Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews

Jimi Hendrix – The Jimi Hendrix Experience Box Set – Experience Hendrix/Sony Legacy Records (Deluxe 4-CD set + booklet)

Scintillating box set shows why Hendrix was the greatest rock guitarist of all time.

Published on September 25, 2013

Jimi Hendrix – The Jimi Hendrix Experience Box Set – Experience Hendrix/Sony Legacy Records (Deluxe 4-CD set + booklet)

Jimi Hendrix – The Jimi Hendrix Experience Box Set (Original Recordings Remastered) – Experience Hendrix/Sony Legacy Records (Deluxe 4-CD set + booklet) [9/12/2013] *****:

(Jimi Hendrix – guitar, harpsichord, vocals; Noel Redding – bass, vocals; Mitch Mitchell – drums, vocals; Paul Caruso – harmonica; Stephen Stills – bass; Duane Hitchings – organ; Buddy Miles – drums, percussion, vocals; Andy Fairweather Low – vocals; Roger Chapman – vocals; Billy Cox – bass; Juma Sultan – percussion; Jerry Velez – percussion; Larry Lee – rhythm guitar; The Ronettes –  vocals; Billy Armstrong – percussion; Steve Winwood – vocals; Chris Wood – vocals; Arthur & Albert Allen – vocals)

There have been many transformative artists in rock and roll history. Elvis, Bob Dylan and The Beatles are at the top of any list. Jimi Hendrix is firmly entrenched among this rarified company. A Seattle native, he began playing guitar, influenced by blues music (Muddy Waters, B.B. King) and rock and roll (Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran). After serving in the U.S. Army, Hendrix moved to New York. He became a touring band member for Little Richard, Ike & Tina Turner, Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke. Unable to successfully launch his career, he caught the attention of Animals’ bassist Chas Chandler.

Chandler recognized the potential of Hendrix, quit the Animals and moved the young guitarist to London. Adding Noel Redding (bass) and Mitch Mitchell (drums), The Jimi Hendrix Experience was formed and the rest is history. With a sonically explosive update of blues music, Jimi became a celebrity among the rock elite. Are You Experienced, their debut, boasted three chart singles in the U.K. (“Hey Joe”, “Purple Haze” and “The Wind Cries Mary”). Hendrix’s exciting update of British psychedelic music and personal charisma created a larger-than life mystique. The formerly elusive success of America was on the horizon. His mesmerizing lighting his guitar on fire finale at The Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967 rocketed Hendrix to stardom. American audiences were riveted by this power trio. Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland completed a trilogy that is still revered by fans and critics. Hendrix’s ability to record inventive new material and occasionally cover iconic artists like Bob Dylan kept his stature and celebrity at a pinnacle for over two years. To contemplate the enormity of his presence, he closed Woodstock, considered by many to be the defining cultural event of the twentieth century. One of the few predictable tendencies (rock & roll lifestyle) led to the breakup of The Experience and his untimely death in 1970.

Over forty years after his passing, there is an electrifying 4-CD box set (The Jimi Hendrix Experience) now available. Consisting of live recordings, outtakes and previously unreleased studio material, it is apparent why Rolling Stone declared Hendrix the greatest rock guitarist of all time. Alternative versions of early hits are compelling. “Purple Haze” is not a work in progress but a re-working of the lead and vocal structures. A live version demonstrates his ability to connect with an audience. There also are two versions of “Hey Joe”, and both are bluesy and moving. “Little Wing” is one of the most covered songs (Eric Clapton, Sting, Stevie Ray Vaughan), but Hendrix’s unique instrumental flourishes and stoned beatnik vocals are uniquely original. Having both a studio and live version is a treat.

As far as covers are concerned The Purple Box will thrill any fan. No one has ever covered Dylan like Hendrix. Versions of “Like A Rolling Stone” (one recorded at Monterey, one at Winterland) sound like they were written for him. Many consider Hendrix’s version of “All Along The Watchtower” to be the greatest Dylan cover ever. A live version (from the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival) is superb.  It is rumored that Dylan incorporated some of Jimi’s interpretations into his own performances. Other interesting non-original songs include “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” (who would even have the audacity to attempt that), and some core rock and roll (“Gloria”, “Johnny B. Goode” and “Blue Suede Shoes”) that are just fun. Other revelations are a live performance of a reworked Muddy Waters tune (“Catfish Blues”) and two improvised jams (“Slow Blues” & “Country Blues”).

But what resonates as potent and groundbreaking decades later is the fire power of his guitar. The searing reverberation, distortion and unrestrained wah-wah pedal effects are breathtaking. The revved up live rendition of “Fire” is punctuated with technical wizardry. “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” underscores the ferocity and passion of Hendrix. The future looked promising to this “hero of the guitar heroes”. A 1969 “lost” archival recording of “Stone Free” indicates that Hendrix was even improving on his own material.  Collaborations with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles (some of which are included in this box set) raised expectations, but never came to fruition.

Jimi Hendrix’s music was raw, loud and trendsetting. The engineering associated with his recordings captures the dynamic essence of his sound. No power trio (including Cream) ever combined these psychedelic blues eruptions with this level of engineering dexterity. Included in the box set is an 80-page illustrated booklet with insightful details of these iconic sessions. The Jimi Hendrix Experience Box Set is terrific!

TrackList:

Disc One: Purple Haze; Killing Floor; Hey Joe; Foxey Lady; Highway Chile; Hey Joe; Title #3; 3rd Stone From The Sun; Taking Care Of No Business; Here He Comes (Lover Man); Burning Of The Midnight Lamp; If 6 Was 9; Rock Me Baby; Like A Rolling Stone; Burning Of The Midnight Lamp; The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam’s Dice

Disc Two: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; Burning Of The Midnight Lamp; Little Wing; Little Miss Lover; The Wind Cries Mary; Catfish Blues; Bold As Love; Sweet Angel; Fire; Somewhere; (Have You Ever Been To) Electric Ladyland; Gypsy Eyes; Room Full Of Mirrors; Gloria; Peace In Mississippi; It’s Too Bad; Star Spangled Banner

Disc Three: Stone Free; Like A Rolling Stone; Spanish Castle Magic; Hear My Train A Comin’; Room Full Of Mirrors; I Don’t Live Today; Little Wing; Red House; Purple Haze; Voodoo Chile (Slight Return); Izabella

Disc Four: Message To Love; Earth Blues; Astro Man; Country Blues; Freedom; Johnny B. Goode; Lover Man; Blue Suede Shoes; Cherokee Mist; Come Down Hard On Me; Hey Baby/In From The Storm; Ezy Ryder; Night Bird Flying; All Along The Watchtower; In From The Storm; Slow Blues

—Robbie Gerson




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