Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Late last year, Sony Legacy and Experience Hendrix released a new Jimi Hendrix box set, West Coast Seattle Boy.  Sony signed a deal with the Hendrix Estate for the Jimi catalog, and to put out more unreleased recordings, and create new box sets.  There's lots of deleted box sets from Warner Brothers and Universal, so what can Sony Legacy offer that we haven't gotten? (And by the way, I'll state here that Legacy provided me with a promo copy so I can write about it for you).

Well, one cool thing is that on disc 1, it's all music that pre-dates Jimi's solo career. It's hard to believe that there hasn't been a (non-bootleg) collection like this before, but it's cool to have all of this stuff together in one place. There's well known artists like Little Richard and The Isley Brothers, lesser known artists like Don Covay and King Curtis and people I'd never heard of (Rosa Lee Brooks, The Icemen). As a liner notes writer myself, I appreciate the liner notes - they really explain all of these groups and detail Jimi's involvement with them. Although Jimi's virtuosity isn't the focus of any of these songs, it's interesting to hear him try and get some shine even though he's a hired hand. I would say disc 1 is the main reason to get this.

Another part that I loved is on disc 2, there's six songs recorded in Jimi's hotel room in New York in March of 1968.  It's just Jimi on electric guitar and singing, accompanied on two songs by Paul Caruso on harmonica and vocals. Raw but stripped down versions of Bob Dylan's "Tears Of Rage," "Hear My Train A'Comin'," "1983 (A Merman I Shall Turn To Be)," "Long Hot Summer Night," "My Friend" (which I hadn't heard before) and "Angel." The rest of the box features lots of outtakes, unreleased versions and unreleased mixes. It's not quite essential, it's pretty much for completists.  But, seeing how Jimi died at 27, it's understandable that people would want to hear every last note.

The other cool thing about this box set is the DVD, which contains a documentary, narrated in Jimi's own words, from his interviews and letters to his father.  Bootsy Collins reads the narration as Jimi, and is surprisingly sedate and sensitive.  It's a cool approach and it works well. It you're a big Jimi fan, you've probably read most of the interviews that the doc draws from, but this puts it together in an interesting new way.  Which is, I guess, what Sony does with Jimi's material on this box set.

If you're new to Jimi, my advice is get the three studio albums that he released during his lifetime: Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland. After that, go for First Rays Of The New Rising Sun (the studio album Jimi was working on at the time of his death), BBC Sessions and Band Of Gypsys. Then Live At Monterey and Live at Woodstock if they are in print. Those are the essentials. But you can't go wrong with Jimi's outtakes, they are better than most band's greatest hits!

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