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Jimi Hendrix

Best meat whistle player known to man...what, me worry?

Introduction
Are You Experienced?
Axis: Bold As Love
Electric Ladyland
Woodstock
Band of Gypsies
The Cry Of Love
War Heroes
          Live At Winterland
Blues
Voodoo Soup
First Rays Of the New Rising Sun
South Saturn Delta
          Live at the Fillmore East
Live at the BBC

Jimi Hendrix is a guitar player. He played the guitar unlike anyone before him, and, though not for lack of trying, unlike anyone who came after him as well. He played the guitar in a totally natural manner, as if the Stratocaster were an extension of his skeletal and nervous system instead of a method of getting chicks into the sack. This guitar could be played as two or three or even six different instruments at once (more, theoretically, if he was feeding back), as fast as lightspeed or as deliberate and precise as a surgeon's knifehand. Jimi had the whole range of style and power at his disposal, and while he tended towards injecting more power and volume into his sound, it was implied that much more lay beyond the exterior squall. Hendrix did not play notes per se, not, at least, like other guitar players played them...he played sounds. No, let's rephrase that. He stimulated beauty and pain to emulate from his Fender. While Townshend raped it and Beck tickled it and Keef just rowed the thing, Jimi Hendrix enticed it...loved it. I always thought that if a guitar could somehow be taught to play itself, it would sound like Jimi. Sound too fucking pretentious from a Certified Pottymouth like me? Well, shit, man...it's Hendrix.

I'm really not going to enter a discussion here about whether Jimi Hendrix is the best guitar player or not. Besides not being too much of a fan of the idea of 'best ever', I really don't go to Hendrix for the ol' emotionally affecting sort of playing I might hear from Clapton or George Harrison or Steve Hackett or whatever, or for the aggressive, master-of-pain playing of Pete Townshend or some metal dudes. Nah, Jimi's all about the jaw-dropping, and it's usually jaw-dropping of a sort where you aren't even sure of all the ways Hendrix is astonishing you...are you ever sure of exactly what the hell is going on on that right hand of his? I guess that's also the main thing about Jimi that repels me...listening to his playing can be almost taxing at times, and he often overplays his hand by attempting to raise the quality of a lame-ass tune by going ape-shit on the guitar. But that's not to say that there aren't moments...a lot of them...where it's quite obvious that no one can play what he's playing, as perfectly timed and precisely matched to the emotional requirements of the piece. It simply blows you over, even if not all of it can fit in your puny little brain (or mine).

It's been said that Jimi Hendrix's drawbacks lie in his lack of songwriting prowess (or, at least, inability to self-edit) and only-fair singing voice. I don't agree with either conceit. Jimi Hendrix only released four albums (one of them a double) worth of new material in his lifetime, and still has been able to generate at least a small albums' worth of original songs that are simply classics - world renowned, radio-consumed, best-of packin' classics. Considering that Jimi didn't have to ramp up very far to reach the level of creativity and productivity that created his first album, unlike most of his Sixties peers who made a handful of covers albums (or 'Sixties albums'…a single or two padded to full length by use of covers) before finally walking on their own two legs around 1966 or so. I wouldn't say that Jimi wrote necessarily accessible music, he wasn't Lennon and McCartney (he was, however, at least a George Harrison) and I wouldn't say that he revolutionized anything with his songwriting, but it's still mighty strong, at least through the end of the Experience. About Jimi's voice…well, I really couldn't imagine anyone else singing his songs, can you? It's distinctive, which is a whole fuckload of a lot more than you can say about bluesy poseurs like Paul Rodgers who always get all the accolades. 

Anyway, a little tad history lesson for people who don't like history lessons...Jimi was born in Seattle, Washington and began touring after getting home from being in the Army (Airbone, as I remember). He toured with several R&B groups, most notably the Isley Brothers (who took as much from Jimi as they taught him musically) and Little Richard (Hendrix's showmanship definitely had more than a little taste of the Rich in it) before finding himself drawn to London and the burgeoning blues-rock/psychedelic scene happening there with the Who, Cream, and Jeff Beck's Yardbirds as the most obvious examples of early guitar wizardry and innovation. Jimi broke into this scene with the helping hand of manager and former Animal bassist Chas Chandler, who set Jimi up with the Experience. Hendrix's first shows in London were, by all accounts, earth shattering for the musicians already involved in the scene...it was over, no one could beat Hendrix. Jeff Beck and Pete Townshend were slightly miffed at Jimi's usage of their trademarked feedback squalls, but they also admitted that Jimi did it better.

It was then time for the Experience to break into the US, notably into the San Francisco freak-out longhair scene by way of the Monterey Music and Art Festival of Summer 1967. Jimi's legendary performance there (along with America's introduction to the Who) set him up as a new hero of the counterculture - a black hippie guru who surfed the waves of heavy sound even more deftly than his white counterparts. He released three albums in the next year and a half, one of them a double, and survived idiotic promo stunts like a tour opening for the Monkees.

Jimi's main backup band, the Experience, were anything but slouches. It's still amazing to me how underrated these guys were. Sure, they may have chafed under the yoke of being Jimi's 'sidemen', but he simply never had any better. Bassist Noel Redding, afro-haired popster dude, was a guitar player before switching to bass at manager Chas Chandler's behest, and he plays like it. Melodic, inventive, rarely laying down in front of the Hendrix steamroller, Redding's bass was the fuel off which Hendrix soloing machine shot through the cosmos. Noel's main fault was that he wanted to write pop tunes ala the Who's Happy Jack album rather than just heavy freakouts. Jimi politely added a few of Noel's tunes to the last two Experience albums, but it was clear that they were as out of place as Snoop Dogg at a Charlie Daniel's concert. Noel was out by '68, ready to pursue a DOA solo career and long years of legal battles. Noel died earlier in 2003.

Mitch Mitchell is even more of a bewildering case for me…he's a jazz-influenced roll-monster behind the set ala a less insano in the faceo Keith Moon, and often kept thing interesting even when Jimi couldn't. Not only did he fit in perfectly on the hard rockin' Are You Experienced, was able to stretch out on Axis and Ladyland, but could even hold his own in the transitional '69 band. It's been said that Mitch could lose the tempo during his flights of Tony Williams-influenced wigging, but I don't really hear too much of that. And in the studio, he was a rock. It was only when Hendrix's desire to surround himself with only black players did Mitch hit the road…and subsequently pointed up Buddy Miles' fatty lack of drum agility and creativity.

Following the end of the Experience, Jimi went through several failed projects and one-offs, attempting to find the band that would lead him in the R&B/funk direction he was already leaning towards on Electric Ladyland. He formed the Band of Gypsys, another power-trio, starring Buddy Miles on drums (already a star himself for his work with the Electric Flag and others) and his ol' army pal Billy Cox on bass. The all-original live Band Of Gypsys album showed Hendrix already even shying away from his 'frontman' role in addition to eschewing psychedelic rock for a sort of heavy R&B that made clear Jimi's intentions to 'get back to roots', a journey many rock artists began around that time.

The Hendrix legacy was cut short by a combination of unfortunately heavy drug use if any chemicals that came to hand, Jimi's disillusionment at his public persona as the guitar-burning, tongue-flicking, teeth-picking Uncle Tom of psychedelic rock and subsequent lack of public interest in his actual playing skills, and a noxious group of hangers-on that sucked his money and energy. Jimi simply wasn't a particularly strong personality and was taken down by his own compromises, much like Brian Jones a year earlier.  Jimi died in circumstances that doomed his memory as a 'drug casualty', which wasn't even necessarily the case (Jimi, for example, was never the ragin' junkie that we usually associate with rock star excess) considering Jimi was able to function creatively up until his final days.  Of course, there has been a disgusting feeding frenzy upon his leftovers and live tapes after his death by bootleggers and self-serving producer Alan Douglas, one that has just recently been brought under control by his family, most notably his father, a man who has proven himself to be very wise and caring when dealing with his son's legacy.

Jimi's is a story that seems destined to end in a shroud of mystery and idolatry. He was another one of the singularities in modern art that operated on a plane that defied convention and bewildered audiences. Jimi Hendrix's recorded output, even during his lifetime, is far from perfection, but this simply adds to his interest. He's simply a compelling, colorful figure in this vanilla planet of ours.

And, by the way, Jimi Hendrix, not Neil Armstrong, was the first man to walk on the moon. 1967, baby!


Are You Experienced? - MCA 1967

Now, I'm reviewing here the super-expanded MCA reissue version of the AYE? that includes all of those fantastic early singles of his that you used to have to buy Smash Hits and a few-odd outtake collections to get, followed by the UK version of the original album (it starts with 'Foxey Lady', if I'm not mistaken). The original album was released in both US and UK versions, and of course they're completely different from one another, but whoever has enough bread and wherewithal to go out and hunt down the old US LP version of this album is already sold on this fucker, so let's just get this ball rolling down the mountain already.

Are You Experienced? did as an album exactly what Jimi himself did as a performer during those first few months on the London underground scene - took already existing ideas and pushed them further than anyone had thought possible. Again, I'm not entirely sure you could call this the first ever 'hard rock' album (that probably goes to the Doors, though there's 50 bucks that says the crown probably goes to something by ? and the Mysterians or some band off the Nuggets compilation) , but it definitely defines the stuff for us neophytes. Jimi and the band create a sound that's distorted, heavy, but undoubtedly alive, something that sounds quite unlike the Led Zeppelins and other heavy-rock bands that the Experience helped create. This band sound is taut, sinewy, and incorporating surprisingly effective levels of heavy and poppy. And fresh...AYE? still sounds vital, quite unlike the dated Disraeli Gears from the same year. Jimi knew the importance of resisting the idiotic tendency to make psychedelia sound childish and goofy...this album is about as far from 'music hall' (pheew!) as you're likely to find. In short, if you're a metalhead and have been reluctant about grabbing a rock album from the pre-metal era because of questions about it's Kickass Factor, or are a lover of 60's pop who wants to experiment within the realm of the psychedelic guitar freakout, I simply cannot recommend Are You Experienced? any higher...

'Hey Joe' is, yup, the same song the Byrds covered a few years prior, but it's about as 'folk rock' as a Kalashnikov. Jimi keeps the song clean, but the busy, jumpy tempos of the original are replaced by a very deliberate, haunting stride that builds into the climax ('I took a gun...and I SHOT HER!!!') along the lines of 'House Of The Rising Sun' but without the white guy oversinging the black-dude sounding part. 'Stone Free' is cowbell-loving, bassy funk from deep down in Jimi's R&B soul and actually quite similar to what he'd pursue with the Band of Gypsys years later (and less successfully). The lyrics are of that 'I'm a FREEE BIRRRRRDDDD!!!' stripe that now sound about as cliched as a song about trains or rain (or brains), but it's quite possible that this stuff was pretty revolutionary back in '67, a time when Gerry and the Pacemakers were still considered 'hard'. Jimi'd kinda run this free-spirit subject matter into the ground on this album, but let's chalk this stuff up to inexperience, shall we?

Beginning with a cough and one of the most paranoically recognizable intros in rock history, 'Purple Haze' is almost a clinic in creative heavy riffing. Jimi's guitar growls and moans like a wild animal on the loose while Our Acid Guide intones invitations to lysergic tourism that sound alternatively intriguing ('scuse me while I kiss the sky') and scary ('oh help me...I can't go on like this...') and would become his calling card. This is inexplicably followed up by the former B-side '51st Anniversary', a decidely non-freaky fast rocker about old people in love (and how Jimi really doesn't want to get married. According to Are You Experienced?, Jimi is pretty fucking against the institution of marriage. Somewhat related to 'being tied down', apparently. I guess our Jimi's just got happy feet and a wang that likes different flavors of Tang.) with a great live-in-the-studio sound and what sounds like him taking a hit off a joint on the line 'blow your...*ssssuck!!* sweet little mind!' Another change of pace follows with the lilting heavy-ballad/rocker 'The Wind Cries Mary', one of Bob Dylan's favorite Hendrix songs and one that shows some surprising lyricism and restraint on the solo section. Really, we're six tracks through the album now and the guitar freakouts have been kept to a minimum. But just you wait...these are singles. Singles weren't allowed to have more than 400 total notes in them prior to 1969 (by penalty of being shot in the kneecaps by Phil Spector). Just you wait until we hit the album tracks...

'Highway Chile' is kinda jive hard-rockin' naggy lead-linin' and more lyrics about getting the fuck away from whatever woman is trying to hold you down with her home-cookin' and moist lips, but it's the weakest track on here. 'Foxey Lady' kicks off the original LP and is much more like it...sorta a heaving fuck-strokin' revisitation of 'Purple Haze', it's yet another hard classic. Amazing how slow it is, though...any slower and it'd be a Swans song, but it hides it's very dragginess by as being as brontosaurus-deliberate as physically possible. Jimi really does sound sexy, too...this has gotta be one of the best leering tunes ever written. 'Manic Depression' is faster...amazing interplay between Jimi's off-beat lead line and Mitch's cacophanous drumrolls. The tunes on the AYE? LP were obviously written some time after the singles as they show a larger tendency to experiment with interplay and form, and are somewhat more satisfying (if less accessible) as a result. 'Red House' mixes in a heaping helping of blues-traditionalism of a sort Jimmy Page was always trying to equal (and never quite got to...notice, for example, how close the introductory solo to 'Red House' is to Page's 'Since I've Been Loving You'. For a blues-lover, I've always thought the solos here were nothing short of perfect - imminently memorable, thick, buttery tone, and always respectfully behind the beat.

I don't much like the rote 'Can You See Me', another fast rocker, in comparison with the tracks here that earn the right to the adjective 'classic', but the end of this record provides a psychedelic rush that proves all is forgiven. 'Love Or Confusion' has fucking galaxial interplay between the chording rhythm guitar and feedback lead, and an undeniable propulsiveness. This is noise rock of the first (and original) order...grooving, teeth-gritting, and beautiful. 'May This Be Love' is another R&B-influenced track that's entirely too noisy and hard to be considered Rhythm and Blues, but I insist that's exactly what it is....soul for the inner-ear, that's all. Needles into the pleasure centers of the brain. Jimi pleading to be killed so he can return to where he came from...a little peek behind the mask, maybe? 'Remember' is probably closer to what people consider 'soul', another strutter, another groovin' winner that thrives on Jimi's charismatic delivery ('I wanna...kiss you in the mornin' baby *smack!*') 'May This Be Love' is even more beautiful than 'Wind Cries Mary', 'Third Stones From The Sun' a surfy-instrumental pleasure that alternates between groove and sci-fi swooshes (plus some frigging hilarious lines from the 'alien' Hendrix...good shit) and full-on psychedelic freaking out. 'Are You Experienced?', with it's single-note piano, forwards-guitar- that- sounds- backwards, backwards-drums-that-sound-forwards, Ultimate Fantasy Camp soloing and constant pleading by Jimi to try this motherfucking joint already, is about the most compelling electronic psychedelic noise-soup since the funk classic 'Tomorrow Never Knows'. If you aren't willing to slide down the rabbithole after listening to this nightmare-vision, you're hopeless. Enjoy voting Republican, square!

Shit, when 'Fire' sounds tame, you know your second side is fucking bananas! Man, Jimi was growing by leaps and bounds not album by album, like most artists, but track by track. This album is sequenced perfectly to induce a very 'susceptible' frame of mind. Susceptible to beauty. Susceptible to power. Though it has a few rote gestures and doesn't produce a melodic winner each and every time, it's sheer raw energy and audacity make it a classic rock album for the ages. That doesn't suck or sound old or nothin'. There's still plenty of room for us all to get Experienced.

Capn's Final Word: Jimi's introduction of himself into our world, and (more importantly) us into his. Rocking, gorgeous, groundbreaking.

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Nathan Harper nator9999@comcast.net    Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: It's just a classic. Electric Ladyland is probably more cohesive with a much smoother slow, but the plain truth is that unlike electric ladyland, everything on here just kicks ass. Hendrix's best.

Catrippee Troubadour     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: What is this narrowminded view of jimi's music? How in the Hell is Foxey Lady anything like Purple haze? Pick up an instrument every once in a while instead of a soapbox. Different key, different phrasing, even the soloing is painfully more straightforward. Dig your site but man you are way off on the comparison department. Stick to writing the rating. It's only one letter but you always seem to get it right.

(Capn's Response: I rather liked it when I said that your letter sounded like Andy Rooney choking on a Junior Mint.)

Randy     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: The best way to experience this album is to take out all the filler cuts that weren't included in the first American release and put them at the end of your custom made cd; the notable exceptions being Stone Free and Red House.  That way you needn't be bothered by listening to Wait Until Tomorrow, Highway Child and that one about "so you say you wanna get married."  These songs, while mostly ok, definately belong in the bonus tracks section.

 

Mike     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Listen, I pray you, to "Are You Experienced" backwards...it's *unbelievable*...

For all of us in the digital age, you can download WavePad, download an "Are You Experienced" mp3, open it within WavePad, select the entire track, then go to Effects, select Reverse, and then play the song.  Ooohhh....Drool...it'll show you just how much of the song was really backwards tapes...it's a mind milkshake!

Oh, the album? Yeah, it's a classic, 'nuff said.

 

nazar     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: This is my favorite album of all time. I've already had it several years,and I still listen to it. The sound is so raw, it grabs your attention and forces you to listen. Also, Jimi's voice goes very well with the music. Huh, imagine Phil Collins singing Hey Joe. The extra bonus tracks make it only better. AYE is anything but short of classic tunes, get it today!
 


Axis: Bold As Love - MCA 1967.

The second album by the Experience shows their quick transition into a psychedelic pop band from a heavy rock band, and an increased focus on lyrics. Of course, both of these developments pretty much take them further from their main strengths: their raw power and Jimi's guitar. Of course, I spoke about Jimi's 'subtlety' last time, but when the Experience doggedly refuses to rock out, it's sort of difficult to get your mind around it, y'know. This album is so subtle it's stealth. I mean, I've probably heard it about 200 times over the last ten years or so, and if someone says 'Up From The Skies', I still don't know exactly which one of these songs they're talking about. Is that my fault, or is it Jimi's? Is it even a fault? I guess if I can say this is a great album regardless of the slippery nature of this music, there's nothing wrong with how this album is constructed.

First off, there's the goofy Frank Zappa-esque alien-skit 'EXP', which some Linda Tripps out there want us not to like, but what's not to like about someone smashing a guitar? That's all it is, fer chrissakes, and it only goes on for a minute or so. That one's memorable. So's 'Spanish Castle Magic', probably the only pure hard rocker on here, the only one that could really pass the Are You Experienced? test, anyway, and it's loads of funzies. You may know 'Little Wing' from the Derek and the Dominoes album, where Clapton made it scream like it had been his all along. Hendrix's version is a bit more pedestrian (not to mention poorly mixed) but respect still needs to be paid to a guy who is always seen as such a hard rocker pulling this fragile, intricate ballad out of his arse. That's songwriting talent, ladies and gentlemen, and people who claim Jimi is lacking in it have simply deposited Mr. Head into the National Ass Bank And Trust on a 6-month CD.

As for memorable tunes, 'If 6 Was 9' is definitely one of them…it's as bent as a pig's dick and about as pretty. Jimi raps about 'white collar conservative flashing down the street' and whatever else kept him up at night while the Experience either overplays (Mitch) or barely does anything at all (Jimi and Noel). The effect, especially after the irritating around-the-world volume panning starts in and the howling, twittering flute-thing (is that a guitar? Fuck me, that's gross!) is repellent…very much a rarity on a Jimi Hendrix song. You'll have to go looking long and hard through his 70's ripoff records to find something as bad as 'If 6 Was 9'.  

Umm…the rest of these tunes are great, but they're just that runtogether pop-rockin stuff I mentioned earlier. But just try to spend more than a couple words describing the jazzy 'Up From The Skies' and 'groovy 'Wait Until Tomorrow', Noel's 'She's So Fine', a pretty good Quick One gogo-rock impression, not to mention all those basic rockers like 'Little Miss Lover', and you're bound to fail. 'Castles Made Of Sand' is a nice rewrite of 'Wind Cries Mary', 'One Rainy Wish' a cross between 'May This Be Love' and, umm…cock rock? Weird, but highly effective. It's a lost classic, I'd say.

 Most folks have the same general impression of Axis - that it's generally difficult to discern and harder to remember. I'm no exception, but the true test is how you react to such a quandary. Some rate this Jimi's best, more accomplished than AYE? (Huh? because of some pop and some Dylan influences? Wha?) and more consistent than Electric Ladyland (I'll agree there, but EL's highlights beat the crap out of this record), and others just go with gut feeling and give it a lower grade due to it's lack of impressive punch. I'm quite happy it exists as a counterpoint to the freakouts on the other two, and I think it shows a lot of growth, but I simply cannot say that I'd really prefer to hear 'Spanish Castle Magic' over 'Purple Haze' or 'Fire', and 'Axis: Bold As Love' is pretty faint when compared with the title track to AYE? as a statement of purpose. Axis: Bold As Love will have to stay where it lies…a little enigmatic, quite a bit confusing and maybe more (or less) than it seems.

Capn's Final Word: Jimi makes an album so consistent you can't tell it apart from itself. Neat trick.

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mEf     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: YOU TALK TO MUCH SHIT ABOUT GREATEST MUSICIAN/SPACE TRAVELER.... C'MON MAN, J-I-M-I WAS THE FUCKING GREATEST!!! BETTER THAN THAT FUCKING REDNECK BLUES WANNABE STEVIE "GAY" VAUGHN.

 

Mike     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: I thought I was the only one who thought "If 6 Was 9" sucked balls. "Little Miss Lover" is pretty damned funky, and one of Jimi's best rockers - many of these songs are among his best.

 

Jack     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: I think, song for song, this is my favorite album of Hendrix's. The tunes are just catchier and it flows together better than either of the other two. If 6 was 9 is a find piece of proto jazz rock freakout (and that is a flute, a wooden flute, played by Jimi) and I think bold as love is Hendrix's best overal song; those last fourty seconds make me feel like I'm flying through the stratosphere more than any other piece of music (and Jimi plays harpischord on that one)

nazar  nazariusrudius@yahoo.com   Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: I would have to say that this is the second-best Hendrix album. There are some great solos and tunes, and it's definetely worth getting. EXP, however, is a piece of shit.


 


Electric Ladyland - MCA 1968

Jimi's grand personal statement, made in the studio that he helped create and under his total artistic control, and home to some of his most flat-out astonishing work. This double expands on everything that he'd tried on his first two records, from the hard rock and wiggy psychedelia of Experienced? ('Crosstown Traffic', 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return') to the more melodic work he introduced on Axis ('Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)', 'The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp'), and points much further beyond. Jimi gave us all he had on Electric Ladyland, and unfortunately means he gave us everything he had as well…there's about four or five songs on here that simply bore, and I sincerely don't mean the incendiary blues meltdown 'Voodoo Chile' or the jazzy, mind expanding trip down 20,000 tabs under the sea '1983/Moon Turn The Tides'. Sorry to be shocking…should I put my pants back on again? 

I mean 'Come On' (come on and finish this generic fucking soul cover), 'House Burning Down' ('House Falling Asleep' is more like it), 'Gypsy Eyes' (get in your caravan and move the fuck right on out of town). There's a few more that I probably ought to list, but come on…I've never found these songs to be anything more but as forgettable as Axis and a whole lot less accessible to repeated listenings. There's really a tendency among Jimi's work that seems to indicated that if he can come up with some impossibly difficult riff over a soul groove (or even a dull, plodding riff over a soul groove…see Band of Gypsies) he can come up with a song, but I feel like sometimes Jimi is engaged and sometimes he's not. On the 'Voodoo Children', he's engaged. On Noel's tunes, no way. On 'Watchtower', sure…'Come On' is autopilot. So, Electric Ladyland is far from flawless…as spotty as Michael Jackson's dong and about 100 times as long, that's for sure. But I still love it to death…quite often I'm moved by Electric Ladyland as I am few other rock albums.

I enjoy this album (70% or so, anyway) so much because Jimi is free of the time restrictions that must've stifled him before. The demon rundown dark-blues 'Voodoo Child' (the first one, starring the Jefferson Airplane's Jack Casady and organist Stevie Winwood of Michelob-shilling fame) leads somewhere new each and every one of it's 15 minutes, which is exactly what a blues jam ought to do, and so few people were able to get right when this stuff was in vogue. Even the sidemen play like possessed Haitians, shocking this blues Frankenstein's Monster to life and marching it right on down into the village to slaughter a few merchants. I really cannot conceive of this song losing even one bar (which is precisely what makes the version on the Blues CD so weird as it contains a very different approach to the same jam). '1983 (A Merman I should Turn To Be)/Moon Turn The Tides…Gently, Gently Away' is even more accomplished…a science fiction tale (Jimi and girlfriend build a machine to turn them into mermaids to escape war on the surface) that not only has an intriguing and evocative set of lyrics, but actually has musical passages that - lo and behold!- actually resemble what it might be like to travel through the beauty of the undersea world like a natural inhabitant! Rock music, prog especially, constantly attempts to evoke certain unearthly worlds via musical experimentation, but most of them fail to sound like anything but a bunch of longhair Brits in a studio smoking pot and figuring out new ways to wear ruffled shirts. From the stately melody-line and march-step drumbeats to the echo effects on Jimi's voice, straight through to the 'space' section complete with bass solo (Jimi) and various watery squiggles and moans, and onto the hard-charging roar that accompanies the flute solo, this suite is fantastic. Is it any coincidence it's placed between the jazz-groove bookends 'Rainy Day, Dream Away', and 'Still Raining, Still Dreaming'? I hate to mention what may be obvious to everyone else, (it certainly wasn't to me, not for a long time), but our narrator is hanging out, smoking weed on a rainy day and falls asleep, dreams the whole '1983' mermaid thing (cool dream), and then completes the sequence with 'Still Raining, Still Dreaming'. I mean, that's nearly as cool as thinking up the three Star Wars trilogies all at once, or maybe inventing cigarettes. It's just that cool. Just get over the fact that it's long, that's all you gotta do.

Forget that the dull likes of 'House Burning Down' totally ruin the mood and launch into Jimi's version of 'All Along The Watchtower', which Dylan had released just weeks before Jimi recorded this totally transformed and immeasurably improved version of the John Wesley Harding mood-piece. They're two completely different songs, sharing nothing but a chord sequence, a lyric sheet, and an oppressive foreboding, and I feel that Jimi's peculiar blend of accidental genius and master of technique come together perfectly on this song. Given the right seed, he made it work.

Jimi didn't need a seed for 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return)', which has nothing to do with the other song of the same name other than the supernatural lyrical subject matter, live-in-the-studio recording, and the fact that it KICKS FUCKING ASS. Why more people don't hold this tune up as a simple classic of pure, genuine rock 'n' roll mastery is beyond me. To me, it's the perfection of all things attempted by Hendrix so far. The riff itself is mesmerizing, and Jimi never plays it the same way twice. The Experience latch onto a metallic, funky, heaving bastard of a groove that moves mountains (and makes sand) all by itself. Is it unjustly forgotten because Jimi solos most of the way through? I believe these are some of his most brilliantly off-the-cuff lines ever, and I love it when he makes his Strat sound like a train by flicking the pickup selecter like that. Whenever I try it, I just go *click! click!* as the note dies away entirely too quickly and I look and sound like a retard on his way home from camp. Little things…it's the little things that make Jimi Hendrix a legend. Oh, and the big things, too. Fuck it…it’s everything. You gotta buy this record.

Capn's Final Word: Never mind the bullocks...here's Jimi Hendrix

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Nathan Harper  nator9999@comcast.net   Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Of all the reviews I've read of this, I agree with yours the most. You don't worship it, but you don't condemn it either. Sure, a bunch of the pop tunes following "Voodo Chile" are crappy filler, but everything from "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" to "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" is fucking amazing. Not to mention "Voodoo Chile" and "Crosstown Traffic!" The whole dream sequence in particular is fantastic. If Jimi could have jusst cut out some of the crap, this could have been his best album.

 

mEf     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: THIS ALBUM IS TRULY A MASTERPIECE....

 

Nazar   nastynazzy@yahoo.com  Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: At 75:35, it's one of the longer albums out there on one disc. Also one with a lot of filler. See here, none of these songs are actually bad, just generic. Blues jams like the 15-minute Voodoo Chile and the jazzy Rainy Day just don't do it for me. Oh, and neither does Come On, which is just a generic blues, R&B thingy. Why didn't this album start out with Have You Ever Been To Electric Ladyland? What a great theme song! But noooooo, Jimi and Co. have to slap on some useless jingle about Gods Making Love....blaahhhh. Even worse than EXP, I think. So why did I give this album an A-? Let me tell you something, Charlie(Fritz?), the good parts more than compensate for the not-so-good parts. Firstly, All Along The Watchtower was, for a very long time, my all-time favorite song. I mean, that solo in the middle would just send chills up and down my spine every time I heard it, and Watchtwer also has some nice fills in between the lyrics. But what a solo..... no !piece of music has ever been able to recreate that magic effect for me. Then you've got 1983...(The Merman Song). It starts of with this mean, business-like guitar part, and then the main riff, and then the spooky echoing vocals, and then the...oh, God, who else could write kickass psychedelic rock like this in 1968? Anyway, some say that the effect gets ruined by the experimental stuff, but I like it just fine. Really, this is one of the most emotional (not emo) songs I've heard. I've always liked Voodoo Chile, Gypsy Eyes and Burning Of The Midnight Lamp. Even the crappy production of Burning Of The Midnight Lamp doesn't ruin that
song. Little Miss Strange is not as good as She's So Fine on Ass-kiss: Bold As Love, but it's still good. Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) is a nice way to end the album, and it's full of interesting guitar licks that will hold your interest every time you listen to this one. Whew, what a long review... but it is a long album.


David     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: This is Jimi's masterpiece, pure and simple. I love his first two records but EL stands the tallest for sure.

 


Woodstock - MCA 1995.

Yup, Jimi Hendrix did pretty darn well at those big festivals, at least what is evident from his Monterey performance (I've seen the movie, but don't own the disc) and here at the Grandpappy Of Them All, Woodstock. Of course, most of the morons who were there had already decided to go home and Jimi was playing in front of a bleary, early morning crowd (he makes reference to them leaving during his set).

 I hate to say it right in the middle of a Jimi Hendrix review and all, but I have to get my little Woodstock speech off my chest right now. At the same time this was happening, there were a quarter of a million Americans sitting in the mud over in Vietnam for a helluva lot longer than 3 measly days, and they didn't get to go back home to Daddy's tudor in the Hamptons after it was all over with. The fucking Woodstock Generation was a bunch of assholes, everything I see and hear and read reinforces that idea. A bunch of bandwagon-jumpers who were too late for the Summer of Love (itself mostly a sham) and who would later turn from a bunch of brain-dead CSNY fans into a bunch of brain-dead James Taylor fans. Frank Zappa had the right idea about these people…it was simply the cool thing to do at that point, and for every sincere revolutionary and free-thinker, there were probably a dozen good, ol-fashioned conformists who just wanted to get high and get some 'free love' off an Earth Mother with unshaven pits.

 Anyway, whoo! Did you get the license number of that grandstand? Was that John Ashcroft, or what? Whee….Jimi Hendrix rules!

 Or at least, he starts ruling about halfway through this performance, when he finally overcomes his unresponsive backing band (Mitch Mitchell, Billy Cox, a percussionist, Mama Cass howling uncontrollably for 'Just ONE more Veggie Burrito', some guys taking down the stage, and Max Yasgur weeping for the loss of his land to a bunch of idiot unemployed college dropouts) and takes control of his guitar and the set as a whole. Jimi's band, with the exception of Mitch, is inaudible (they were supposed to really suck), so this really is Jimi's show only. The opening sequence attempts to play the human-jukebox thing, and fails due to sloppy backup and general disregard for doing anything interesting with 'Fire', 'Foxey Lady', 'Isabella' and others. It's just not working, and it's clearer to nobody but Jimi himself.

 Starting with 'Jam Back At The House' on through 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return)', Jimi's tattooed noise-rock version of 'The Star-Speckled Banana' that can still get kids banned from performing at the high school talent show, and on into 'Purple Haze' and especially the 'Woodstock Improvisation', Hendrix finally warms up, grabs the reins, gathers everything he's ever shown us and adds more to it by playing one of the great rock music instrumental sequences in memory. He simply throws everything off the edge of the ship, especially on 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return)', where it seems like maybe Jimi is attempting to top all of the performances that took place that week (he succeeds) by simple use of six strings and a series of amplification devices. But, for me, the real kick is the 'Woodstock Improvisation', wherein Jimi simply begins to write an encyclopedia about the universe. This is one of the most impressive pieces of art I've ever experienced at any time…it's violent, angry, sad, and symphonic, and it's not even rock music. 'Improvisation' moves into the cool-down 'Villanova Junction', and everything goes out beautiful. No exactly stoned, but…beautiful.

Capn's Final Word: Once the engine turns over, it's off to the races. Side 2 is like a rush headlong into a hurricaine.

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Josh     Your Rating: B-
Any Short Comments?: Hey, I just wanted to comment on what you said about the Woodstock generation.  Now, don't take this as an insult, but I think you're wrong, wrong, wrong.  "A bunch of assholes", were they?  Just tell me what you're basing this on.  Why are they assholes?  Oh sure, they did a lot of drugs, but fuck, it's not like they were the first people to do that (and they certainly weren't the last).  They were just sick and tired of war, racism and meaningless destruction.  So they
protested, and some protestors got shot just for voicing their opinions.  So, if you're going to accuse someone of being "assholes", aim your comments at the narrow-minded Left Wing Conservative bastards.  Again, don't take this the wrong way, I mean no offense by it.  I just strongly disagree with ya, that's all.

Anyway, yeah, this album rules.  It rules mercilessly.  I personally think that Hendrix was gruesomely overrated, but he really plays like a demon on here.  Great album, great festival, great era!

(Capn's Response: I guess you said it all, but backwards.  They weren't left wing (i.e. Democrats) conservative bastards, they were right wing (i.e. in 15 years would vote in droves for fucking Herr Reagan) liberal (drug huffing, divorcing) bastards.)
 


Band Of Gypsies - Capitol 1970

Jimi Hendrix had remained listless and unsure of his musical direction ever since the breakup of the Experience following the release of Electric Ladyland. Generally looking for inspiration anywhere he could find it, one of the ways he attempted to resurrect himself from drug-induced depression was to make a return to his R&B roots. He decided that the best move to make was to reaffirm his 'blackness' after spending two years in the spotlight surrounded by two white guys. He formed the Band Of Gypsies with bassist Billy Cox from the Woodstock band (and one of Jimi's friends from his Army days) and star drummer Buddy Miles. The BOG played only three shows, right around New Year's 1970, taking their setlists from Jimi's as-yet-unfinished fourth studio record, and adding in a few old hits and Buddy Miles tunes. The disc I'm reviewing is not the expanded, two-CD set Live At Fillmore East, which contains a more complete picture of the shows, but rather the original, single disc contractual obligation that Hendrix released in early 1970. Apparently the Fillmore discs are astonishing in the same way as Woodstock, but there's little hint of that going on here. Jimi may have been trying to get back to his roots, but I seriously doubt his roots were this unreservedly boring.

 Since these are all-new songs, I really should go through and make some reviews of the actual songs, but it's a seriously rough go as there is really very little difference between them, which means they all attempt to ring the Suck bell on numerous occasions. As it is, only 'Machine Gun' is worthwhile, and it's mostly just a more intense 'House Burning Down' with lots of heavy jams and little or no melody. But it is intense, a cry from a deep, dark nightmare, and unrelentingly depressing. Probably pretty close to Jimi's mood at the time, so I've heard. 'Power Of Soul' is similarly without riff - its just a bassline over which Jimi noodles (yup, just sorta playing around the edges…quite a bit different than the masterful lead guitar of the Experience era) for inordinate lengths of time before the sing-songy chorus (rhymes with 'anything is possi-bowl'). 'Message Of Love' is even weaker, it sounds unfinished and raw. Miles' two compositions are even worse, two rejects that Jimi can't even solo over convincingly. Vocal-wise, compared to Buddy, Jimi's Roy Orbison. It's a sad, dull, endless listen. Never before has Jimi's guitar sounded so flat and lifeless, but he keeps trying to grind the thing further and further into the ground with each gratuitous solo.  

 It's amazing that people have the gall to call this stuff 'funk'. What, pray tell, is funky about Buddy 'fathead' Miles playing the same four-floor sock-sock drumbeat song after song (besides 'Machine Gun', where he gets to do some rolls at least). Cox is just about incompetent whenever he tries anything but the root of the chord, so it's not like we're getting much help from that side, either. It all, once again, falls on Jimi's shoulders, but sadly, this time it doesn't work. There was more funk on the first side of Are You Experienced? (shit, there's more funk on the first side of Abba's Arrival album, fer chrissakes), so anyone who claims this is the birthplace of funk-rock simply has it dead wrong. Just because these guys have black skin don't mean they ought to be playing together.

 A little explanation may be necessary as to why this was released at all. Hendrix's Capitol recording contract was about to run out, and he wanted to release an album that a) didn't include any Experience songs, b) didn't include anything that might make it onto his unfinished First Rays Of The New Rising Sun record, and c) could be completed quickly and easily so as not to take time away from the arduous recording of Rays. Bingo…Band Of Gypsies. It had the commercial drawback of being live and not including any of the hits, but I guess people underestimate the drawing power of Billy Cox. Anyway, don't buy this. I'll reserve judgment on Fillmore East until I hear it, but if this heap is any indication, you better just stick with Woodstock.

Capn's Final Word: Either a malicious editing job of a great concert or a really awful performance. Which one remains to be seen.

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time     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: just for machine gun listen to that song best guitar playing ever the feedback WOW! and it's only one chord and wait......... only one guitar... is that possible? there must've been someone else
but nope there wasn't that jimi for ya

 

An Drew      Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: How can anyone deny this record? The funky riffs of "who knows" and "changes," the mind-blowing solos (machine gun). The tone of jimi's strat has never been heard as powerfully as it is here, live or in the studio. The downside is jimi's singing, which is horribly spotty, but he was FUCKING BUSY with the guitar, and having only a mediocre rhythm section to work with. Buddy miles' voice is a welcome change, though mitch mitchell would have been much better. Overall, definitely a requisite hendrix album.

George A. Gelish     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Dude, if you gave this album a C- you are not a Hendrix fan!  This record documents a transitional period in Hendrix'career where he was trying to get to another level but in the end would be thwarted.  Hendrix walks away from the Experience to grow and stretch out as an artist, teaming up with cohorts Buddy Miles on drums and Billy Cox on bass. 

Some have called BOG "the first black supergroup" and they are probably right to an extent.  Buddy Miles was and has been an underappreciated artist in the annals of Rock. His fantastic drumming and singing with the Electric Flag - not to mention his own stellar first solo album - are now largely forgotten. Not to mention the many good songs he's recorded after this one.

A lot of people prefer Noel Redding's bass playing to Billy Cox, although I disagree.  Cox's bass is funkier and more "in the pocket" that that of Redding, who was always a frustrated guitar player and jealous of Jimi being the star.

For his part, Hendrix expands on his expermentations at Woodstock with Sky Church.  Here he stretches out into free-form jams like the twelve-minute "Who Knows" and an expanded eight-minute version of "Machine Gun."  While the former is a hit-or-miss, sometimes unfocused jam (aren't they all?) the latter is Hendrix at his most brilliant and passionate.  Here he shows he has perfected the war sounds he famously used on "Star Spangled Banner" at Woodstock. 

In addition to documenting a killer show, at its release "Band of Gypsies" debuted some of Jimi's best songs - "Message of Love" and "Power of Soul."  There is also a spirited version of "Them Changes;" a very different and psychedelicized version than the very good version on the "Buddy Miles Express" LP.

"Band of Gypsies" is a must-have for any Classic Rock collection. 

Mike    Your Rating: B-
Any Short Comments?: And that's a low B minus. Good Christ...the reasons why this album sucks in comparison to other Jimi stuff can be summed up in one word: Buddy Miles. That is not very good drumming, and compared to Mitch...I mean, Buddy's a better drummer than Nick Mason, say, but when we're comparing drummers to Nick Mason, we've hit the skids. And I would have been perfectly content to have never heard Buddy Miles sing lead. He's good enough as a backing vocalist, but someone should tell him that scatting is not his forte.

"Who Knows" is an underwritten jam, doesn't feature remarkable Hendrix playing, and wastes an unconscionably large amount of time in the middle on Miles' terrible vocal hooting. Seriously, he sounds like a pigeon. "Them Changes" isn't a good song, neither is "We Gotta Live Together," and "Message To Love" is all right, but nothing special. That leaves "Power of Soul" and "Machine Gun." "Power of Soul" ain't bad, not amazing, but definitely fun: Jimi gets some good riffs around Billy Cox's bass, and generally I like it.

But "Machine Gun" is unbelievable. Everything works here, from Buddy's stalking, military, unrelenting drumming, to Billy Cox's amazingly cold, evil bass groove, and even Buddy's backup vocals work startlingly well. But Jimi...oh, good God. This is very likely some of his best guitar playing ever recorded. This has been beaten into the ground, but his guitar really does conjure up the sounds of helicopters, explosions, bullets...visceral, terrifying playing. Buddy's lead vocal at the end is all right, even. I know I'm really harsh on the guy, but c'mon...that's not good singing, or even soulful. The drumming's most often a joke in front.

I wouldn't get it, really. But you should find "Machine Gun" right now - 12 minutes of depressing brilliance. Even Jimi's speaking intro to the song is uneasy...that's not a happy man talking.
 


The Cry of Love - Reprise 1971.

The first of producer Alan Douglas's corpse-chomping post-mortem albums released only in the purest respect for what Jimi Himself might've wanted (right), The Cry Of Love was a collection of the studio tracks Jimi was most close to completing at the time of his death. Of course, all of this has now been supplanted in it's entirety by the comprehensive CD-age First Rays of the New Rising Sun so let's move on there for more info on the tracks themselves.

I actually own this CD from way back, and from a pure point of view, it's quite listenable. I wouldn't describe the tracks as sounding unfinished, just not really well-written. Who knows what might've happened between the point at which the recording stopped and the hypothetical release date (who's to say what may have been in Hendrix's mind, eh?), but it's my hunch that this is probably pretty close to the mark.

Capn's Final Word: Let the shameless captialization of a defenseless dead guy get underway! Got your cutout bins ready?

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War Heroes - Reprise 1972

More rarities (yes, Virginia, there was indeed a time when the B-side only 'Highway Chile' was considered a rarity, and polyester considered something you might want to make a suit out of, and sex was something you had, instead of obsessing about and replacing by eating boatloads of fucking Chicken Fingers.) and First Rays of the New Rising Sun tracks, something much less cohesive than Cry Of Love. During that album you could close your eyes and still convince yourself that it was an actual album that Jimi'd finished, chosen a track sequence and album cover for, and just simply forgotten to send to his record company. War Heroes is more all over the road than a depressed Speedy Gonzales after a bottle of XXX and a fight with Mrs. Gonzales. This album is just a lot less believable than Cry, and is the point at which the crass commercialization of a dead artist's sketches and throwaways begins in earnest. This is also the last album of 'pure Hendrix' to come from Alan Douglas, the last album that sounded like what Hendrix may have actually heard and played along with at one time. After this, the studio-hack overdubbing and crazed, fantastical 'extrapolations' of Hendrix as Jazz Fusionist (!)(?)(Q#@*$@#!) were the order of the day, at least until the Hendrix family wrested away control and brought a little shade of sanity to Hendrix's catalog.

This album runs from the umpteenth 'May This Be Love' rewrite 'Angel' and the spicy 'Izabella' to the Zappa-esque 'Peter Gunn Catastrophe' and the gross 'Midnight' instrumental. Go find this somewhere else.

Capn's Final Word: Again, don't get this when you can get South Saturn Delta, and don't get South Saturn Delta if you can get Electric Ladyland.

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The Other Sam     Your Rating: C
Any Short Comments?: For the record, Alan Douglass had nothing to do with either War Heroes or Cry Of Love. These two were produced by Eddie Kramer with none other than Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox providing the overdubs. The two Douglass produced abominations are titled Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning, neither of which I've ever had the courage to subject myself to. While Kramer and Mitchell, who had been with Jimi since day one, strove to preserve Hendrix's vision on their two albums, Douglas did whatever he had to to make songs out of scraps, including overdubs by studio hacks. Thankfully, those two "albums" are deservedly out of print.

 


Live At Winterland - Polydor 1986

The minute all the bazillion posthumous releases begin to drag you down, when you're halfway through South Saturn Delta or Blues, forcing yourself to like it because it's Hendrix, hating your life and wishing you were busily watching a rerun of Nell  or What's Happening and enjoying some nice enchiladas instead, this is the time to let Live At Winterland blast all the wax and complacency from your dendricles and renew yourself. See that album cover? A wide, toothy grin sits on Jimi while he's striking some natural, kickass pose. No depression, no standing still, no frowning. And see what's written on there? The Jimi Hendrix Experience...not some New Gypsy Rising Angel Sunshine Horizon Band of Bullhockey Patoot No-Name Bongo-Tapping Fuckheads....the Experience. We know exactly who's in that band, don't we? Ooh, this feels good. It's not his fault that Jimi didn't leave a whole lotta good, unreleased stuff behind from his prime years ('67-8), instead finding it necessary to leave the tapes running only in his final year, a time when his inspiration had ebbed and his choice of sidemen degraded. He never thought at that point that things would ever begin to decay...he was at his very peak, and everything just kept heading further skyward. Nah, the crystal-rush of Winterland reminds us about all the things that were sincerely magical about 1967 and 1968, when the Experience were still creating faultlines in the crust of the Earth and Jimi was still able to smile that winning smile of his...sincerely. Winterland, a little CD released in the mid-80's and since having fallen under the radar, is one of the purest pleasures in the Hendrix catalog.

Winterland seems to be drawn from a single show (or at least from shows from the same run) a show at which no warm-up is necessary. Hendrix and band begin to rock out from beat one ('Fire') and don't let up until...um....never. There ain't no ballads here, it'd fuck up the hard rockin' adrenaline! You can't let the energy drop and then try to bring it right back up again! Better just keep kicking fucking ass song after song, bulldozing through 'Foxey Lady', 'Killing Floor', 'Spanish Castle Magic', and 'Sunshine Of Your Love', and all the other hits from AYE? you know you secretly love best, too. The setlist might be predictable, but who gives a fuck? I can predict that the next song is going to be every bit as great and rocking as the last one! The surprise (not really) is a cover of 'Sunshine Of Your Love' that's dedicated to the newly-broken up Cream, who Jimi praises as 'really groovy cats' and 'one of the heaviest groups out there'. Except for your own, Jimbo...except for your own. The solos and jam sections are genuinely exciting, like the fuzz-bass meltdown in 'Sunshine' that keeps the chaos rolling at the highest possible rate of tension and the women gooing at the highest possible rate of viscosity. Whoo!  I even feel redeemed by the blues jamming on 'Red House', and I just sat through Blues not an hour ago. 'Killing Floor' boogies uncontrollably hard, 'Tax Free' has none of the pointlessness like it's War Heroes/South Saturn Delta studio version,and Jimi Hendrix invents arena rock on the intro to 'Hey Joe' before blasting through the end of the concert in near-punk rock economy and precision.  The sound quality is generally excellent (no doubt thanks to the superior sound of Bill Graham's facilities), despite the Experience having blown out a majority of their amplifiers in the first 3 songs or so (there's a funny section where Jimi roll-calls the casualties, including Mitch being on 'his third set of arms', then says...'fuck it, we don't give a damn!'. That's the rock 'n' roll spirit! May be corny, but I still love it. The heart of rock 'n' roll....is still beating the living fuck out of Huey Lewis) and the audience is unobtrusive and appreciative.

Capn's Final Word:  It may be a simple answer to the question, 'What rocks?', or 'What's a Great Live Album', but it's the right one.

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Chopped Liva     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: I recently got this and I'm impressed by the energy and excitement of the playing. I might not ever listen to all that depressed 69-70 era stuff again. I mean, he fucking tears through these songs with equal parts virtuosity and sheer abandon(sorry, I turned into Erlewine for a minute there)! I didn't know it was possible to inject life into such warhorses as "Hey Joe" until I heard that unbelievable intro and his genuinely kick-ass playing on that track. "Red House" is a dependable blues and Hendrix really gets his chops on. I don't have to go into detail and shit cause this is only a  reader comment, so just listen to the album. "Wild Thing" will kick your ass. To be safe I'm sticking with an A but I'll probably bet feelin' an A+ soon, anyway.
~Peace~
 


Blues - Reprise 1994.

God, if I never hear another blues scale again it'll be too soon. Blues is a collection of hardcore Latin emo-core Sanskrit devotional skiffle tracks that feature so much soloing a person could pretty much take a guitar, sit down with it, listen to this album, and never ever want to play guitar again. I mean, Jimi Hendrix is an awesome guitar player, sure...definitely one of the best, (though these post-Experience albums have even me doubting it sometimes) but this album is chock full of sheer Lo-Mein, full-grain, lotsa-starch-to-make-ya-fat noodle. You know, noodling...what guitar players play when they have absolutely no idea where they're going or how long it's going to take to get there, or even if they want to be going anywhere at all. I can only hope that these tracks were essentially band rehearsals and that Jimi was just trying to get the ol' brainstorm working as to what cool lines he might inject into the 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return) solo that night at the show. Whatever the case, there's absolutely no way this stuff was ever meant to be released, 90% of it anyway. There's two go-nowhere instrumentals ('Catfish Blues', which sounds like 'Voodoo Chile', and 'Born Under A Bad Sign', which sounds nothing like 'Born Under A Bad Sign'), a loping alternate version of 'Voodoo Chile', an alternate 'Red House', the acoustic 'Hear My Train A-Comin'' from the Jimi Hendrix movie, and a whole lot less. This album is certainly not about songs. It's about playing one of 7 different notes on the blues pentatonic scale in a different way from which you played the last. It's about flash, about technique, about finger-flashing...it's not even usually about kicking ass. The fact that the Miles/Cox rhythm section backs up most of these tracks certainly doesn't help...you can rest assured that the rhythm section isn't doing one goddamn interesting thing at any time when those two dunderheads are in tow. It's not that the blues is a limited form...we've got nearly a century of music history arguing against that, but I do think the blues solo is a limited form. Blues certainly went a long way towards making that point for me!

There are certain points during this album that Hendrix is able to transcend the endless, faceless bunches of notes and actually catch fire for real. Though I prefer the EL version of 'Voodoo Chile', there's a point in the middle where Hendrix goes so very certifiably nuts that I'm simply left dumbfounded. Other than that and maybe 3 or 4 other spots, my favorite parts of this album come either when Jimi is singing (the acoustic 'Hear My Train A-Comin' is fantastic, while the 12-odd minute electric version is duller than shopping at a fabric store), or when the songs end and I feel like I'm one more step to finishing this thing. I shouldn't have to feel like that.

Capn's Final Word: Solo solo, head, solo solo solo, head, solo solo solo head solo solo solo. Repeat. Repeat Repeat. Keep repeating. Repeat some more. You already finished repeating? Fill in the gaps with soloing. Back to the top...

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Joe  ke_ti_wa@hotmail.com   Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: When I first heard the "Born Under A Bad Sign" instumental, I got chills. I understand it was an outtake, Jimi probably never intended it to be released, you know. But as a lover of the blues, a longtime Hendrix fan and guitar player, I'm glad that "Blues" was released. I doubt there will be another ground-breaking, earth-shattering chill-inducing musician like Hendrix any time soon.  

(Capn's Response: I'm not reviewing what hasn't been released, am I?)


Voodoo Soup - MCA 1995

The final insult to Jimi's memory by one Alan 'Crypt Keeper' Douglas, Voodoo Soup attempts once more to repackage Jimi's final songs and work tapes into album form ala Cry Of Love (with which this album shares several songs, same as War Heroes), but in the super-expando length that the CD age has made de rigueur. My problem isn't with the concept or song choices (again, I'm leaving comment until I actually get to the First Rays review comin' real soon), it's with the facts that

A) Whoever designed this cover was a fucking asshole. What is this 'Jimi eating soup' thing? It looks fucking ridiculous! Jimi Hendrix was a cool human being, by all accounts. So what's with the disgustingly 'retro', cartoonish attempt at 'psychedelicism'? Who wants a picture of Jimi eating? What the fuck kind of idiot let this idea pass to the production phase?

B) The drums on this record are as authentic as a $100 Rolex. Alan Douglas, not a musician, made the decision to have some session hack re-record them. Does this not piss you off as much as it does me? Man, I am so glad this guy had his rights to Jimi's material stripped away like he did. I'm not saying Mr. Unknown Drummer did a bad job (well, sometimes, he certainly did...'Freedom' is incompetence defined, as far as I can tell), but the drums are so unnaturally high in the mix it's like Douglas is shoving his plastic-surgery job in our face, daring us to dislike it. Well, I fucking do.

Capn's Final Word: Don't buy this ripoff shit.

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gae04@dial.pipex.com

A) Whoever designed this cover was a fucking asshole. What is this 'Jimi eating soup' thing? It looks fucking ridiculous! Jimi Hendrix was a cool human being, by all accounts. So what's with the disgustingly 'retro', cartoonish attempt at 'psychedelicism'? Who wants a picture of Jimi eating? What the fuck kind of idiot let this idea pass to the production phase?

The artist in question is the renowned french artist Jean Giraud (Moebius). In the early sixties he met with the late Jimi Hendrix in Paris to discuss the details of making an album cover. It was there they arranged to take some reference photos of Jimi, including those of him eating soup, that would assist in the making of such artwork.

some of the aformentioned artwork can be seen here on this following website,


http://www.bookpalace.com/acatalog/index.html?http%3A//www.bookpalace.com/acatalog/Home_Moebius_Art_184.html&CatalogBody

I hope that answers some of your questions....

(Capn's Response: Jimi always was a heavy drug abuser....still looks like crap to me, but then again I've never once 'renowned' a Frenchman)

Erik     Your Rating: C+
Any Short Comments?: I fell in love with the "in touch" raw feel that I hear in "Cry of Love." So what happened with Voodoo soup? It's the same songs plus and minus a few, yet COL is so refreshing and uncanned sounding. Why? Why? We need another anthem that gives Jimi fans the soul back!

 


First Rays of the New Rising Sun - MCA 1997

After all the legal wrangling that finally put the Jimi Hendrix song rights back in the hands of the Hendrix family (I, for one, have absolutely no problem about that...if the Hendrix family wants to get rich off their son's leftovers, that's fine. Just as long as it isn't some jive white producer without any understanding of the man's music) where they belong, the Hendrix catalog is finally being put back into order after nearly 30 years of neglect and exploitation. The first release of the new arrangement was of First Rays of the New Rising Sun, the studio album Jimi was working on when he died. Because it seems unlikely that Jimi would have released two double studio albums in a row (EL being the first, of course) without being cast as a Thorazine case, not all of the tracks collected here would have probably made it onto the actual release. The quality of these tracks is so consistently 'pretty good', though, that it's hard to determine what may have been left out. Jimi's fourth album is one that, despite pretty decent songs, lacks the magic of the Experience releases. It's heavily overdubbed, riff-intensive, and dense...an extension of Jimi's 'all sounds considered' method of composition and production that we first encountered on EL, but with little or none of the psychedelic content that makes this style of producing records interesting. It's one thing when intricate guitar lines flow through each other while purple gnomes chatter in the left channel and paisley squiggles do a mating dance in the right. On a striaght forward hard rocker (as most of these are), there's no need for that. In fact, these tracks sound exactly like improvements on the short tracks that filled up Electric Ladyland between the trips to the Oort Cloud and the deepest bayous of the old South. Consistent, well-constructed, pleasantly rocking...this is Jimi down-to-earth and slowing down.

This album has a certain style of rocker on it that I'll call 'motorcycle rock'...hyped-up mid-tempo grooverock featuring some muted guitar soloing over frequently messy and overcomplicated riffing. It rocks pretty good and doesn't show any tendency to descend into sludge like the Band of Gypsies songs (I can easily see these sounding pretty dull live, though). The rockers all follow this same formula, from the opening 'Freedom' and 'Izabella' to 'Dolly Dagger' and 'Ezy Rider', through the instrumental (and outtake-worthy) 'Beginnings', to the end, nothing much changes on these songs. They're reliable, but unremarkable, and if Jimi Hendrix ought to be something, it's remarkable. I simply don't find very much of this stuff to be very interesting, or even exciting. I sincerely miss the loss of the balls-out speed rockers that the Experience used to perform (again, we'll blame it on drummer Buddy Miles, who does fine as long as he can do the exact same drumbeat as he uses on his fucking 'Changes' song). The formula is so dull and rigid it doesn't even work all the time, sadly. 'Stepping Stone' is ugly, 'Straight Ahead' and 'Earth Blues' boring and fumbling, 'Astro Man' is a dumb attempt at funk-influence, and 'In From The Storm' is all metallic thrashing for some purpose that seems clear to everyone but me. Awful drumming on that one, too...it cries out for Mitch's fleet touch. If you want to hear the difference between an inspired rhythm section and a bunch of mediocre thumpers, put on any Experience record of your choice, and then try this one. Deadening.

Since this album seems to be nothing but 'the bike-rocker album', the few deviations from the formula are greatly appreciated, even if they're really nothing too butter when compared to their counterparts on earlier albums. The ballad 'Angel' is earthy and heavy-footed, but has a tired grace that rescues it from what could've become cement shoes. Still, when compared to 'Little Wing', it's nothing but a retread. 'Drifting' is a pretty sojourn into a room made of Nerf, all soft edges and nowhere to grab hold of, and the heavy, slow roller 'New Rising Sun' describes for us in musical notes the exhaustion and confusion that plagued Hendrix at this point in his life. It's not too affecting, but it's illuminating.

First Rays of the New Rising Sun seems to show Hendrix's reformation from a psychedelic sky-raider into a bedrock hard-jammer like Humble Pie or Steppenwolf. It's a conscious attempt to appear 'tougher', more black, more muscular, but it mostly makes him seem one-dimensional. This is 'Jimi The Hard Rockin' Guitar Player', and if that isn't enough, then move on. He's simply not good at moving around within his ever-narrowing confines, and never once lets himself fly free like he's always pleading for. Compared to his Experience albums, it's a set of retreads or a near-complete retreat. Compared to your average hard rocker, it's pretty good. But it's not as good as he could've done. Even his guitar seems choked off...

Capn's Final Word: What Jimi needs least is to limit himself. Granted, this album is unfinished, but the sparkle seems to have passed it by from the onset.

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Mike     Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Just thought I'd say that Buddy Miles was only with Hendrix briefly...he was only around for the Band of Gypsies stuff and left very early in 1970. Mitchell rejoined Hendrix after that. And I think it's Mitchell on most of these songs. So the boring drumming you complain about is probably what Jimi wanted, even if it was boring. Noel wasn't there though, the bass was Billy Cox, who I do think is pretty good (he had a cool tendency to do odd melodic-unison lines with Jimi). You could blame it on him if you wanted, though I never thought Noel was the greatest bassist (though also far from incompetent).

 


South Saturn Delta - MCA 1997

Hardly cohesive, and frequently boring as fuck, but this long-ass CD release of Jimi Hendrix outtakes finally closes the book on the best of his lost material. As First Rays did with his fourth solo album, this one makes an attempt to be comprehensive and authentic at the same time....no overdubbed jazz fusion bands from 1976, no Ian Paice wannabe session drummer overdubs, just the tapes. And not even necessarily in cleaned up condition, neither (some of these songs have more hiss than a homo at a Pat Robertson fundraiser, and the alternate take of 'Angel' has this rhythmic scratch noise that annoys as it keeps perfect time, a metronome? Buddy Miles' worst drumming ever?), but just as they were left. They sound plenty fine, especially if you're like me and could give a living fuck about tape hiss. (Shit, I still regularly listen to vinyl fer chrissakes! Gimme some pops and crackles to remind me I'm still alive and kicking!) The songs range from the totally worthy ('Here He Comes (Lover Man)' fucking jams harder than a 14 year old boy looking at the JCPenney lingerie ads, and the B-side 'Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice' is anacronymic psychedelia that shows just how delightfully goofy the Experience could get in 1967) to the fucking endless ('Pali Gap'? What is that? A spine condition? Sounds like a horrible attempt at Caravanserai to me, and the horn-backed title track is Chicago given a whole lot more credit than they deserve), and there's that bane of outtake album lovin', the alternate take, all over the place. Who cares about an instrumental 'Little Wing' except for someone trying to learn how to play the song? Who cares about hearing the studio versions of 'Power Of Soul' or 'Message To Love', period? I'm afraid 'Tax Free', so good when performed live at Winterland, is reduced to being yet another First Rays motor-rocker here (I like the short  jazzy passage, though...good work), and the instrumental 'Midnight', while as ballsy and metal as Hendrix got, is still more self-indulgent than essential. I suppose those out there who can't get enough of the Jimi stuff are very well served by South Saturn Delta, though, and just because I don't really enjoy outtake collections as a rule doesn't change that this is a carefully organized, very comprehensive reorganization of what used to be a catalog minefield.

Capn's Final Word: Serves it's purpose, which is not to be a cohesive record, but rather to be exhaustive. And slightly exhausting.

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BBC Sessions - MCA 1998.

Aaah....I hear the Experience and I feel so much better about myself and the position of the Earth in it's axis. Nobody backed up Jimi like his two fuzzy Brits did, and they do a great job on this, yet another 100% professional and enjoyable BBC product. Jimi covers most of his hits ('Foxey Lady', 'Purple Penis Eater', 'Fah-r', as the rednecks'd say it.) and a whole bunch of Jimi's favorites. Some things Jimi liked so much, he played them twice ('Foxy!', 'Hey Joe!', 'Hey Joe, Your Mama's Still Foxey!'), or even three times ('Driving South', a particularly un-interesting selection to play more than once, plus guilty of giving host Alexis Korner the opportunity to come up with some more groan-worthy song introductions), you know, seriously damaging the enjoyability of this record. When 'Hey Joe' comes on for the second time in like 4 songs, you too might be searching for the sanctity of the seek button. Eh...whatever, while it's on I simply clam up and enjoy the Jimi. Most of the time he plays it close to the vest (the BBC didn't look too kindly on some freaky spade playing 6 or 8 minute songs...hey, that's their words, not mine! A freaky spade can play all night in my living room! Always welcome! Just as long as he isn't Jewish! Hear that, Sammy Davis Jr.! No hep two hour martini mantras in MY apartment, understand!) Who doesn't wanna hear some of these songs again? Of course, the noteworthies are the unexpected selections, like a kickass wah-version of 'Little Miss Lover' is a big-honkin' highlight, as is the descent into the realm of chaos that's titled 'Love Or Confusion'. 'Hound Dog' is funky and light, 'Killing Floor' is a speedy, boogie blast, and 'Wait Until Tomorrow'

I hope the 'spade' line up there isn't misconstrued. I've already received an email by someone who was concerned with my use of racial slurs, saying I should 'get to know' some black folks. Well, I, for one, have taught these kids in an inner city high school, metal detectors, administrative corruption, assaults on teachers, the whole drag. Gotten to know them pretty fucking well, better than their own parents a lot of the time. It's my opinion that certain black folks (the same way with any 'minority group', including poor white kids, poor Asian kids, whoever) are either out to kick ass, achieve, and advance themselves (despite white folks, not in an attempt to 'become' them), or they're not. I also love the music brought to this world by black people so much, I spend all my free time writing about it. We're all something. I'm a fucking backwoods redneck inbred white trash, no shit. My wife's a fucking sneaky Commie Russian, my daughters a fucking half-breed. You're a spic, or a kike, or a wop, or a dirty Jew or something. We're all somethings. Except Irish. They're nasty.

Just kidding. A fucking Roumanian made me say that.

Oh, nah, the only person here to hate is Alexis Korner, who makes such a complete fucking ass of himself on the interview section prior to the second 'Hey Joe'. He asks Jimi to describe what the Experience is all about, whether they're like Cream and stuff, and Jimi says no, that they're on their own trip, trying to find their own particular sound. Alexis then asks whether 'Hey Joe' is really not what the Experience is about, then, and Jimi answers that it isn't, that it was just a phase. Then Alexis says 'So can we hear 'Hey Joe', then?' You fucking moron! He just said he doesn't like that shit anymore, and you make him play it? Fuck me! Later on, Jimi gets his revenge by deconstructing 'Joe' so thoroughly it's almost 'Voodoo Chile-ized', and then pulls an Elvis Costello and stops that mess before ripping into 'Sunshine Of Your Love' right in the middle of the broadcast. Right on, Jimi!

Capn's Final Word: Another impeccably recorded, energetically played BBC release from the Sixties, with a few very nice surprises and a lot of the fantastic Experience as we know and love them.

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Dave     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: You fucking dweeb, how could you completely miss the highlight of the whole CD, Driving South, 2nd version, track 17, disc one. Simply devastating, blistering, relentless complete balls out ax attack that no one but the mighty Hendrix could deliver!! Uninteresting you called it!!!? God, your a moron!!!

 

john    Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: nice job tour right about him screwign around with hey joe at the end oi loved thta and anyone iwth half a brain can tell your just jokuing about the recial stuff good review man jimi forever

 

Jack     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Just so ya' know, stevie stopped by and played the drums on their rendition of "I was made to love her" and on the song "jammin"
 


Live at the Fillmore East - MCA 1999

Maybe I just have no taste, or maybe I demand too fucking much from a rhythm section, but this extended version of the New Year's 1970 Band of Gypsies Fillmore East gig isn't even that much more interesting than the first one. I'm gonna skip talking about the dull fucking shit already featured on BOG and rather spend my time talking about the dull fucking shit that populates the rest of this 2-CD monster set. There's a really long opening 'Stone Free' that 'climaxes' (comes to a screeching halt) while Jimi wrangles worse noises out of his guitar than that time the damn thing had been set on fire, and Buddy Miles scats worse than that time I set the Scatman on fire for singing that fucking Scatman song in the same hemisphere as me. This is also one of the first times I've ever heard Jimi Hendrix sing really really poorly, and I'm not talking about merely out-of-tune or hoarse...he's really singing like he has no idea what notes are supposed to be coming out of his mouth there at the end of 'Stone Free'. The guitar playing is decent, but with Jimi, decent is akin to saying he's sucking major ass. 9 minutes of 'Hear My Train A-Comin' that doesn't match the 12 minute version on Blues for either length, self-indulgence, or wild-ass soloing. 'Isabella' has plenty of energy, but Cox is trying to do a Chris Squire on the bass and ends up just embarrassing himself instead. 'Voodoo Chile (Slight Return' is played straight, almost exactly to the Electric Ladyland standard, other than Miles' clueless, hammy drumming. There's the countdown to 1970 with a recording of 'Auld Lang Syne' followed by the Gypsies doing their own 'Star-Spangled Banner'-ization of it that's sorta silly and nearly lulls the audience to sleep rather than pumping them the fuck up for Set 2. The following set is full of Gypsies material and really did lull me to sleep. Trust me, if you've heard BOG, you get the idea. There's a second take on 'Machine Gun' that's less interesting than the first, but that's about the only thing to get excited about. I mean, compared with Live At Winterland or the second half of the Woodstock performance, this band sounds like they're almost playing in reverse they're so low-energy. Jimi's guitar has some extremely cool spots, but nothing like we may have come to expect as a 'peak' performance. He does, however, make sure to thank the USC Trojans for beating the Michigan Wolverines in the big bowl game earlier that day. Hmm...I always took Jimi for an old-school-UW USC hater.

I also, once again, want to totally grind Mr. Two-Beat Buddy Miles for his criminally awful performance on this night. These drumbeats maybe metronome-steady, but that's only because the man is doing nothing on the drum kit. His fills are so simple they're funny, besides being badly timed. The man plays leaden 2-4 snare hits so much you wonder if a bomb would go off and spread dead hippie parts for 3 miles around if he didn't keep bashing that TWO FOUR TWO FOUR TOW FOUR!!! Don't forget the ride cymbal!!! FUCKING RIDE CYMBAL!!!! Those aren't 8th notes he's beating on that fucker, he's just whacking it as fast as fucking possible, just to keep that irritating fucking swish noise happening for 2 hours straight. Jeee-zus! I mean, I've heard bad drummers before: Simon Wright of the 80's AC/DC, whoever played drums for the Runaways, but to match such an awful drummer to Jimi Hendrix is like putting tricycle wheels on a Ferrari. Jimi is really hampered by this fool. Oh, what I wouldn't give for Mitch Mitchell, fer chrissakes. This guy even screws up 'Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)'!

That's it, the jury's in: The Band of Gypsies was a bad idea, and no manner of reissues is gonna convince me otherwise. This band was too plodding, to uninventive to draw Hendrix out of his depressed shell. Just a bad idea, that's all, and now I'd prefer not to have to sit through this dull mess any longer. You could play me four hours of this stuff, and I'd still think it was boring.

Capn's Final Word: Not quite as irredeemable as Band of Gypsies, but still just more of the same. I need to put on Tony Williams, Bill Bruford, or Stewart Copeland, and remind myself what real picante sauce is supposed to taste like.

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Mike     Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: While I do agree that Buddy Miles gives new meaning to the phrase "ham-fisted," since he sounds like he's hitting the drums with slabs of ham, since there's about as much finesse, I really disagree about Billy Cox - his bass playing on "Izabella" is great, maybe his plucking is a little sloppy, but really, I don't hear anything wrong at all - he certainly isn't embarrassing himself. I don't hear a damn thing wrong with it. I don't know what you're on about there. Billy Cox does a great job on this album - I think you're wrong about that.

But, yes, I wholeheartedly agree that Buddy Miles has about as much business being in this band as Andy Rooney does being in Slayer - which is to say, not at all. Way to screw up every performance, although he at least isn't doing that awful vocal hooting in the middle of "Who Knows" like Tweety Bird on hormone therapy - "Voodoo Child" is slower than it is for a reason...ghastly.

All right, I guess...Jimi is still Jimi.

(Capn's Response: Dude...Andy Rooney in Slayer...that's a classic.)


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