Sunday, October 2, 2011


A couple of months ago, I was driving a friend home in my car and playing the then-recently released Jimi Hendrix collection Valleys Of Neptune. I explained that it was a brand new release with (sort of) previously unreleased recordings.  He asked, "where do they keep finding this stuff?"  It's a good point -- for a guy whose career lasted about four years, there are a hell of a lot of Jimi Hendrix releases out there. And given the fact that in the past two decades, the catalog has resided at Warner Brothers, MCA, Universal and now Sony (with some live stuff licensed to Rykodisc, and the Band Of Gypsys album on Capitol), things can get confusing.

That said, the recently released Winterland box set is something you should have if you're interested in hearing some amazing live performances by The Jimi Hendrix Experience.  Recorded during a six show stand at San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom in October of 1968, this was the Experience at the peak of their powers.  There's such swagger to their performance, Jimi sounds really into it, and it sounds as if he is not yet tired of playing any of these songs.  Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell are tight as hell. The band is incredible, and they all know it.  Playing distorted guitar at that point in time was still a relatively new thing, and it was probably even considered a political act, an act of liberation.  There's a lot of improvisation going on, and that was still probably relatively new in rock and roll and popular music.

The box set is 4 CDs. The first three feature full shows, and the fourth has spare tracks from some of the other shows, plus a cool interview with Jimi.  And you may wonder if you really need four more live versions of "Purple Haze."  You may, you may not.  But some of his songs that show up multiple times on the box - like "Are You Experienced?" and "Red House" have varying lengths at the different shows, and it's interesting to hear his different takes on the same song from one day to the next.  The "Are You Experienced?" versions are definite highlights here - on one, he has a flautist (Virgo Gonslaves from opening act The Buddy Miles Express) as he does on the album version. The other has no flute. "Little Wing" is amazing.  "Manic Depression" kicks ass, as does "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)."  The instrumental cover of Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love"  is great, as is the cover of of Nordic rockers Hansson and Carlsson's "Tax Free."

For those of you who want a taste of this without having to go all in on a box set, there is a single CD version of this, but I'm a box set fan, and Sony Legacy (who provided me with a review copy) did a great job with this box, I would definitely have purchased it, and I recommend it highly.

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