Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Jimi Hendrix 17: Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues

A couple of years before stamping his name on documentaries about Bob Dylan and George Harrison, director Martin Scorsese tried to one-up Ken Burns with a PBS series on the blues. If anything, it opened the opportunities for a flood of companion CDs covering famous and forgotten bluesmen, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since Sony rediscovered Robert Johnson in 1990.
A well-sequenced and equally well-received compilation dedicated to the blues side of Jimi Hendrix had already been out for ten years. But the estate heard cash registers, so they dove in with another set. Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: Jimi Hendrix should not be considered definitive in the least; while it only overlaps a few song titles with that well-done 1994 set, it’s not exactly illuminating.
Five of the tracks could be considered standard—the Smash Hits version of “Red House”, “Come On” and the long “Voodoo Chile” from Electric Ladyland, the execrable “My Friend” from Cry Of Love and later First Rays Of The New Rising Sun, and “Midnight Lightning”, which closes South Saturn Delta. Three songs are repeated from the box set of only three years earlier, including a smoking take of “Hear My Train A-Comin’” with the Experience.
That leaves exactly two songs not officially released before. “Georgia Blues” is a something of a rewrite of “Stormy Monday”, featuring Lonnie Youngblood on sax and lead vocals, in an uncanny similarity to Bob Seger. Slightly more interesting is “Blue Window”, where he’s backed by the Buddy Miles Express for 13 minutes, horns and all.
As many of the tracks feature Jimi playing alongside people other than the Experience or the Band of Gypsys, the album does succeed in presenting another side of him. Unfortunately, it had already been done, and better, making it less a loving portrait than a grab for cash. Its out-of-print status today suggests that even the Estate doesn’t consider it part of the canon. Naturally, with those two tracks back out of circulation, used copies go for big bucks.

Jimi Hendrix Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: Jimi Hendrix (2003)—3

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