Friday, February 22, 2013

Jimi Hendrix 9: The Alan Douglas Albums

The legend of Jimi Hendrix only grew as the seventies progressed, doubtless helped by such documentaries as Woodstock and Monterey Pop, plus of course his popularity on AOR FM stations. Having seemingly done all they could with whatever he’d left finished, producer Alan Douglas decided the next best thing to a new Hendrix album was to grab some working tapes, wipe off everything but Jimi’s parts, and have a bunch of jazz-funk studio musicians—none of whom were involved with the original sessions—overdub fresh arrangements. And not just bass and drums, either—percussion, backing vocals and even another guitarist were involved.
While the results were certainly listenable, every year of hindsight only raises more questions as to whether the albums should be considered the equivalent of either colorized films or just mashups. While technology has made it easier to create things like Natalie Cole’s duet with her father and the Threetles “completion” of a couple of Lennon demos, Hendrix students would ultimately prefer to hear the untampered recordings, many of which have surfaced on a variety of archival releases. For the duration of the Reprise era, however, these albums were considered part of the catalog, and they have their defenders.

Crash Landing was the first volley, albeit short at less than 30 minutes. Three of the songs would have been moderately familiar, studio versions of the Band Of Gypsys tracks “Message Of Love” and “Power Of Soul” (here called “With The Power”) and a remake of “Stone Free”. The mis-titled “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” is not the Wizard Of Oz tune, but it is a half-decent piece of slow stank. The title track is something of an anti-drug message, though his concern for his lady’s health is overshadowed by his horniness. “Come Down Hard On Me Baby” is a pedestrian blues shuffle, not one of his best. “Peace In Mississippi” is a burning solo hampered by the too-slick additions, while “Captain Coconut” is a strange montage of various solo experiments.

Douglas struck again by year’s end with Midnight Lightning, following the same idea. A couple of songs were repeated from War Heroes: “Trashman” being an expansion of “Midnight”; “Beginnings” doesn’t even include Mitch Mitchell, who wrote it. The title track is torpedoed by the additional backing vocals, which merely repeat the title over and over. A half-decent studio take on “Hear My Train A Comin” doesn’t quite match the excellence of the live versions, nor could it, but it tries, and the same could be said for “Machine Gun”. “Gypsy Boy” is a tentative sketch filled out to the point where the new parts nearly overwhelm the basic track. A cover of “Blue Suede Shoes” applies an original riff that should have been spun off into an original. And although it’s over five minutes, “Once I Had A Woman” ends just as it starts to burn.

Seeing as the two albums are cut from the same reconstituted cloth, a single CD could cover both albums; however, even though Crash Landing was reissued CD in the US once upon a time, the Hendrix Estate has decreed that these albums stay deleted. They’ve done the same to Nine To The Universe, another Douglas product that simply presented edits of five separate jam sessions, with no embellishment. Of the three albums, it’s the jazziest and purest, and therefore preferred.

Jimi Hendrix Crash Landing (1975)—3
Jimi Hendrix Midnight Lightning (1975)—3
Jimi Hendrix Nine To The Universe (1980)—
Current CD equivalent(s): none

2 comments:

  1. Interesting and balanced reviews of a neglected area! Thank you for the link to DeadHendrix.

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  2. My pleasure. DeadHendrix was something of a guideline, to ensure that I didn't merely blow off these albums, but consider them closely.

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