Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews

HENDRIX – West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology – Sony Legacy Set (4 CDs + DVD)

Enough gold beneath the surface to satisfy the hard-core Hendrix fan.

Published on November 18, 2010

HENDRIX – West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology – Sony Legacy Set (4 CDs + DVD)

HENDRIX – West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology – Sony Legacy 807481.83, About five hours – 4 CDs + 1 DVD Collectors’ Box Set ***½:


Flaming guitars. Dental twanging. Guitar chords played behind his back. Talking wah-wah pedals. Has it really been forty years since Jimi Hendrix died? According to the recent flood of music releases and books, it surely must be. According to this boxed set’s publicity release, it includes “45 unreleased Jimi Hendrix live and studio recordings including demos and alternate versions of songs.” A Hendrix fan since the March 16, 1968 concert in Lewiston, ME, I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into this set. What new treasures would I find? A couple of dozen mind-blowing solos? Alas, not quite that many. Like my first stroll down Sanibel Beach in Florida, I didn’t find enough stunning sea shells for my aquarium castle. But that doesn’t mean the search wasn’t worth it.

Notice the above quote never mentions “outtakes.” Not all of the songs are, of course, but many are. In CD 2 for example, the version of “Are You Experienced” is outtake 1. While it does reveal the structure of the finished piece, it takes a good two minutes for it to build up momentum. In the early version of “Fire,” Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding’s background vocals are more distant than the final version–obviously less sonically-massaged. “Castles Made of Sand” is a three-minute instrumental version of the cut that appeared on “Axis: Bold as Love.” The other cuts, for one reason or another, simply never made it on any of the three albums released during Hendrix’s lifetime. Two unexpected treasure are acoustic versions of Bob Dylan’s “Tears of Rage” and Hendrix’s own “Hear My Train a Comin’.” Both are sung with Paul Caruso on harmonica, and both sound deceptively simple and unadorned. Hearing these intimate cuts for the first time is a bit shocking, akin to a first viewing of the original Electric Ladyland album cover.

CD 1 is a real test for dyed-in-the-wool Hendrix fans. It consists of fourteen R&B numbers from his early years. Then he performed with second-string performers like The Icemen, Jimmy Norman, Billy Lamont, and Ray Sharpe. Two numbers with Rosa Lee Brooks show why she never appeared on Hullabaloo or Shindig. You have to listen closely for snatches of Hendrix’s session guitar work on this CD. Sometimes it’s only a subtle strumming, as in “That Little Old Groove Maker”; other times you can pick out a few seconds of decent picking, as in The Isley Brothers’ “Move Over and Let Me Dance.”

The set really picks up aesthetic appeal in CDs 3 and 4. There you hear an earlier version of “The Star Spangled Banner” than the Woodstock one we’ve all come to know and love. There’s an unnamed 20-minute track of Hendrix with organist Larry Young. It’s so jazzy you can see why Miles Davis was considering asking Hendrix to join him for his funky fusion breakthrough sessions. There are other finds within if you’re patient and listen closely. A 14-minute live version of “Stone Free” from the Fillmore East whips by at almost double the tempo of the original version with some astounding solos. An intriguing (if not particularly tight) instrumental called “Burning Desire” is fairly close to final version with its playful tempo shifts and mood. “Play that Riff” and a live “Red House” show Hendrix’s affinity with the blues. “Red House” is not only longer than the version on “Are You Experienced,” it’s also in stereo.

A final bonus to this set is “Voodoo Child,” a 90 minute DVD survey of Hendrix’s (mostly post-fame) life. It includes talk show interviews with Dick Cavett discussing drugs and his scandalous Star Spangled Banner
rendition, generous segments from live performances, and letters the musician had written his father, read expressively by Bootsy Collins of Parliament-Funkadelic. It’s mostly well done, although a bit sanitized for a mass audience.

For Jimi Hendrix completists, this set is a must have. It may not be a consistently aesthetic listening experience–several cuts are curiosities at best, worth only one listen. But there’s probably enough gold beneath the surface to satisfy the hard-core fan. If you’re just a casual listener to Jimi Hendrix and want to learn more about him, should you get this set? Maybe not yet. Start with the canonic three albums first, then decide.

TrackList:

Disc: 1

1. The Isley Brothers: Testify
2. Don Covay: Mercy, Mercy
3. Don Covay: Can t Stay Away
4. Rosa Lee Brooks: My Diary
5. Rosa Lee Brooks: Utee
6. Little Richard: I Don t Know What You Got But It’s Got Me
7. Little Richard: Dancing All Around The World
8. Frank Howard & The Commanders: I’m So Glad
9. The Isley Brothers: Move Over And Let Me Dance
10. The Isley Brothers: Have You Ever Been Disappointed
11. Ray Sharpe: Help Me (Get The Feeling) Part One
12. The Icemen: (My Girl) She s A Fox
13. Jimmy Norman: That Little Old Groove Maker
14. Billy Lamont: Sweet Thang
15. King Curtis: Instant Groove

Disc: 2
1. Fire (previously unreleased alternate recording)     
2. Are You Experienced? (previously unreleased recording)
3. May This Be Love (previously unreleased alternate recording)
4. Can You See Me (previously unreleased alternate recording)
5. The Wind Cries Mary
6. Love Or Confusion (previously unreleased alternate recording)
7. Little One (previously unreleased recording)
8. Mr. Bad Luck (previously unreleased alternate recording)
9. Cat Talking To Me (previously unreleased alternate recording)
10. Castles Made Of Sand (previously unreleased recording)
11. Tears Of Rage (previously unreleased recording)
12. Hear My Train A Comin (previously unreleased recording)
13. 1983 (A Merman I Shall Turn To Be) (previously unreleased recording)
14. Long Hot Summer Night (previously unreleased recording)
15. My Friend (previously unreleased recording)
16. Angel (previously unreleased recording)
17. Calling All The Devil s Children (previously unreleased alternate recording)
18. New Rising Sun ( previously unreleased alternate recording)

Disc: 3
1. Hear My Freedom (previously unreleased recording)
2. Room Full Of Mirrors (previously unreleased recording)
3. Shame, Shame, Shame (previously unreleased recording)
4. Messenger (previously unreleased recording)
5. Hound Dog Blues(previously unreleased recording)
6. Untitled Basic Track (previously unreleased recording)     
7. Star Spangled Banner [LIVE] (previously unreleased original mix)
8. Purple Haze [LIVE] (previously unreleased original mix)
9. Young/Hendrix (previously unreleased alternate recording)
10. Mastermind (previously unreleased recording)
11. Message To Love (previously unreleased alternate recording)
12. Fire [LIVE] (previously unreleased recording)
13. Foxey Lady [LIVE] (previously unreleased recording)

Disc: 4
1. Stone Free [LIVE] (previously unreleased recording)
2. Burning Desire (previously unreleased recording)
3. Lonely Avenue (previously unreleased recording)
4. Everlasting First (previously unreleased alternate recording)
5. Freedom (previously unreleased recording)
6. Peter Gunn/Catastrophe (previously unreleased alternate recording)
7. In From The Storm (previously unreleased alternate recording)
8. All God’s Children (previously unreleased recording)
9. Red House [LIVE] (previously unreleased recording)
10. Play That Riff (previously unreleased recording)
11. Bolero (previously unreleased recording)
12. Hey Baby (New Rising Sun) (previously unreleased alternate recording)
Suddenly November Morning (previously unreleased recording)


– Peter Bates




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