Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Jimi Hendrix 20: People, Hell And Angels

Out of nowhere came People, Hell And Angels, another Hendrix vault compilation. Something of a counterpart to Valleys Of Neptune, it served up more studio takes that might have made up his fourth album, recorded in 1969 post-Noel and touching on the Band of Gypsys.
As should be clear by now, Jimi recorded several takes and arrangements of his works in progress, depending on his mood and who was around. So here’s another “Bleeding Heart” (this one slow), another “Hear My Train A Comin’” (more like the more familiar live versions), a decent “Earth Blues” with the Gypsys and an early stab at “Izabella” with the expanded Woodstock band. Of the unfamiliar material, “Inside Out” comes from mid-1968, pre-Ladyland, a duet with Mitch embellished by Jimi’s own bass part and more guitar. Sadly too short is “Villanova Junction Blues”, otherwise recorded only in jams and at Woodstock.
The album also attempts to further “right” some of the liberties taken by Alan Douglas forty some years earlier. Along with a longer excerpt of “Easy Blues”, last heard on Nine To The Universe, “Somewhere” is rescued somewhat from Crash Landing, in a take featuring Stephen Stills on bass. (That album’s title track also appears in a different but unaltered take, while what used to be known as “Captain Coconut” is added as a bonus on the Target stores edition of the album, in all of its twenty-minute splendor.) “Hey Gypsy Boy” was first heard on Midnight Lightning, supposedly recorded the same day as “Let Me Move You”; while funky and fiery, it’s basically a showcase for vocalist/saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood, and therefore belongs on a collection of Hendrix session work. Similarly, “Mojo Man” is a completed track by sometime backup singer Arthur Allen to which Jimi added a lead part.
The Estate stated that People, Hell And Angels will be their final archival release of studio material; since then they’ve only authorized a reissue of The Cry Of Love and the first official CD of Rainbow Bridge. (For the student seeking to dig deeper, there are plenty of official live releases, always with the chance of more.) We can recommend it as a worthy installment, along with most of the studio releases of the last two decades, but that doesn’t excuse the anachronistic cover art. Really, a pile of songs from 1969 and the best they could do was a shot from two years earlier?
If we were in charge of things, and obviously we were not, neither this album, South Saturn Delta, Valleys Of Neptune, First Rays — especially now that the two 1971 releases are available again — nor the box sets would have happened. Rather, the music would be grouped chronologically, Anthology-style, for less of a grab-bag approach, and giving the student a much smoother journey through the man’s studio life, particularly to demonstrate all the directions he explored in the last 24 months of his time on the planet.

Jimi Hendrix People, Hell And Angels (2013)—3

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