Sunday, March 18, 2018

Jimi Hendrix - Both Sides of the Sky (Sony Legacy, 2018)

Guitarist, singer, songwriter, Jimi Hendrix is a galvanizing presence in rock 'n' roll, even nearly fifty years after his death. Like many famous people who died all too young, he left mountains of half-finished studio recordings and reams of bootleg and legitimate live recordings that belie the short time he spent on this planet and the even shorter time he spent as a rock 'n' roll star, flashing across the sky like a short lived but brilliant comet. After his death on September 18, 1970, there was a frenzy of activity, and with no clear line of succession, posthumous releases flooded the marketplace, and with the advent of the compact disc plus the progression to downloading and streaming, the frenzy became a veritable tsunami. Posthumous releases were both unauthorized and legitimate, often confusing the consumer. Executor Al Hendrix eventually licensed recordings to Sony through the family-run company Experience Hendrix LLC, and an effort was made to clean up some of the most egregious indulgences which resulted in a recent trilogy of recordings: Valleys of Neptune, People, Hell and Angels, and Both Sides of the Sky. This most recent album compiles music from 1968 to 1970, mixing released and previously unreleased recordings. It catches Hendrix in flux, moving away from the original Experience with Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums, into a funkier out fit that included Buddy Miles and Billy Cox, called the Band of Gypsys, who would develop a deep funk workout here called "The Power of Soul" that became a linchpin of their resulting 1970 live album. He shows his blues roots on this album with very nicely done covers of the muddy Waters classic "Mannish Boy" which kicks off the album, and an emotional version of Guitar Slim's testimonial "The Things That I Used to Do." These two tracks along with an epic deconstruction of the blues classic "Hear My Train A-Comin'" which consists of a complete take rather than the composite track that was Frankensteined together on the 1994 album Jimi Hendrix: Blues. These particular tracks really inspire the musicians and ground the music deep in the fertile soil of the blues which create an excellent foundation for what it to come. Other tracks like a blistering "Lover Man" which represents the summation of Hendrix's attempts to mold the song (a live staple) into a studio version he was satisfied with. Steven Stills was a frequent jamming partner of Hendrix's after they met at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. They had each become enthused about the Joni Mitchell song "Woodstock" and in late September of 1969 they worked on the song until Stills moved to organ and vocals when the performance quickly took shape. They stayed in this configuration while cutting another Stills led piece, "$20 Fine." There are some interesting curios, like the duet performance between Hendrix (even incorporating some electric sitar!) and Mitchell that resulted in the atmospheric instrumental "Cherokee Mist" Overall this album works quite well, there are informative liner notes and some excellent photographs which round out a well designed set that will be a boon to Hendrix obsessives and classic rock fans in general. Both Sides Of The Sky - amazon.com

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