Jimi Hendrix still rocking out at 70
New music from the vault due in Hendrix renaissance
Whenever a milestone date in rock ‘n’ roll comes along, fans can’t help but wonder “What if?”
What if Jimi Hendrix, who was born 70 years ago today, had not died at 27 and was still creating music? Which contemporaries would he be comparable to today?
Paul McCartney at 70 is still playing stadiums with epic 30-plus-song sets spanning five decades of songs and making new music.
Woodstock contemporaries like Country Joe McDonald (also 70) no longer fill clubs, much less stadiums. But a lot of people 70 or in that range thrive. Crosby, Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young) still produce relevant music and blistering performances. Joe Cocker (who is only 68) is playing European arenas. Barbra Streisand can do whatever she wants and people will pay to see it. Carole King just wrote an acclaimed autobiography. Lou Reed recorded with Metallica. Brian Wilson and Al Jardine just completed the best Beach Boys tour in decades. Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith are touring with the Monkees and Hendrix famously opened for them in 1967. Aretha Franklin, Roger McGuinn and even Police man Andy Summers are 70 this year.
Forbes put Hendrix at #9 among the top-earning dead celebrities in 2011, with $7 million. That’s because the Hendrix estate (under the name Experience Hendrix) has spent decades getting control of his music and keeping it alive.
It worked. Hendrix classics still blast from every college dorm. “Valleys of Neptune” from 2010, the last major release from the Hendrix vault, was better than it had any right to be (especially the superb vinyl pressing).
Now we’re getting another Hendrix renaissance. His Woodstock performance is doing a limited run in theaters right now. More importantly, “People, Hell and Angels” hits stores on March 5 – another set of 12 unheard (though possibly on bootleg) songs remastered by the Hendrix crew, including Jimi’s ace producer Eddie Kramer.
So "What if?"
Elvis Presley would have had another creative spurt. Janis Joplin would probably have had one too. And Hendrix certainly wasn't done. Fans can't wait till the new album comes out in three months.
Meanwhile, keep reading for a full track-listing and analysis of each song on “People, Hell and Angels.”
People, Hell & Angels - Track by Track
Totally unlike the version first issued as part of Rainbow Bridge in 1971, this December 19, 1969 master take features just Hendrix, Billy Cox and Buddy Miles--stripped down funk at its very origin.
This newly discovered gem was recorded in March 1968 and features Buddy Miles on drums and Stephen Stills on bass. Entirely different from any previous version fans have ever heard.
Hear My Train A Comin':
This superb recording was drawn from Jimi's first ever recording session with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles--the powerhouse rhythm section with whom he would later record the groundbreaking album Band Of Gypsys.
Jimi shared a deep love for the blues with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles. Both musicians understood Jimi's desire to create what he described as a 'new type of blues'. Jimi's menacing lead guitar is the centerpiece of this dramatic addition to his remarkable legacy.
This Elmore James masterwork had long been a favorite of Jimi's. He had performed the song earlier that year with the Experience in concert at the Royal Albert Hall and had attempted to capture the song in New York studio sessions during the weeks that followed. Recorded at the same May 1969 session as "Hear My Train A Coming," the track conveys Jimi's firm understanding of the arrangement and tempo he desired. Before they began, Jimi instructed Cox and Miles that he wanted to establish a totally different beat than the standard arrangement. He then kicked off this amazing rendition that was nothing like any other he had ever attempted.
Let Me Move You:
In March 1969, Jimi reached back to another old friend, saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood. Before he was discovered by Chas Chandler in the summer of 1966, Jimi had contributed guitar as a nondescript studio sideman for Youngblood and such infectious rhythm and blues styled singles such as "Soul Food". This March 1969 session features Hendrix and Youngblood trading licks throughout this never before heard, high velocity rock and soul classic.
In the aftermath of the Woodstock festival, Jimi gathered his new ensemble, Gypsy Sun & Rainbows, at the Hit Factory in August 1969 with engineer Eddie Kramer. "Izabella" had been one of the new songs the guitarist introduced at the Woodstock festival and Jimi was eager to perfect a studio version. This new version is markedly different from the Band Of Gypsys 45 rpm single master issued by Reprise Records in 1970 and features Larry Lee, Jimi's old friend from the famed rhythm & blues 'chitin' circuit', on rhythm guitar.
An edited extract of this gorgeous, free flowing instrumental was briefly issued as part of the long-out-of-print 1981 album "Nine To The Universe." Now nearly twice as long, the track offers fans the opportunity to enjoy the dramatic interplay between Jimi, second guitarist Larry Lee, Billy Cox and drummer Mitch Mitchell.
Perhaps known as the title song for the controversial 1975 album that featured Hendrix master recordings posthumously overdubbed by session musicians, this April 1969 original recording has never been heard before. Jimi is joined here by Billy Cox and drummer Rocky Isaac of the Cherry People to record this thinly veiled warning to his girlfriend Devon Wilson.
Jimi was fascinated by the rhythm pattern that would ultimately take form as "Ezy Ryder". Joined here by Mitch Mitchell, Jimi recorded all of the bass and guitar parts for this fascinating song--including a dramatic lead guitar part amplified through a Leslie organ speaker.
Hey Gypsy Boy:
The roots of Jimi's majestic "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)" trace themselves to this March 1969 recording. Unlike the posthumously overdubbed version briefly issued as part of Midnight Lightning in 1975, this is original recording that features Jimi joined by Buddy Miles.
Jimi would lend a hand to Albert & Arthur Allen, the vocalists known as the Ghetto Fighters, whom he had befriended in Harlem long before he achieved fame with the Experience. When the two recorded this inspired, previously unreleased master at the legendary Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama they took it back to Hendrix at Electric Lady Studios. Jimi knew just what to do to elevate the recording beyond contemporary R & B to the new hybrid of rock, rhythm and blues he was celebrated for.
Villanova Junction Blues:
Long before his famous performance of this song at Woodstock, Jimi recorded this studio version with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles at the same May 1969 session which yielded "Hear My Train A Comin'" and "Bleeding Heart" also featured on this album. Never fully finished, the song stands as an example of the fertile ideas he hoped to harness and bring to fruition.
..And if Lennon had lived, the Beatles would have reunited, maybe even at Live Aid(setlist: Sgt. Pepper/A Little Help From My Friends, Here Comes The Sun, Let It Be, A Hard Day's Night). If they still did Anthology, that would have certainly happened.
Long time ago, someone in my neck of the woods predicted that Hendrix would be the music of the 90's. He's exceeded that prediction.