Friday, October 26, 2012

Jimi Hendrix 7: Hendrix In The West

After two vault-scrapings, somebody decided that a live album might be a decent way to make money off a dead Hendrix. Rather than highlight a single performance, thus began the practice of siphoning songs from the hundreds of concerts he’d played, sticking in this case to the Isle Of Wight Festival and Berkeley from 1970, and San Diego and the Royal Albert Hall from 1969 with the original Experience. (We haven’t figured out the significance of the title Hendrix In The West, seeing as only half of the album was recorded on that American coast; from an overseas standpoint, he pretty much only performed in the Western Hemisphere, so the mystery remains.)
For the most part, the album doesn’t concentrate so much on the obvious, but does present him at the peak of his inspiration. The opening “God Save The Queen/Sgt. Pepper” medley from the Isle of Wight Festival (issued several times everywhere, but not in the US until 2002) is meant as a simple warmup, and the crowd responds happily. “Little Wing” is short but sweet, but “Red House” keeps your attention for thirteen minutes, from quiet to screaming, steady all the way. (It’s Jimi’s name and photo on the cover, but the excellence of Mitch Mitchell, Noel Redding and even Billy Cox should not be underestimated.)
A more impromptu “Johnny B. Goode” is delivered with plenty of fire, followed by a blazing take on “Lover Man”, making its album debut. An incredibly funky groove somehow leads to a take on “Blue Suede Shoes” (from a soundcheck, which probably explains the fade) and the set closes with an especially hot “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”, which also fades for some reason.
Hendrix In The West is a solid album, but our cynicism over the motivation is underscored by the sloppy presentation. Besides seeming to be in a different sequence in every country, the compilers tried to pull a fast one by crediting the Albert Hall tracks to San Diego, resulting in a legal issue that kept the two Albert Hall tracks from appearing when the estate reissued the album nearly forty years later (not surprising, considering how many times that show had been recycled on countless no-name labels). So “Little Wing” appears instead from the Winterland shows, and “Voodoo Child” comes from San Diego. Three more songs from San Diego fill up another 20 minutes on the CD, leading us to wonder why they didn’t use the other two songs from the show, which had appeared on an official box set in the early ‘90s, just before the estate took everything back. Since so many of the tracks are available elsewhere, the album’s relevance today has been lessened. But it’s still pretty damn good.

Jimi Hendrix Hendrix In The West (1972)—4
2011 version: same as 1972, plus 5 extra tracks (and minus 2 original tracks)

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