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Jimi Hendrix – [Album]

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Tuesday, 26 February 2013

As even the most rabid supporters will begrudgingly admit, the concept of a Jimi Hendrix compilation can be a dicey proposition. The guitarist left this planet forty-three years ago – how much material could there possibly be that no one has heard before? Reissuing the classic Jimi Hendrix Experience albums and those recorded by Band Of Gypsys – and even the ones which it was reported that the guitarist was working on at the time of his death (like First Rays Of The New Rising Sun) – is one thing, but compilations of material pulled from myriad sources can't help but receive much closer and more cynical observation; the only “half Hendrix” fabrication which was Voodoo Soup incited just enough controversy that listeners are skeptical of new material as a matter of course, and the successes of albums like 2010's Valleys Of Neptune have been very hard won. With the cynicism that fans have in them for new releases in mind, there's little doubt that People, Hell and Angels will have a hard time making the rounds, but this new record will reward those ears which are brave enough to remain open to it.

Here's the back-story behind the material which fills out People, Hell and Angels:

“Beginning in 1968, Jimi Hendrix grew restless, eager to develop new material with old friends and new ensembles. Outside the view of a massive audience that had established the Experience as rock's largest grossing concert act … Jimi was busy working behind the scenes to craft his next musical statement.

These twelve recordings encompass a variety of unique sounds and styles incorporating many of the elements – horns, keyboards, percussion and second guitar – Jimi wanted to incorporate within his new music.”

With that explanation in mind, hearing People, Hell and Angels spontaneously gets a lot easier, as ears immediately get more receptive. Fans will be amazed at just how far from the Experience's brand of rock bombast these songs rest, opting instead for a sound more akin to “Soul Power on steroids” – with very straightforward song structures driving some great rhythms behind some solid Hendrix soloing. The acid-induced textures and ambiance which colored First Rays and Valley Of Neptune are absent from this record in favor of a closer focus on some excellent, rhythmically-centered guitar figures inspired by the sweet and rolling rhythm section of bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles. That ensemble ends up producing some fine and incendiary sounds here; songs like “Bleeding Heart,” “Let Me Move You” and “Izabella” all present Hendrix in a very different light from that which classics like “Purple Haze” and “Foxey Lady” have done over the years, and the change is really refreshing. Listeners will find that their hunger to see and try to emulate Hendrix' discipline will begin to emerge again because these songs are not at all the same form that many have come to expect from post-humus releases issued out of the guitarist's canon; the over-the-top guitars are simply not the primary thing here, song-craft and arrangements are.

Such praise is valid and deserved, but also a little laughable, in its own way. Yes, the Experience Hendrix brain trust has done it again. Somehow, Experience Hendrix has managed to find still another facet in Jimi Hendrix' artistic growth which has gone unheard until now, and presented it in a manner which feels inspirational and captivating. At this point, that they've managed to do it again is incredible; People, Hell and Angels illustrates that the whole story of Jimi Hendrix has yet to really be told because the guitarist clearly had some creative irons in the fire that no one was really aware of. That discovery here will get listeners wondering what else may come down the line, someday.

Artist:

www.jimihendrix.com/us/home
www.myspace.com/officialjimihendrix
www.facebook.com/TheJimiHendrixExperience
www.twitter.com/JimiHendrix

Further Reading:
Ground Control Magazine
Jimi Hendrix – [Discography]

Album:

People, Hell and Angels
will be released by Experience Hendrix/Legacy/Sony Music on March 5, 2013. Pre-prder it here on Amazon .

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Jimi Hendrix – [Album]

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Sunday, 07 March 2010

When one reaches the point where it has been forty years after an artist has passed on, it feels awkward to imply that their story is continuing to deepen, but the body of work that Jimi Hendrix left behind is an extraordinary case. Since Hendrix' passing in 1970, volumes of post-humus compilations have been issued that typically reprise his 'guitar god' glory years but, unless outside assistance was added after the fact (as was the case with pastiche offerings like Voodoo Soup), seldom has the possibility of genuine growth been implied. In some ways, that Jimi Handrix will forever be remembered frozen in his Woodstock poses could be regarded as a benefit – he died at the top of his game, enjoying a good amount of fanfare that has since blossomed into legend with the passage of time – but it has also proven to be detrimental because it means that the guitarist's limited songbook has been (and continues to be) repackaged so often that it has diminished the 'special-ness' of it.

There are moments though, when there is a legitimate reason to get excited about “new material” by  Jimi Hendrix and the release of Valleys Of Neptune is one of them. Culled from sessions that took place between February and September, 1969 (for the most part – “Mr. Bad Luck” was recorded on May 5, 1967 at Olympic Studios in London), Valleys Of Neptune expresses an intent made by Jimi Hendrix to get back to some R&B roots which is illustrated here by a greater focus placed on rhythm guitar rather than lead. That isn't to say that Hendrix' signature Stratocaster has been silenced here, only that the wild leads which characterized such staples as “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” or “Purple Haze” take a back seat to rhythmic passages that almost foreshadow funk in their slippery but solid execution. The focus on rhythm is typified in songs like “Hear My Train A Comin',” “Mr. Bad Luck,” an instrumental rendition of Cream's “Sunshine Of Your Love” and a notably less rock approach to “Stone Free” that still sound like Hendrix in each case, but are more grounded in their delivery. This new compositional focus is bolstered by 'new Experience' bassist Billy Cox and the very animated drumming of Mitch Mitchell; both shoot for the best, most powerful groove instead of the best, most towering epic. That shift in convention proves to be a very exciting turn and listeners both new and old  alike get treated to an all-new exposition that shows Hendrix was certainly not standing still stylistically toward the end of his career.

In some ways, the revelations that Valleys Of Neptune provide are bittersweet. On one hand, the proof that Jimi Hendrix was continuing to grow and change right before his death is exhilarating – it shows that he still had other ideas that he was working on – but it's also lamentable because he did not see his work realized, on the other. In either case, fans both old and new can indulge in and enjoy this new (to them) work; Valleys Of Neptune is a fantastic and thought-provoking listen that illustrates a shift in Jimi Hendrix and what he might have had in store. Was there more to the story? Fans will only know for sure if another album appears and, given the interesting possibilities raised by Valleys Of Neptune, the hope of that is certainly renewed.

Artist:

www.jimihendrix.com/ca/home


Album:

Valleys Of Neptune
comes out on March 9, 2010 via Sony Music. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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