The Second Disc

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Review: Jimi Hendrix, “Winterland” and “Hendrix In The West”

with 12 comments

“The story of life is quicker than the wink of an eye, the story of love is hello and goodbye…until we meet again.”  That poem, reportedly written by Jimi Hendrix some hours before his death, has added to the guitarist’s mystique over the years, but as usual, the restless musician was prescient.  Although his entire recorded solo catalogue amounts to the work of a mere four-year period between 1966 and 1970, we’ve continued to say hello to Jimi Hendrix’s music many years after having said goodbye to the man.

The fourth wave of releases arising out of the partnership between Experience Hendrix and Legacy Recordings has just arrived in stores.  The centerpiece of this wave is undoubtedly the deluxe box set Winterland, and it’s joined by a newly reconfigured release of the 1972 LP Hendrix in the West as well as two DVDs, Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix Live at the Isle of Wight and Jimi Hendrix: The Dick Cavett Show.  Both DVDs feature material new to these editions.

When Hendrix took the stage on August 30, 1970 at The Isle of Wight, could anyone have imagined the incendiary young talent would be gone in less than three weeks’ time, on September 18?  The retooled Hendrix in the West (88697 93622 2, 2011) – available on single CD or double LP – opens with the artist’s only pairing of “(God Save) The Queen” with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”  The performances were unexpected, with “Pepper” not a regular staple of Hendrix’s set at that time.  (He famously performed it for the first time with two Beatles – George and Paul – in attendance in London, 1967, and McCartney still savors the moment in recollection today.)  Hendrix was joined by Mitch Mitchell (drums) and Billy Cox (bass), a group that brought more than requisite power to the “power trio” concept.  The two-song opening salvo is the only material from the Isle of Wight stand, available in filmed form on the Blue Wild Angel DVD.

Other performances on the new In the West are drawn from concerts held at the San Diego Sports Arena on May 24, 1969, Berkeley Community Center on May 30, 1970 and San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom on October 12, 1968.  The original LP also contained two tracks from the famous Royal Albert Hall stand of February 24, 1969, but those performances of “Little Wing” and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” have been replaced with new renditions from Winterland and the San Diego Sports Arena, respectively.   (Although the Albert Hall tracks are reportedly in legal limbo at present, both are available on the Experience Hendrix/MCA Jimi Hendrix Experience box set.)  Three tracks are wholly original to this new version of the album: “Fire,” “I Don’t Live Today” and “Spanish Castle Magic,” all from the May 25, 1969 stint in San Diego.

Despite the disparate recording sources, In the West makes for a cohesive listen, with dialogue sprinkled throughout for the illusion of one complete performance.  In addition to the Hendrix/Mitchell/Cox triumverate, it also presents the Jimi Hendrix Experience line-up of Hendrix, Mitchell and Noel Redding on the Winterland and San Diego tracks.    The renowned Wally Heider Recording truck captured the majority of the songs at both Winterland and Berkeley; sound designer Abe Jacob, who later pioneered the concept of sound design on Broadway, engineered at Berkeley.

In the West is an attention-grabbing set.  Perhaps most exciting are two unusual cover versions, “Johnny B. Goode” and “Blue Suede Shoes.”   There’s great respect but zero nostalgia in both electrifying tracks. “Blue Suede Shoes” is even more dramatically reinvented than “Johnny,” kicking off with a riff that’s unmistakably Hendrix and completely unique for the Carl Perkins song legendarily co-opted by Elvis Presley.  (The performance actually came from the afternoon sound check!)   For a bit of fun, listen carefully for the audible “thank you very much” as part of Hendrix’s pre-song comments.

There may be no better example on the album of the band’s interplay than “I Don’t Live Today,” with Mitchell’s drum solo, Redding’s bass and Hendrix’s scorching lead guitar taking their instruments into the stratosphere.  The track almost sounds like an exorcism of some very powerful demons!  Hendrix works in a few notes of “The Star-Spangled Banner” while pushing rock to its most primal limits.  Mitchell tears through another solo on “Spanish Castle Magic,” which features snatches of “Sunshine of Your Love.”

Just as good is a definitive, 13+ minute take on Hendrix’s blues “Red House”: “There’s a red house over yonder…that’s where my baby stays…”  It’s a simple blues, delivered in a measured yet smoking performance.  His improvisations rarely took a song in an expected direction, whether lyrical or fiery.  Sure, the replacement of the Royal Albert Hall tracks makes Hendrix in the West far from a straight reissue, and it’s still oddly titled, seeing as the Isle of Wight tracks are still there, among the other performances actually recorded “in the west.”  But it’s nonetheless a treat to have one of the original posthumous Hendrix releases (with which so many fans grew up) back on vinyl and CD in a form resembling the original.

Just days after The Jimi Hendrix Experience took the stage on October 10, 1968 at Bill Graham’s San Francisco palace Winterland (the venue immortalized in Martin Scorsese’s film The Last Waltz), the group would release the double album Electric Ladyland.  Yet even that sprawling collection couldn’t contain the boundless energy and ferocious talent of Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding.  Thankfully, Wally Heider’s mobile recording unit was dispatched to Winterland to capture an aural document of the three night/six show stand.  This was, after all, the period in which Hendrix most fervently pursued opportunities to stretch his music and jam, completely conscious and in control of his improvisational abilities that were pushing the envelope of what was commonly accepted as rock music.

Visit Winterland, after the jump!

The simply-titled Winterland box set, available on CD (88697 93619 2), LP and in one-disc highlights CD form, marks the first official release of much of the material; select songs were previously available on just one disc from Rykodisc.  Although the complete shows have circulated on six discs, the Experience Hendrix/Legacy remaster sounds more crisp and in-your-face than ever before, and the set’s producers Janie Hendrix, Eddie Kramer and John McDermott have chosen quality over quantity, distilling the performances to four compact discs.  The first three are formatted as one disc per evening (drawn from both the early and late shows) and the fourth rounds up odds and ends, plus a 19-minute, freewheeling backstage interview from a Boston gig one month after Winterland.  Each disc is sequenced so seamlessly that you’ll be hard-pressed to notice which performances came from which set.

Winterland offers a thrilling immersion into the simpatico interplay between Hendrix, Mitchell and Redding.  These electrifying (literally and figuratively!) four discs show the young leader’s confidence at an all-time high but also a true generosity in performance towards his fellow musicians.  Guests were plentiful onstage (flautist Virgil Gonsalves, bassist Jack Casady, organist Herbie Rich of the Buddy Miles Express) and off (Janis Joplin) when Jimi played San Francisco.  When he noodled with other musicians, Hendrix was expanding his own musical vocabulary, redefining the rules of guitar rock along the way.  There can be little doubt that Hendrix would have pursued a path in jazz fusion as he blurs all genre lines in these combustible performances.

The first sound you’ll hear on Winterland is that of an audience on October 10, cheering in anticipation.  Just why is in evidence once Hendrix and company launch into the nearly 15-minute jam session that is called “Tax Free.”  With its shifting changes, free-form approach and attack, it’s plain to see how this aggressive style of playing became so influential.  There’s a steady flow throughout Hendrix’s Winterland performances of rapid, sharp turns and quirks.  His lead lines follow, one after another, in such lightning-quick style it’s hard to believe he’s only one person!

The audience’s excitement hardly flags, as the band members show little sense of just going through the motions.  (Would this impossibly dynamic and adaptable performer have ever reached that stage?  It’s hard to say.)  One of the many discoveries of Winterland is the guitarist’s sense of humor.  It’s on display in his engaging and easygoing between-song banter, a great amount of which is present over the four discs.  Whether Hendrix is mock-apologizing for the ruckus (“We’re tuning between every single song…because we really care for your ears!”) or self-deprecatingly noting of the song “Lover Man” that it’s just “a regular straight rock thing,” we get a sense that he knew when he was pushing the limits musically.  All of this talk sets Winterland apart.

As with so many live performers, Hendrix included contemporary cover versions in his live gigs, and these are particularly exciting.  There’s a palpable frisson thanks to the heady San Francisco atmosphere when Hendrix launches into his variations on “Sunshine of Your Love,” featuring perhaps the most famous classic rock riff he didn’t write!  (It’s certainly rivaled by “Foxey Lady,” heard on both Discs 1 and 2.)  A groovy, searing “Wild Thing” makes for songwriter Chip Taylor’s wildest, feedback-laden garage fantasy!  Though just over three minutes, it’s far from radio pop.  Jefferson Airplane’s Jack Casady drops in for Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor.”  Best of all might be The Experience’s slowed down, heavy take on Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”  We’re given the chance to hear it twice, once from October 11 and once from the next night.  What some of the songs lack in polish, they make up for in raw emotion; live Hendrix is always a great departure from studio Hendrix.

“Sunshine of Your Love” and “Like a Rolling Stone” are just two of the songs heard on more than one disc.  With the four discs derived from six shows, a number of songs are indeed repeated, but the selected performances are far from identical.  (The superior October 12 performance of “Rolling Stone” is reprised on a companion CD single along with “Spanish Castle Magic” from October 11, which is otherwise unavailable and not on the box set.)  The group’s progression over the evenings is evident when comparing both renditions of “Sunshine.”  The October 12 performance is much funkier than the first outing on October 10.  And while even the most tautly-constructed songs are expanded as jams, there’s very little “fat” on them.  While you’re waiting for the re-statement of the melody, it won’t be long before you realize that you’ve been listening to the “meat” all along!  Hardly a note is tossed off.  Disc 2 offers another confident if considerably shorter (10 minutes) reading of “Tax Free,” in which Hendrix, Mitchell and Redding masterfully slow the jam down to a dirge, then build up steam once more.  The staple “Purple Haze” is the only track to appear on all three discs; it was performed at all six shows.  Before the 5-minute version performed on October 11, Hendrix is captured quipping, “I’m so tired!”  A rare respite is a calming “Little Wing,” performed after the blazing “Sunshine of Your Love” from the October 12 disc.

Could any other era have produced Jimi Hendrix?  The one-two punch of “Hey Joe” and “Star-Spangled Banner” on Disc 1 speak as strongly of the time as is possible, both politically and musically.  Hendrix doesn’t even address the main melody of “Banner” until the three-and-one-half minute mark!  On the version included on Disc 4, the national anthem even makes way for a quote of the theme from Bonanza!  When he questions, “Have you ever been experienced?,” he’s slinging the lyrics, practically spoken, over a potent wall of sound.  (Flautist Virgil Gonsalves is audible on the October 11 version of the song “Are You Experienced,” and is name-checked by Hendrix after its conclusion.  This track may have been edited for length, primarily in its opening jam.)

David Fricke contributes an essay to the box set’s 36-page booklet, putting the performances into historical perspective, and also detailing the origins of the songs with a critical appreciation and assessment.  Hendrix’s longtime engineer Eddie Kramer has mixed this set while George Marino has mastered.  The results should please anybody only familiar with the past non-commercial releases.

Completist’s Alert: In addition to the CD single mentioned, a vinyl single has also been released with “Johnny B. Goode” from In the West backed with an October 10 “Purple Haze” not on the box set.  A fifth Amazon-exclusive CD also chronicles Hendrix at Winterland, but its five tracks (including a cover of Jim Capaldi’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy”) are drawn from an earlier stand on February 4, 1968 previously released on Dagger Records’ Paris ‘67/San Francisco ’68.  One more tidbit for the die-hards out there: It appears that two of the six October shows can now be assembled in toto from these official releases.  The October 10 late set makes up Disc 1 of the box set, and the October 11 late set appears as Disc 2, save “Spanish Castle Magic,” which can be acquired on the Like a Rolling Stone single.)

With the multi-format release of Winterland, yet another chapter in Jimi Hendrix’s career has finally come to light.  At one point during the concerts, he remarked to the audience that he was simply trying to play a “true feeling.”  However rough, however ragged certain performances might be, it’s doubtful Jimi Hendrix was ever capable of playing anything less.

Written by Joe Marchese

September 14, 2011 at 10:20

Posted in Features, Jimi Hendrix, News, Reissues

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12 Responses

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  1. Little Wing on In the West has always been my demo everytime I buy a new stylus. Its a shame its been replaced here. Its played, and sounds, perfect.

    Ryan

    September 14, 2011 at 10:49

    • I was very disappointed to find out that Little Wing & Voodoo Child (Slight Return) was replaced in the revised version of In The West (2011). On the two originals from In The West (1972). You find Jimi at his best Live with singing on Little Wing & guitar playing on Voodoo Child. Those two alone showcases his tremendous talent, heart, and drive of his live performance.

      Johnny W Howard Jr

      September 30, 2011 at 14:48

      • I can tell you why Little Wing & Voodoo Child (Slight Return) didn’t make it on the revised version. In the book “Setting the record straight”, Jimi’s life told by Eddy Kramer, Eddy tells that he didn’t like these versions because Mitchells drums missed the power and precision on these tracks. If you want to know alot about Jimi’s life and the choices regarding the producing of his albums by life and death you should buy this book! At the appendix of the book Eddy gives his comment on most of the album releases.

        Marcel

        May 9, 2012 at 01:09

      • I’m going to explain the actual reasons why substitute versions of “Little wing” & “Voodoo Chile(Slight Return)” have been inserted into the new reissue of “Hendrix in The West”.

        Once upon a time, there were two filmmakers named Gold & Goldstein, who put out their effort & money to film and professionally audio-record two Jimi Hendrix Experience concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall in February 1969. Hendrix was not satisfied with his first performance, so Mr. Gold & Mr.Goldstein filmed and audio-recorded another concert a week or two later. Ever since then, all of the posthumous Hendrix compiling regimes have sought to screw these filmmakers, by refusing to acknowledge their ownership of the film, and/or by making blatant illegal use of the audio recordings. One of the two filmmakers is still alive, while the other one is deceased and represented by an estate.

        In 1972, Eddie Kramer(under the first Hendrix posthumous compiling regime of the late Mike Jeffrey) compiled a concert compilation called “Hendrix in The West”. To avoid paying Mr.Gold & Mr.Goldstein, the versions of “Little Wing” & “Voodoo Chile(Slight Return)” were fictitiously described as being recorded in San Diego. Both Reprise Records(who released the album in the U.S.A.) and Polydor Records(who released the album elsewhere) had to eventually acknowledge that the recordings were from the Royal Albert Hall, and a monetary settlement was reached to compensate Gold & Goldstein. “Hendrix in The West” soon went out of print. The recent CD reissue inserts the actual San Diego recordings of those 2 songs.

        In 2000, the two Royal Albert Hall tracks were reissued on the MCA “Jimi Hendrix Experience” box set, also known as the purple box, and this time the recordings were correctly credited as being from Royal albert Hall. Experience Hendrix apparently did have to get permission from Gold & Goldstein or their then-UK licensee Charly Records(Charly’s release, over which Experience Hendrix went to court, actually was legal, but Charly’s giving away copies for free with a UK newspaper WAS a contractual violation).

        Now, Experience Hendrix’s latest courtroom shenanigan is a lawsuit, seeking to declare Experience Hendrix to be the owner of the Albert Hall audio recordings, which would leave the owners of the film with a silent(hence unreleasable) film, thereby leaving the owners of the film with little choice but to sell the film footage to Experience Hendrix at a price to be dictated at the mercy of Experience Hendrix and its chief executive Janie Hendrix. I hope that Experience Hendrix loses the lawsuit.

        Funny, that now Eddie Kramer says that the Albert Hall versions of “Little Wing” & “Voodoo Chile(Slight Return)” are substandard. It was Kramer himself who included them in the original 1972 release of “Hendrix in The West” & the 2000 Purple box. But Eddie is an Experience Hendrix employee, saying what his bosses want him to say. The substitute performances on the reissue of “In The West”, is because(for obvious reasons) Experience Hendrix isn’t going to pay a license fee to the owners of the film, while simultaneously declaring in a lawsuit that they(the owners of the film) DON’T own the audio recordings.

        Janie Hendrix has done much to alienate Hendrix fans with the latest round of releases; not only the substitute performances on the new reissue of “In The West”, but also the Winterland box, which involved editing some of Hendrix’s solos, and mixing down guest keyboard & flute players to near inaudibility.

        I’m an original Hendrix fan, who saw Hendrix play in 1967, and I’ve collected every note of official & unofficial recordings from 1966 onwards, but I’m becoming increasingly ambivalent(barring a change in Janie Hendrix’s greedy mentality) whether there should be any more Hendrix CD’s. Releasing tampered or edited recordings upsets many fans. Ms. Hendrix should do the right thing and drop the lawsuit, and finally acknowledge that the owners of the film also own the audio recordings. These owners ARE willing to license the audio recordings(and perhaps the film) to Experience Hendrix.

        Philip Cohen

        May 9, 2012 at 11:50

  2. Esp. with Hendrix I’m always wondering: do I have this already as part of another package, under another title? (Due to overkill and the record biz’ cunning repackaging customs, I’m often inclined to think I’m being asked to buy existing material for the second time.) It would be great if some of the utter experts would indicate which tracks have already appeared on a previous box set or other release … and in a way that’s easy to understand. The Jimi wiki’s don’t really help, however much respect I have for those who put them together.

    [uzine]

    September 14, 2011 at 12:12

    • Similarly I’m not inclined to read about the umpteenth release if it’s not well immediately clear what’s unique about them. In other words : didn’t we already have the “In The West” cd via some of those nineties and early noughties Jimi cd’s ?

      [uzine]

      September 14, 2011 at 12:16

  3. Answer: as for the Winterland 4-CD set, 60% to 70% of these performances are new to official CD, and one rendition of “Star Spangled Banner/Purple Haze” has never been heard anywhere before.(that’s right:not even on bootlegs!)
    In any event, the entirety of the “Winterland” 4-CD set is newly remixed by longtime Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer(the material that had been released on the Rykodisc “Live at Winterland” 1-CD set and “Winterland + 3” bonus disc were earlier mixes by Mark LInett)

    Phil Cohen

    September 16, 2011 at 14:18

    • Many thanks! And what about “West” please? Anyone?

      [uzine]

      September 16, 2011 at 14:44

      • The tracks on the new re-compiled “In The West” have all previously been released, either on the original Polydor “In The West” CD or (for the San Diego recordings inserted into the re-compiled “In The West”) on the deleted Reprise 4-CD set “Stages”.

        Phil Cohen

        September 16, 2011 at 17:11

  4. In regards to In the West it was stated; that in my personal opinion, two of the best versions of Little Wing & Vodoo Chile Slight Return from the orignal In the West, were replaced due to legal disputes. This seems to be a long going issue with Hendrix’s recordings, for example The Sound Track of Rainbow Bridge which is no where to be found and to my knowledge has never been released on Cd. It seems to me which I am in my fifties that these disputes continue to rob the younger generations of some of greatest works in their original form while their music interest is still there. Is there a possibility of these legal disputes been resolved in the near future thus releasing some long waited materiel?

    Johnny W Howard Jr

    September 30, 2011 at 12:19

  5. Very interesting. I was only a few feet back from the stage at Winterland, Oct 11, 1968 for the first and most of the second show-(I had promised the father of my 15 year old date that I WOULD have her home by midnight- I almost made it…) I, to this day cannot believe I left, I remember clearly walking around the back of the stage at Winterland to exit the side door, and pausing to watch JH as he played “like a rolling stone” looking at he the surreal view staring into the light show lights. From the first few seconds of the one hand hammered intro into AYE that night, I have remained fascinated and mesmerized by his ability, and complete mastery of the electric guitar.

    Tom H

    June 8, 2012 at 10:35

  6. I was fortunate enough to be there LIVE at these very performances at Winterland and see Jimi Hendrix. I’m now 66 and never in my life have I experienced anything close to Hendrix that night. The set began with total darkness in the auditorium and a single sharply-focused beam shining on a mirror fastened to Jimi’s guitar. He proceeded to reflect this beam of light back throughout the audience while slowly turning up the volume on a massiive wall of feedback. For a few seconds the music was unrecognizeable but ever-so-slowly it became Are You Experienced? I’ve listened to every live musical genre’ from street music to classical but that performance was the musical thrill of my life! His recordings have never done his live performances justice. There was simply nobody ever like him and there never will be. He was a prodigy, a spur-of-the-moment creative GENIUS.

    Jeffrey

    June 25, 2012 at 14:35


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