I’ll tell you the truth. Jimi Hendrix used to scare the hell of out of me. I was only 13 when he died, and the music he’d released between 1967 and 1970 was so off the charts alive and brilliant, I didn’t know what to do with it. (You really need a driver’s license before you know how to apply Hendrix in the right way– he’s that complex.)
Of course, that changed quickly as Hendrix’s influence crept into everything that followed. And now, at the end of 2017, I recently found myself sitting in Electric Lady Studios (which Hendrix created before he died) on West 8th St. talking to his producer Eddie Kramer and John McDermott of the Hendrix Experience.
We were listening to tracks from the third album in their trilogy of mostly unreleased, remixed, and remastered Hendrix music. The first was the excellent “Valleys of Neptune.” The second volume (which I fell in love with) was “People, Hell and Angels.” They are must listens if only because Kramer blown life into the tracks and given Hendrix’s material air, love and soul.
The new album is “Both Sides of the Sky.” I got to hear several tracks including a third (I think it’s third) incarnation of “Hear My Train A-Coming,” “Lover Man,” “Steppin’ Stone,” and “Mannish Boy”– all previously unreleased. There’s also an unreleased version of “Woodstock” with Stephen Stills.* There’s also a lost track with Lonnie Youngblood from Jimi’s days as Curtis Knight and the Squires– “Georgia Blues.” (Lonnie is still around and gigging- he was a New Year’s Eve perennial up at Elaine’s in the old days.)
There has been a lot of Hendrix reissue and “new” material since his untimely death in September 1970. It’s amazing to think how much he recorded in just five or six years. These three albums– put together by Jimi’s sister Janie, Kramer and McDermott–are really extraordinary. But where was all this material? McDermott tells me stories about various studio owners finding caches of it, calling him up and revealing a new archeological “find.” McDermott would hit the road to retrieve it. And we the fans are the beneficiaries.
Sitting in Electric Lady, I tell them the music is “alive.” What we listen to now is basically “dead”–contrived, compressed, computerized. Hi fi stores have suffered because there is no imaging, no depth, no soul. It’s just replaceable vocalists shouting out Max Martin hooks. Very, very sad.
But this — this is…nirvana. We’ll come around to again in March when the release is ready. In the meantime, I leave you with this track from “People Hell and Angels” just to get an idea:
*from the press release: In September of 1969 Stills was invited to a Hendrix session at the Record Plant in New York. Stills burst into the session with a song Joni Mitchell had recently composed, titled “Woodstock.” Joined by Hendrix and Buddy Miles, the trio recorded this version first–months before Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released their popular rendition of Mitchell’s song. Stills would also contribute $20 Fine, an original song that featured Hendrix on multiple guitars, Mitchell on drums, Stills on organ and lead vocals and Duane Hitchings (Buddy Miles Express) on piano.
The bootleg version of Jimi with Lonnie: