Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Coming in Third on the "Creative Outbursts" List...

Jimi Hendrix is still the most amazing, most influential electric guitarist in the history of rock music. Just how prolific his short-lived career had been was only fully revealed after his untimely death. It has been argued by some that Hendrix had peaked, and was on a creative downturn at the time of his death. Many of his later live performances have been described as erratic. Of course, he went through several changes in band members, and varying degrees of being stoned out of his mind, as well. The voluminous amount of posthumously-released material has, if anything, muddied the "downturn" issue considerably. So damned much stuff has been pushed out on the market, it’s almost impossible to wade through it all.

Hendrix himself sanctioned the following releases: ARE YOU EXPERIENCED (UK: May 1967, USA: August 1967), AXIS: BOLD AS LOVE (UK: December 1967, USA: January 1968), ELECTRIC LADYLAND (September 1968), SMASH HITS (UK: April 1968, USA: July 1969), and BAND OF GYPSYS (April 1970). On 18 September 1970, Jimi Hendrix was dead.

Between them, the UK and USA versions of ARE YOU EXPERIENCED contain the following songs (all written by Jimi Hendrix, except as indicated): “Purple Haze”, “Hey Joe” (Billy Roberts), “Foxey Lady”, “Manic Depression”, “Red House”, “Can You See Me”, “Love or Confusion”, “I Don't Live Today”, “May This Be Love”, “The Wind Cries Mary”, “Fire”, “Third Stone from the Sun”, “Remember”, and “Are You Experienced?”.

AXIS: BOLD AS LOVE had the same line-up on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean: “EXP”, “Up from the Skies”, “Spanish Castle Magic”, “Wait Until Tomorrow”, “Ain't No Telling”, “Little Wing”, “If 6 Was 9”, “You Got Me Floatin'”, “Castles Made of Sand”, “She's So Fine” (Noel Redding), “One Rainy Wish”, “Little Miss Lover”, and “Bold as Love”.

ELECTRIC LADYLAND was a double-album, containing these tracks: “...And the Gods Made Love”, “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)”, “Crosstown Traffic”, “Voodoo Chile”, “Little Miss Strange” (Noel Redding), “Long Hot Summer Night”, “Come On (Part 1)” (Earl King), “Gypsy Eyes”, “Burning of the Midnight Lamp”, “Rainy Day, Dream Away”, “1983... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)”, “Moon, Turn the Tides...gently gently away”, “Still Raining, Still Dreaming”, “House Burning Down”, “All Along the Watchtower” (Bob Dylan), and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”. [haahnster note: In my previous post on John Fogerty, I named CCR’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” my 2nd Favorite Cover of All Time. The Jimi Hendrix Experience version of “All Along the Watchtower” is my # 1, All-Time Favorite Cover Version of any song.]

SMASH HITS was a compilation that differed greatly in content between the UK and USA versions, partially because the former was released prior to ELECTRIC LADYLAND, but the latter included songs from that album. In addition to various songs listed above, the following were included on at least one of the versions of SMASH HITS: “51st Anniversary”, “Stone Free”, “Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice”, and “Highway Chile”.

BAND OF GYPSYS contains the following: “Who Knows”, “Machine Gun”, “Changes” (Buddy Miles), “Power of Soul”, “Message to Love”, “We Gotta Live Together” (Buddy Miles).

Quite a body of work in just about three years, wouldn’t you agree? And, then there are all the posthumous releases, many of which are high quality stuff. RAINBOW BRIDGE (1971) feels like a completed album, and includes studio recordings “Dolly Dagger”, “Earth Blues”, “Pali Gap”, “Room Full of Mirrors”, “Star Spangled Banner”, “Look Over Yonder”, “Hey Baby”, and the amazing live-in-concert recording “Hear My Train A-Comin”. THE CRY OF LOVE (1971) also feels like a completed studio album, and contains “Freedom”, “Drifting”, “Ezy Rider”, “Night Bird Flying”, “My Friend”, “Straight Ahead”, “Astro Man”, “Angel”, “In From The Storm”, and “Belly Button Window”. [haahnster note: these are the song line-ups on my original, vinyl LPs; I'm not sure about CD re-issues]

Of course, some of the most amazing stuff was included in posthumous live (is that a contradiction in terms, or what?!) releases. JIMI PLAYS MONTEREY (1986) highlights his historic performance at that 1967 festival, including some fairly incredible cover versions of “Wild Thing”, “Like A Rolling Stone”, “Rock Me Baby” and “Killing Floor”, along with high-energy versions of his early hits.

The '80s also saw some other fairly excellent, remastered material issued on CD. LIVE AT WINTERLAND (1987) has some top-notch versions of a song line-up similar to MONTEREY, with the addition of a blistering cover of “Sunshine Of Your Love”. RADIO ONE (1988) is comprised of songs recorded “live” in the studio in 1967 for broadcast by BBC Radio in England. It includes raw versions of some of his EXPERIENCED and AXIS hits, as well as amazing covers of “Day Tripper”, “Hoochie Koochie Man”, and “Hound Dog”, among others.

It just occurred to me that I haven’t even discussed the way he knocked the Earth off its axis in 1969 with his version of “The Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock, complete with perhaps the most gut-wrenching, distorted guitar improvisations ever recorded. [haahnster note: the studio version on RAINBOW BRIDGE was actually recorded before the landmark performance at Woodstock, and sounds much different, with multi, multi, multi-layered guitar tracks (all by Jimi) that give it almost an orchestra sound]

Hell, I also have the JIMI HENDRIX: BLUES CD from 1994 (the same year Jimi's full Woodstock performance was issued on a remastered CD, which I also have), and the BBC SESSIONS 2-CD set (1998), in addition to all the titles mentioned above (I have USA versions, not UK versions). In addition, I have 3 DVDs: Jimi on the Dick Cavett Show, Band of Gypsys Live at Fillmore East, and Jimi Plays Berkeley.

But, even with all that stuff, do you know what I reached for first last night? My old LPs of IN THE WEST (1971), which collected some of his most amazing live performances (covers: the British National Anthem, “Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band”, “Johnny B. Goode”, “Blue Suede Shoes”, and originals: “Lover Man”, “Little Wing”, “Red House”, “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”), and WAR HEROES (1972) which was unreleased (in the USA at least) studio stuff (“Bleeding Heart”, “Highway Chile”, “Catstrophe”, “Stepping Stone”, “Midnight”, “3 Little Bears”, “Beginning” (Mitch Mitchell), “Izabella”, and the instrumental covers “Tax Free” and “Peter Gunn”). Admittedly, both of these were patchwork jobs, as opposed to complete albums, which is especially evident with the studio songs on WAR HEROES (several instrumental-only tracks, etc.) and the liner notes on IN THE WEST, which are so screwed up it's laughable. But, DAMN!!! There's some AMAZING music on these two albums. Unfortunately, I have no clue if they've been re-issued intact on CD, or just scattered across various CDs. After these two, I listened to RAINBOW BRIDGE and THE CRY OF LOVE. Then, it was bed time.

While this is far from an exhaustive study of the legacy of Jimi Hendrix, hopefully I’ve hit enough of the high points to reinforce my position. And that is, in case you forgot, that from 1967 through his death in 1970, Jimi Hendrix produced the 3rd most amazing “creative outburst” in the history of rock music (and, in some ways, arguably THE most influential).

[For those of you keeping score at home, I guess that means Neil is in the Top 2.]


Blogger rabidt said...

Let's see... Hendrix is #3, and you're partial to Neil, so Clapton HAS to be #2.

8:40 AM, March 01, 2006  
Blogger haahnster said...

I would've posted this reply much sooner, but I was too busy cleaning up the coffee on my desk (the result of a massive "spit-take" as they say in the sit-com business...NO WAY I should've read your Clapton suggestion with my mouth full; that was just ASKING for trouble on my part)!!!

My giddy infatuation with all-things-Crapton is becoming too widely known. I can no longer sneak it by anyone. [Here I thought my comment regarding "Before You Accuse Me" covers in my CCR post would throw people off the trail!]

Well, rest assured that I will NOT be naming Clapton in the Top 2. You'll just have to guess whether or not that was a last-minute change!!!

9:54 AM, March 01, 2006  

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