SAME evenings, you know.

Best song: STONE FREE

Track listing: CD I: 1) Stone Free; 2) Power Of Soul; 3) Hear My Train A-Comin'; 4) Izabella; 5) Machine Gun; 6) Voodoo Child (Slight Return); 7) We Gotta Live Together;

CD II: 1) Auld Lang Syne; 2) Who Knows; 3) Changes; 4) Machine Gun; 5) Stepping Stone; 6) Stop; 7) Earth Blues; 8) Burning Desire; 9) Wild Thing.

It's interesting that this relatively new archive release of performances from the same New Year's Eve/Day Band Of Gypsies concerts practically does not overlap with the original Band Of Gypsies album - apparently, the Hendrix family preferred to respect the man's real legacy and left the old one-LP live album intact, releasing a "complementary" 2-CD package instead of just beefing up the original one. Yes, the will of God is sacred, and not even through the labour of God's relatives can it be altered.

The problem is, it's the same Band of Gypsies. I wish I could say something like "Now this is the real sound of Jimi Hendrix circa early 1970, properly represented in all its resonant glory, and those who are responsible for the original track selection should be shot for concealing this brilliancy", but that would largely stem from being visually-and-aurally shocked from the (usual) lavishness of the packaging, the paeons and exaltations of the liner notes, and the sheer length and - indeed - representativeness of the material, which supposedly takes the best performances from each of the four shows the band played on those days and even offers us two alternative versions of 'Machine Gun', in addition to the third one we'd been acquainted with for the past thirty years.

Of course, it is better because there's more to choose from. Band Of Gypsies was all made of original, previously-unheard material, after all; Fillmore East shows that Jimi never forgot his roots either, as the proceedings open with the old chestnut 'Stone Free', extended into a ferocious twelve-minute blues/funk jam, and close with a brief, compact performance of 'Wild Thing', where Hendrix even graces the audience with a bare-teeth-solo, as in, "you've been so very patient hearing me go through all this funky stuff, now you'll get a glimpse of the older me in recompense". But the main thing that used to bug me about Band Of Gypsies was the vibe - the vibe that was confused rather than exuberant, and tried to radiate energy rather than actually radiated it. Is it possible that the vibe could have been different depending on each of the four particular shows or on the particular age of the particular tune played? Hardly.

Needless to say, there are some terrific moments on the album. The already mentioned jamming on 'Stone Free' is classic Jimi, Jimi in peak form, having just taken stage for the last of the four shows, prob'ly after getting some rest and finally having the band's wheels well-oiled. But this is Jimi's classic turf, you see: a fast psychedelic rocker, with the guitar shooting off sparks in every direction and grabbing musical ideas out of every corner. Same on 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return)', a track Hendrix was incapable of playing in any way less than "amazing". But when it comes to Jimi's "new" phase - the 'return to roots' phase - I dunno, it just fails to grab me the same way. It's still Hendrix, and Hendrix is always heads and tails above competition, even when being 'confused', but not even fast short rockers like 'Izabella' can catch the groove properly, much less all these lengthy funk jams.

The two alternate versions of 'Machine Gun' are strong, but somehow I thought the Band Of Gypsies version - the one from the 1st show of January 1st - was more chilling, especially when it came to the "death wailing" of the solo; there's nothing like the catharsis and the acute, slice-you-up-from-head-to-toe pain of these aching vibratos in these two versions. (Side note: is it just me or did Jimmy Page rip the 'No Quarter' riff off the 'Machine Gun' bassline? Partially, at least. I'm just about sure he did). And the Buddy Miles tunes won't become better just because they're played differently. On the positive side, this version of 'Who Knows' is much shorter by not having Buddy Miles doing his "drunk pigeon" impersonation in the middle. That's positive news.

Other rags and pieces of positive news include the following: a) This version of 'Hear My Train A-Comin' is a pretty darn good one, given an almost 'danceable' sheen this time but retaining all the bluesy raggedness and sorrowfulness that - apparently - made it such a live favourite of Jimi's, who, as we know, rarely played generic blues (so rarely that it actually became possible to issue an archive release called Blues for the man - say, could you imagine an archive release of outtakes called Pop for the Beatles?), but something in this particular tune really made it special for him. b) The electric psychedelic rendition of 'Auld Lang Syne' continues the old tradition of Jimi 'mocking', or, rather, 'reinventing' the old classics - and I almost like it more than the 'Star Spangled Banner' rendition because it follows the melody more closely, without exploding into barrages of ugly noises along the way. (And it's cool to hear it turn into a boogie midway through!). c) 'Stepping Stone' - fast, fun, and Buddy Miles really redeems himself with his drumming on that one.

Even so, out of all the Hendrix family reissues/archive releases, Fillmore East is one of the least promising. You don't get that feeling when reading the liner notes, but sometimes some things in between the lines can give you a hint at all those people actually being afraid of playing with Jimi and Jimi having to divert his energy on to comforting them and having to adjust to the new situation. There's nothing unusual or shameful about it - what would you do if you were asked to play along with God, be you the finest drummer or bassist on the planet? But fact is, these guys did not have the necessary chemistry. The Experience had the chemistry because all of its members, including Jimi, were raw and, well, unexperienced - the band somehow had to live up to its name for the first year. Here, we have two guys who don't seem to understand the third one too well, and one of whom also has creative ambitions of his own that couldn't be more different from Jimi's creative ambitions. He simply has to pull out every single number, and being tired and disconcerted, it's obvious that he can't always cope.

The only really good thing I can say about these performances is that they are often said to have been a huge inspiration for the growing psychedelic-funk scene, and that without the Band of Gypsies, we wouldn't know Funkadelic the way we do know it. This may be true. And in any case, the worthiness of these concerts as a historical document is unquestionable. But that's exactly the reason why I would only recommend this for diehard Jimi fans and rock historians.



Year Of Release: 1980
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 10

Hendrix' last hasn't been given the right kind of treatment, but it's still a solid last.


Track listing: 1) Midnight Lightning; 2) Foxy Lady; 3) Lover Man; 4) Freedom; 5) All Along The Watchtower; 6) In From The Storm.

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!



Year Of Release: 1997
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 10

As with every release from the vaults, this sounds a bit raw. But I fear it wouldn't have sounded better in any case.

Best song: ANGEL

Track listing: 1) Freedom; 2) Izabella; 3) Night Bird Flying; 4) Angel; 5) Room Full Of Mirrors; 6) Dolly Dagger; 7) Ezy Rider; 8) Drifting; 9) Beginnings; 10) Stepping Stone; 11) My Friend; 12) Straight Ahead; 13) Hey Baby (New Rising Sun); 14) Earth Blues; 15) Astro Man; 16) In From The Storm; 17) Belly Button Window.

Hendrix novices should be very careful when it comes to Hendrix postmortem releases: everybody knows there's at least half a hundred of them, and most are either pathetic rip-offs or lousy live recordings (one of the few most nasty of these is the infamous New York '68 jam session with a, er, 'pixilated' Jim Morrison mostly spitting out obscene copulation metaphors, if you get my drift. Strange enough, it's available under at least a dozen different titles. Avoid it like plague). However, since Jimi's family finally took control over his legacy, things seem to start getting better, and we might hope for a decent, straightened out catalogue appearing soon with all the rip-offs deleted and gone for eternity. So far, most of the interesting stuff that, according to Prindle, Jimi recorded in Heaven and fed-exed down on Earth, has re-surfaced on two of these re-issues: First Rays Of The New Rising Sun and South Saturn Delta (reviewed below). This concrete album replaces the earlier issued and generally better known Cry Of Love released in March 1971 - the album that Hendrix didn't have enough time to record, rather like Janis' Pearl, along with some lesser known tracks. So you might easily dub it 'the great lost fourth Hendrix album'.

Unfortunately, while I'm not going to argue with the 'lost' thing, calling it 'great' seems quite an arrogant task to me. 'Cuz it's not great at all, in fact, it's even worse than Electric Ladyland. No, it doesn't have any fourteen-minute jams - most of the songs are three or four minutes long. And it doesn't have any dated gimmickry: no buckets of water for the amps that time. But somehow these songs never thrill me as much as his 1967 albums. Say what you want, and I'll say what I want (again): Jimi's terrible lack of songwriting ability comes through once again. Moreover, these songs are as rambling and unsecure as never before: the time was pressing hard on Jimi, and his problems didn't translate well onto music. Call me crazy, but I think he was in a somewhat Barrett-ish state at the time: stoned nearly out of his mind, personal affairs a mess, the Experience annihilated and musically and artistically exhausted. God only knows what he would go on to make... anyway, let us not digress any more. There are some good compositions on here. Sometimes Jimi's tortured soul steps on the surface and he lets go with a blazing, confessional ballad ('Angel') that rivals 'Little Wing' as his most emotional piece of writing. Sometimes he gets an interesting technical idea - the unique guitar tone on 'Room Full Of Mirrors' turns it into a head-spinning psychedelic experience. Sometimes he delivers a scorching blues tune with precise and thought out, Creamy licks that we're not grown to expect of him ('Freedom'). Finally, there's a fantastic riffing excercise (the instrumental 'Beginnings'). But that's about it.

Most of the other tracks fall into three categories. First of all, there's a lot of aimless guitar wanking on uninspired bluesrock tunes like 'Dolly Dagger' or 'Earth Blues'. They're all fairly impressive from a technical level, but for how long did Jimi expect he could impress us? Nothing can be more impressive than 'Foxy Lady'! Creatively speaking, they're all weak. His lyrics are maybe getting more poetic, but I don't know whether that's a good thing or a flaw. It seems obvious he was trying to step off the psychedelic hippie train, but it seemed to be moving too fast for him. So he ends up sounding like a cross between Marty Balin and Jim Morrison, with a slight touch of Syd Barrett again (the stupid cosmic song 'Astro Man'). To be honest with you, his derivative mystical lines do not impress me in the least: while he was always trying to present himself as the 'intelligent' one, I never found any signs of real 'intelligence' in Jimi's lyrics. Pretension, yes, sometimes. But he was mostly ripping off other people, just as well as other people were trying to rip off his songwriting.

Next, the second category is 'Bad Ballads'. 'Drifting', for instance, which just drags for three and a half minutes and tries to sound exalted but just manages to sound phoney, or the overlong title track. Finally, the third category includes a Dylan rip-off: 'My Friend' is a feeble imitation of a) Dylan's singing; b) Dylan's lyrics; c) Dylan's arrangements (the drunken company noises remind one of 'Rainy Day Women'). It's amusing, but hardly essential for anybody but those whose only aim in life is to prove that Hendrix was a better songwriter than Dylan (fancy that).

So no, I'm not impressed. I do admit that I can't call the album 'bad' in a plain sense of the word. The playing is good, and the decent songs I've named above are enough to redeem it. But it's a serious letdown compared to Jimi's 'classic' works, and had he continued in that blues-o-mystical direction, I'm sure he'd have ruined his career in less than a couple of years. Now wait, maybe the problem is... yes... YES that's where the rub lies. The album is too long, you see? It's like seventy damn minutes! Scoop out all the filler and you'll get a nice little record stuffed with delicacies like 'Room Full Of Mirrors' or 'Angel'. I respect Jimi as much as anybody, but he never deserved a double album - and he put out one before his death and one after his death. What a silly trick of fortune.



Year Of Release: 1994
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 11


Best song: HEAR MY TRAIN A-COMIN' (acoustic)

Track listing: 1) Hear My Train A-Comin' (acoustic); 2) Born Under A Bad Sign; 3) Red House; 4) Catfish Blues; 5) Voodoo Chile Blues; 6) Mannish Boy; 7) Once I Had A Woman; 8) Bleeding Heart; 9) Jelly 292; 10) Electric Church Red House; 11) Hear My Train A-Comin' (electric).

This is one of the more recent releases, but before the Hendrix family managed to wrestle control over his legacy from Alan Douglas and his company of greedy cash-craving sharks. Due to this sad state of affairs, most of these 'releases' over the years have been fairly unlistenable (poor live performances, lousy outtakes, mix-ups of previously released and unreleased stuff, etc.), and I'm pretty sure ninety-nine percent of this stuff will disappear over the next few years. So, while it still hasn't, better go ahead and acquire this record with such a fairly modest title, 'cause it might be one of the few worthy items in the 1971-1996 Hendrix catalogue, with a solid track listing and at least a sense of unity.

Basically it's just what the title says: a load of tracks with Jimi playin' and singin' the blues at various periods of his short career. Many of them have been available earlier on various rip-offs, but the album's value lies in that it has no overlaps with the 'standard' catalogue reviewed above, so I felt free to treat it as a regular archive release rather than a compilation (which, frankly speaking, it is). I don't have the re-issued booklet version, so I don't know about the exact source of most of these performances, but then again, who really cares?

Not that the songs are really spectacular, of course: fans will love this for the incredible solos and further displaying of the man's technique (as if they didn't have enough proof already), but average Jimi lovers will probably just yawn and scratch their back. This record just isn't able to disclose any surprises, if you know what I mean: one lengthy wankfest after another. Some are more inspired, some less, but it's really hard to tell without sitting in and giving this a hard, hard listen. Blues is blues, and even if I'm not one hundred percent sure about Jimi's songwriting genius, it's obvious that an album like Blues can't even come close to reveal it; neither does it reveal his talents as arranger or gimmick-producer. This is strictly Jimi the guitar player, Jimi the soloist. You've been warned.

Nevertheless, the performances certainly could have been worse; many of the long jams are played at the utmost level of inspiration, some even achieving that inhumane brilliancy Jimi displayed at Woodstock. The standout tracks for me are as follows. First, there's a great acoustic version of 'Hear My Train A-Comin'' which is a rare thing by itself, because, you get me, you don't often hear Jimi plucking an acoustic. I mean, his playing on here is anything but spectacular, but, on the other side, it's typically Hendrix, and he does feel at home with the instrument, and of course nobody played that guitar like that. The strange improvisatory piece 'Jelly 292' is memorable for its peculiar boogie-woogie riff, and the solos on the instrumental 'Born Under A Bad Sign' and 'Catfish Blues' are terrific. Likewise, a major highlight is 'Voodoo Chile Blues' - for me, this version is far, far more crunchy and ecstatic than the rather boring original fourteen-minute version of the song on Electric Ladyland. Jimi sounds far less restrained here, playing at full volume and speed - turn your volume up loud and cover your ears as the walls crumble into dust all around you and the voodoo chile steps up to the skies! It really is hard for me to understand how come nobody, not a single guitar player on Earth, not Robin Trower, not Eddie Van Halen, nobody could play like that after Hendrix. It's so simple! Only thing you have to do is to imagine your guitar is a vital organ of your body, not an alien 'musical instrument'. Turns out it's not so simple after all.

The rest of the album, though, just falls into background music category. If you already know what to expect from Hendrix, you won't be shocked. Personally, I even find it problematic to sit through two versions of 'Red House' and the electric, twelve-minute jam on the same 'Hear My Train A-Comin'. If you don't have that problem, good for you; but for me, if I hear a long Hendrix jam, I know that it must be of the utmost quality to be satisfying - considering how many superior Hendrix jams there are in existence. The darn album is seventy minutes long! And it's, just, well, you know... bluesy guitar solos. You should be careful with that kind of things. On the other hand, I can't accuse the record of inadequacy: it says Blues, and basically you get what you pay for.

I mean, I do admit that the man's playing is awesome, he's a friggin' genius indeed. I do envy people who get carried away with every single solo he ever put out, but me, I can only follow their example in exceptional cases. For me, a lot of Jimi's playing still lacks emotion. He's certainly more on the technical side, and I'm not the one who says that it all depends on how fast and fluently you can play. But maybe I'm just a dumbass. Whatever. Anyway, the record is a must for you if you really want to test your love for Jimi. Here he won't even bug you with crazy feedback experiments or psychedelic motives. He just stands and wails on his guitar for a bloody seventy plus minutes. If, after having listened to this all the way through, you'll prefer putting it on again immediately, call yourself a true Hendrix aficionado and prepare for a visit to your local psychoanalyst.



Year Of Release: 1997
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 12

Terrific outtakes, these ones. They might do fine as your selection for a 'Jimi retrospective'.

Best song: HERE HE COMES

Track listing: 1) Look Over Yonder; 2) Little Wing; 3) Here He Comes; 4) South Saturn Delta; 5) Power Of Soul; 6) Message To The Universe; 7) Tax Free; 8) All Along The Watchtower; 9) The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice; 10) Midnight; 11) Sweet Angel; 12) Bleeding Heart; 13) Pall Gap; 14) Drifter's Escape; 15) Midnight Lightning.

Ah, now this is a different matter entirely! The second 'family release' after First Rays, this is also, unquestionably, the most enjoyable and highly entertaining one. The fifteen tracks on here present a solid picture of Jimi's activities taken from different periods of his career, and some of them have not even been released previously, although most had been released on bastardised albums like War Heroes and Rainbow Bridge and millions of other releases that the greedy managers were pumping out while Jimi was grinding his teeth in his grave. This, however, is the new, re-mastered, re-assembled, re-freshed and re-invigorated collection that, I hope, is going to be definite.

Not all of these songs are masterpieces - some sound as lifeless and tired as the material on First Rays, in fact, which is small wonder as they date from the same sessions. But every now and then, in among the filler comes smashing a terrific gem worthy of all possible praises! When I first heard that gritty, flaming riff of 'Here He Comes (Lover Man)', recorded live in the studio, I knew I was in for a treat - in fact, I hadn't heard Jimi playing so forcefully and so recklessly since I last switched off my Monterey CD. Jimi starts off with gruff, merciless, speedy ultra-distorted "preliminary riffage", then gives the band the sign to kick in, and over the next few minutes practically burns the controls down with this song, tearing out convoluted solos, all kinds of desperate riffage tricks and, well, what can I say? What can be better than vintage Hendrix at his very, very best?

Another lost gem is the great psycho anthem 'The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice', which starts off as a light, groovy Axis-style acid ditty and then evolves into an 'astral jam' with tons of weird noises, Mitch's cool percussion, some kind of mumbled dialogues, and Jimi's flawless soloing all over the top - stunning, ain't it? Something like a 'barroom show' thrown on for the benefit of the public somewhere on the outskirts of Aldebaran... 'Power Of Soul' and 'Message To Love' also uncover their powerful selves as the strong, catchy tunes they should have always been, not the weak, stumbling versions as presented on Band Of Gypsies, but strong, convincing performances with not a single note wasted and no stupid Buddy Miles' scat improvisations.

Plus, there are surprises - hey, almost Easter Eggs! The title track is a slight, a bit throwawayish jazzy instrumental, but you'll be surprised to hear horns on that one, horns that do not seem to be overdubbed by Alan Douglas or somebody, but were instead thrown in at Jimi's request to make a suitable tribute to his favourite jazz heroes. There's a strange, lumbering instrumental version of 'Little Wing', where Jimi goes for a much more bombastic, powerful arrangement, which at times doesn't sound like 'Little Wing' at all - sometimes it's closer to 'Angel', sometimes it seems to me like he's throwing in some lines from his arrangement of 'Like A Rolling Stone' (sic!). You'll probably be interested anyway. There's an alternate take on 'All Along The Watchtower', which doesn't stray too far from the original, though. And lastly, in among the surprises you'll find yet another Dylan outtake, a funny, rockin' cover of 'Drifter's Escape'. Sometimes I wonder if Jimi ever listened to any records in 1968 other than John Wesley Harding.

All of these might seem a bit disjointed, but in reality, the album flows perfectly, or, well, near-perfectly; like I said, there's some filler, too, although it's kinda relative. There's yet another version of 'Bleeding Heart' (you might find an earlier one on Blues), and I've never been fond of the tune: messy, pretentious and absolutely NOT hard-hitting, unlike that tight arrangement of 'Message To Love'. A couple of instrumentals, like 'Tax Free' and 'Pali Gap', are also a bit pale and shabby, though 'Tax Free' definitely HAS its moments. The alternate version of 'Angel' loses quite a bit due to being unpolished; and, while there are many good and well-intended dudes out there that crave for more stuff like the acoustic 'Hear My Train A-Comin' and all that, the only acoustic track on here - 'Midnight Lightning', the album closer - does not do anything important for me except showcasing the man's technique some more. Even so, it might have been a wise choice to end the album on a light note: after the hour-long storm (and most of the tracks are so punchy and ferocious, it sometimes feels like an unstoppable hammer pounding on your head), a bit of a calm that makes you feel relaxed and maybe even shed a little tear or two over Jimi's untimely demise.

In any case, if you're relatively new to Hendrix and haven't yet had time to spend your cash on the miriads of his posthumous rip-offs, or if you simply want to start from scratch, Delta is probably the only Hendrix outtakes collection you'll ever need in your archive. It's really amazing, isn't it, how Jimi had all those great tracks in his backpack, enough for a triple, maybe quadruple album, and never released them while he had time? Oh, and, by the way, Delta sounds almost weirdly coherent - doesn't sound like a simple collection of outtakes at all. Guess the Jimi protecting spirit is still doing its job.



Year Of Release: 1998
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 12

As usual, the BBC dudes did a great job.

Best song: DAY TRIPPER

Track listing: CD I: 1) Foxy Lady (version 1); 2) Alexis Korner Introduction; 3) Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window; 4) Rhythm And Blues World Service; 5) (I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man; 6) Traveling With The Experience; 7) Driving South (version 1); 8) Fire; 9) Little Miss Lover; 10) Introducing The Experience; 11) The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp; 12) Catfish Blues; 13) Stone Free; 14) Love Or Confusion; 15) Hey Joe (version 1); 16) Hound Dog; 17) Driving South (version 2); 18) Hear My Train A-Comin' (version 1);

CD II: 1) Purple Haze; 2) Killing Floor; 3) Radio One; 4) Wait Until Tomorrow; 5) Day Tripper; 6) Spanish Castle Magic; 7) Jammin'; 8) I Was Made To Love Her; 9) Foxy Lady (version 2); 10) A Brand New Sound; 11) Hey Joe (version 2); 12) Manic Depression; 13) Driving South (version 3); 14) Hear My Train A-Comin' (version 2); 15) A Happening For Lulu; 16) Voodoo Chile (Slight Return); 17) Lulu Introduction; 18) Hey Joe (version 3); 19) Sunshine Of Your Love.

Well, this is just another phenomenal archive release from the BBC vaults which shares the usual advantages and flaws of all BBC releases. The advantage is that the sound is crystal clear: the band plays live but there are no impeding crowd noises, apart from a few 'sit-in' sessions. The flaw is that several of the songs are played several times, and this ain't good no matter how fantastic the song might be. I, for one, don't really need three different versions of 'Hey Joe'! Do you? Or three different versions of 'Driving South', for that matter. It's a great instrumental, for sure, but... oh, wait, do you really want to tell me that the BBC have completely drained their Hendrix vaults with this release? In that case, I withdraw my complaint. I actually hoped for 'Ain't No Telling' or 'Highway Chile'; if one day I find out they never released that stuff I'll kill somebody.

Nevertheless, despite the potential complaints, this beautiful 2-CD package offers quite a lot of goodies that you might not get otherwise. Minor surprises include Jimi's hilarious 'radio jingle' made specially for Radio One: 'Radio One, you stole my gal but I love you all the same'. Ha! And played as hard as possible, too. Why don't they make radio jingles like that any more? Mind you, 'Radio One Jingle' is quite probably the first heavy metal song ever written (!!!)

Another definite highlight comes at the end, with the famous 'Lulu incident' when Jimi came to a show hosted by the then-famous ex-performatrice (what's the feminine for performer, dammit?) Lulu, on her request started playing a totally crazy version of 'Hey Joe', incidentally including a half-baked riff that would later on become the central point in Jimmy Page's 'Whole Lotta Love', then stopped it and, saying that they weren't going to play this rubbish any more, suddenly crashed into an unexpected instrumental take on 'Sunshine Of Your Love', dedicating it to the freshly disbanded Cream. He didn't have more than one minute to go before the band was 'rudely interrupted', but whatever, the confusion WAS already made. The Cream boys must have been blushing from head to toe. And it's all on here - ain't it fun?

Out of the songs that didn't make it onto the regular studio releases at the time, you do get quite a few. There's an energetic take on Dylan's little-known B-side 'Can You Crawl Out Your Window?' - another minor gem to add to your 'Hendrix does Dylan' collection; a wild, pull-all-the-stops instrumental called 'Driving South', with Jimi giving out such ferocious lines as have never been found on studio releases; an amusing cover of 'Hound Dog', with Mitch and Noel pulling off completely authentic whines and howls; two more versions of 'Hear My Train A-Comin'', slightly marred with more annoying backing vocals from Mitch and Noel, but otherwise almost smoking; and, guess what, they even do 'Day Tripper'! No, there is no John Lennon on backing vocals, as some of the rumours go, but still, this is a touching tribute (note also how Jimi plays a few lines from 'I Want To Tell You') in the beginning.

Of course, there's also a lot of 'blues wanking', but you know Jimi. Some of the blues numbers on here are captivating, in fact: 'Hoochie Coochie Man' is probably the 'hardcorest' version you'll ever find in existence, only equalled by the Allman Brothers' take on Idlewild South, and 'Catfish Blues' gives out the origins of the 'Voodoo Chile' jam - except it's shorter, and never threatens to become as boring. Plus, there's 'Killing Floor'! Fast crazy boogie! What else do you need?

This is all heavily diluted by radio standards - 'Purple Haze', 'Burning Of The Midnight Lamp', 'Hey Joe', 'Hey Joe', and... 'Hey Joe', 'Foxy Lady', another 'Foxy Lady', and, of course, the unforgettable 'Fire' - plus some less famous tracks like 'Love Or Confusion' or 'Spanish Castle Magic'. But I won't tell you a lot about these because they're... well, they're standard Hendrix. And they don't change the arrangements much; apparently, most of the songs were performed fresh from the studio (they even reproduce the 'OOOH - AAAH' parts in 'Purple Haze', something I've never heard on later live shows), apart from 'Hey Joe' which I suppose Jimi must have hated to death. Especially stupid... since in the track 'A Brand New Sound' Jimi discusses 'Hey Joe' with Alexis Korner and they come to the conclusion that 'Hey Joe' is not really representative of what the Experience are really trying to do and then Korner says 'So now can we hear 'Hey Joe'?' You can actually hear Jimi going 'what the fuck...' in his mind, but of course he wouldn't say it cuz he was such a nice guy and all. It's really no surprise that he cut the song off at Lulu's and desperately ripped into 'Sunshine Of Your Love' - it's very symbolic. And it's symbolic that they didn't let him play that thing to the end, too. Very symbolic and very sad.

Still, Alexis is generally a good master of ceremonies - everything is lightly peppered with bits of studio chatter and dialogue, and both the questions and the answers, and the hilarious remarks on Jimi and his 'ridiculous crew' work as good as anything.

In fact, I'd probably go as far as to state that this is the one and the only Hendrix live album you should ever get. He's unusually concentrated on most of the songs - wild and totally self-controlled all the time. You know what I'm speaking of: sometimes he just goes over the top and the thin borderline separating his genius from cacophony vanishes. Here, all the guitar parts are clever, sharp, clear and tasteful. There's not a lot of experimentation going on - for that approach, you'd better try Woodstock or even Band Of Gypsies - but in the end, it's just a guarantee that nothing on here will offend the casual Hendrix lover. And 'Driving South' - it's bound to knock you from your chair, because you won't find these incredible chops on any studio record, I tell you. Of course, quite a few of the numbers aren't at all superior to their studio counterparts, but none are inferior, and that's a compliment - any of these versions could have easily substituted the studio originals.



Year Of Release: 2000
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 13

Boxsets rarely get better than this stuff, although it's the "connoisseur" type in this case.

Best song: yeah, right, out of a boxset. Tee hee.

Track listing: CD I: 1) Purple Haze; 2) Killing Floor; 3) Hey Joe; 4) Foxy Lady; 5) Highway Chile; 6) Hey Joe; 7) Title # 3; 8) Third Stone From The Sun; 9) Taking Care Of No Business; 10) Here He Comes (Lover Man); 11) Burning Of The Midnight Lamp; 12) If 6 Was 9; 13) Rock Me Baby; 14) Like A Rolling Stone.

CD II: 1) Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band; 2) Burning Of The Midnight Lamp; 3) Little Wing; 4) Little Miss Lover; 5) The Wind Cries Mary; 6) Catfish Blues; 7) Bold As Love; 8) Sweet Angel; 9) Fire; 10) Somewhere; 11) (Have You Ever Been To) Electric Ladyland; 12) Gypsy Eyes; 13) Room Full Of Mirrors; 14) Gloria; 15) It's Too Bad; 16) Star Spangled Banner.

CD III: 1) Stone Free; 2) Spanish Castle Magic; 3) Hear My Train A-Comin'; 4) Room Full Of Mirrors; 5) I Don't Live Today; 6) Little Wing; 7) Red House; 8) Purple Haze; 9) Voodoo Child (Slight Return); 10) Izabella.

CD IV: 1) Message To Love; 2) Earth Blues; 3) Astro Man; 4) Country Blues; 5) Freedom; 6) Johnny B. Goode; 7) Lover Man; 8) Blue Suede Shoes; 9) Cherokee Mist; 10) Come Down Hard On Me; 11) Hey Baby/In From The Storm; 12) Ezy Ryder; 13) Night Bird Flying; 14) All Along The Watchtower; 15) In From The Storm; 16) Slow Blues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Year Of Release: 1973

An ultra-boring documentary. Not that it doesn't have its moments, of course: there's plenty of live performances by the man, some of which you'll be likely to have experienced elsewhere (his famous take on 'Star Spangled Banner' at Woodstock, for instance, or the Isle Of Wight performances), but some of which are unique. Highlights include some extracts from the famous Monterey performance ('Rock Me Baby', the tedious 'Like A Rolling Stone', and 'Wild Thing' whose famous ending you just gotta see - it might have been senseless on record, but it sure makes for a great visual effect), studio footage of Jimi working on 'Hear My Train A-Comin' and a hilarious 'Johnny B. Goode' where Jimi seems intent on demonstrating everybody how terribly Chuck missed the mark by not inserting a couple ear-bursting feedback noises and some teeth-plucking into the song.

However, the video is horrendously spoiled by tons and tons and tons of banter - and it's probably all right when you see Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend or Mick Jagger as the authors of this banter. But having to sit through almost half an hour worth (maybe more) of Jimi's friends and girlfriends trying to recollect everything they remember and everything they don't is more than I can take. And, since the banter is interspersed with the performances, it gets too tedious to have to skip through it all the time. Result? I hardly ever watch the movie. Get yourself a video of Jimi at Woodstock instead or sumpthin' like that. Of course, if you're a novice and, especially, if you're illiterate, the movie's a must for you - but even an illiterate won't be glad to have to watch it more than once or twice.


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