Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I own a lot of Jimi Hendrix albums, all of them legit releases, all but 4 posthumous and many of them, re-workings of the same repertoire. Frankly, other than the obvious cash-ins i.e. work he'd done as a sideman, are all pretty damned good. Some ARE more essential than others - obviously the albums he completed during his lifetime, the core of the material he'd completed but not released that came out initially as "Cry of Love" and a series of lesser albums, later collated as "Voodoo Soup" initially and then "First Rays of the New Rising Sun." But even the numerous further releases that are primarily alternate takes from all the above are, at worst interesting, primarily to the diehard fan who eagerly pour over the mutliple takes thereby in circulation and wonder at the different guitar solos as well as more subtle differences 'tween said versions. But all have SOMETHING to recommend them.

Likewise the live albums - Woodstock, BBC sessions, Berkeley Community Center, at the Monterey Pop Festival, the four concerts in the "Stages" box, the L.A. Forum show in the "Lifelines" box, Fillmore East. If there's one thing this cat LOVED it was to play live and it shows throughout all these recordings. In many cases, you get the same basic repertoire over and over again -- which is why the Fillmore East concerts are among my best, largely being an airing of then-unreleased material - a lot of these songs being among the best writing of the latter part of his career.

"Miami Pop Festival" is a nice addition to the Hendrix canon. It's a pro recording helmed by his longtime engineer Eddie Kramer from 1968. The song selection is primarily from his debut outing "Are You Experienced" with a cover of "Tax Free," a song by Swedish instrumental duo "Hansson and Carlsson" and the first live recording of "Hear My Train A Coming" - a groove that I'd suggest also is the undercarriage for "Machine Gun." So - the sound is good, the performances spirited. It's a little strange that all the stage patter is at a significantly lower volume than the playing and singing -- but since you're paying for the playing and singing, the point is moo. Also, the bass is a bit low in the mix but that could be down to the circumstances of the original recording of these performances.

The packaging's nice -- all the booklet photos are taken from the occasion the music was recorded, a strategm that the Hendrix family has pursued for the past 3 live releases, which adds thematic cohesion.

Is this the BEST live Hendrix available? The most interesting? The most revelatory? I daresay that judgement is in the ears of the particular beholder and subject to their own historical and aesthetic biases. But this IS an excellent rendering of his and the Experience's post-"Are You Experienced" material plus some neat pointers as to where he was headed next.

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