Sunday, September 18, 2011


These two CD's are part of the most recent wave of Hendrix releases from the seemingly endless supply of live concerts, outtakes, and film and TV footage.  Remarkably, the quality remains high, certainly interesting enough for confirmed fans.  It's a testament to the man's talent that he made so much music in his four years at the top.

Some might already be familiar with the Hendrix In The West set.  This live album first came out after his death, put together by his manager, and was relatively well-liked at the time.  As usual with posthumous Hendrix packages, things have been changed and tampered with.  But in this case, it's not a question of leaving well enough alone.  Hendrix In The West was a sloppy and somewhat controversial package in the first place, with a lawsuit forcing it off the shelves, and it hasn't been out since 1974.  Some tracks have shown up in other reissues, so substitutes are now featured, and of course, it's been lengthened from single album length to over an hour for CD, with an extra three cuts.  This has been a devotee favourite over the years, but its importance has lessoned of late, since there are plenty of other live versions of Johnny Be Goode around now, for instance.

Where the title In The West came from is anybody's guess now, as the recordings are taken from the Isle of Weight, as well as several California shows, from October of 1968 to August of 1970.  The original program only featured cuts by the Experience trio, and that remains the plan here, none of the expanded Band Of Gypsies, or other guests.  So it's Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell, and either Noel Redding (early) or Billy Cox (later) on bass.  It remains a hodgepodge of tracks though, without a real concert flow.  The truncated God Save The Queen/Sgt. Pepper's opening is unsatisfying, and we're immediately thrown out of that show, and dropped back two years for a version of Little Wing.  Quite a good one, actually, but the choppy and rushed Fire that follows blows the mood again.  It's one of a trio of new-to-this-set live cuts, which only serve to increase the grab-bag feel of the collection.  Even though original album produced Eddie Kramer is on board again, continuing his partnership role with estate minder Janie Hendrix, this one remains flawed, as it was at its birth.  But the version of Red House here is so stunning, its worth it for that track alone.

Far more successful is Winterland, available as either a four disc set or this single sampler.  The box is for the collectors, as there is much repetition of tracks over the 6 different shows recorded over three nights in San Francisco back in October of 1968.  It's still the original Experience, a week away from the release of Axis: Bold As Love.  He's one of the biggest stars on the scene by now, in the still-hippest rock city, at the hottest venue.  Although the tracks on the single disc come from all three nights, this time it feels like a full concert experience, clocking in at 75 minutes.  Highlights here include an 11-minute take on Like A Rolling Stone, again proving Hendrix could do Dylan better than Dylan, another gorgeous Little Wing, and a new-to-the-kids version of Voodoo Child.  With Fire, Foxey Lady, Purple Haze and Hey Joe, it's still heavy on the early days and debut Are You Experienced album, but there's a (strong) argument to be made that this could be the best time to experience Hendrix.

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