It always amazes me that an artist who only released three studio albums in his lifetime was able to leave behind such a vast and excellent back catalogue of unreleased material, ranging from exceptional jams and instrumentals, which really show off his guitar skills, and some unreleased songs. The amount of unreleased material is almost comparable to that of Bob Dylan, who has been going for around 47 years, if you discount live material, although the scale of that for Hendrix himself is also vast.
This album is part of the Experience Hendrix Company's attempts to release some of his unreleased material in a more methodical and respectful manner, as the company itself is headed by Janie Hendrix herself. They have re-released all of his studio albums in CD form, with some basic remastering of the original tapes done to bring them up to standard to that of today's technology. On top of this, they have released some live material and attempted to create the album Jimi was working on before his death, First Rays Of The new Rising Sun, which I hope to review in the next few days. And then we have the official bootleg side of things, which this album is part of, with Blues, the BBC sessions and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, but this itself is more bootleggy, as it includes unreleased material and not simply alternate versions. This is a good place to start for the avid Hendrix fan, introducing them to a range of material from his first album to his final few recording sessions, and some of the material on here would more than merit a place on a studio album release.
1. Look over Yonder ****
This song was originally recorded for the Axis: Bold As Love sessions, but was put aside for later use. It was then resurrected in October 1968 at TTG studios, which is the version presented here. The song itself was originally released on the now deleted Rainbow Bridge, but its placing here is a good addition and makes for a powerful beginning. The song is built around a driving guitar, and includes some nice backing vocals from Redding and Mitchell, with the vocals taking more of a back seat in this hard driving tune.
2. Little Wing *****
The song is accidentally called Little Wing on this, but it is in fact an instrumental demo of Angel done by Hendrix and Mitchell in October 1967 for the Axis: Bold As Love recordings, but was of course left for his fourth album, First Rays of the New Rising Sun. This is an incredible instrumental from such humble beginnings and shows his power and skill when it came to putting his vision and creativity into song.
3. Here He Comes (Lover Man) *****
This was a song with a long history of live performances but was never officially put to a studio album, although Hendrix did attempt a few takes, as shown by this and the version found on The Jimi Hendrix Experience box set. This version was put forward for his fourth studio release, but Hendrix was never happy with any of the studio renderings of this, perhaps shown by the laid back feel of the vocals on this track. But the guitar part is strong and the main focus of this extended version of the song.
4. South Saturn Delta *****
Many people have said the Jimi Hendrix was moving into a combination of jazz and rock in his later recordings, and this is perhaps shown best here, with this instrumental which takes in a horn backing. I simply love the guitar part in this, which though may be simple, still expresses so much of what Jimi and jazz is about, it has so much feel and is one of his best instrumental tracks. Though this was never heading for an official studio release, it shows his desire to track new paths and create new forms of music not found elsewhere.
5. Power of Soul *****
This song was originally issued on the Band of Gypsys, which was a presentation of his live performances with his second band, and as such this was never likely to be released on his fourth album. But this is still a great song, which delays the start of the vocals until late into the song, but has such a nice funk sound. The lyrics themselves are good and etched with Jimi's vigour and strength. This was released in a very different form by Alan Douglas on Crash Landing, but I would avoid that as he completely butchers this great track. For a complete session of this track, check out some bootleg releases, as they provide a wider view of this song.
6. Message to the Universe (Message to Love) *****
This has a mellower feel than the previous track and is a more personal song than some of his other earlier works. This was formed in Hendrix's retreat at Shokan, but recorded here in August 1969 at the Hit Factory. The finish to this song is sublime, and was simply an off the cuff creation by Mitchell and Hendrix at the end of this take, which was the first recorded version of that day.
7. Tax Free ****
This instrumental was originally written by Bo Hansson and Jan Carlsson, both of whom were Swedish. The experience discovered this track on there tour through Sweden, from which the created this, which a more free than the original release, which can be found on youtube.com. This was recorded in 1968 under the direction of Chas Chandler, but overdubbed later by Hendrix in the Electric Ladyland sessions. Though this was never officially released, it received a good deal of concert outings in 1969 in both Europe and America.
8. All Along the Watchtower *****
This is an alternate mix of the song released on Electric Ladyland, with this done by Chas Chandler, and the original released version done by Hendrix. This version feels cleaner and is perhaps a nicer compared to that on Electric Ladyland, although both are still good and differ only slightly. Check out my review of Electric Ladyland for more information on the song itself.
9. The Stars That Play with Laughing Sam's Dice *****
One of Hendrix's most outlandish and freeform songs, including a title with reference to two drugs, STP and LSD, a sly nod to the Beatle's recent Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. The song begins with a verse with some nice eerie vocals and guitar, but then descends into a loose jam, with Jimi talking over the recording, with some often humorous inserts. This was originally released as the B-side to Burning of The Midnight Lamp, but has been left unreleased after that until now. A unique song by a very unique man.
10. Midnight *****
An incredible instrumental, which came after a bleak recording period for Jimi. The experience spent considerable time over this song and developed it over a number of try outs and sessions, before coming to this and adding some of Jimi's famed overdubs. This was put aside after the initial slit of the original experience, and as such was never really reviewed again until this album.
11. Sweet Angel *****
Following on from the instrumental near the beginning of this album, comes this demo for the song, which Jimi recorded with himself, playing the bass and guitar, as well as singing over a drum machine. The song though is essentially flawed due to the first quarter of the song lost, after that part of the master tape became damage, so it comes in mid flow, but that still detracts little from this great little track, which would become Angel.
12. Bleeding Heart *****
This is essentially a blues song, which began quite simply but became this absorbing track which feels so agile and electric, the song jumps around and the vocals come in so nicely. The lyrics themselves are simply and bluesy but a nice addition to this great track, which was inspired by the work of the legendary Elmore James. This was considered for release, but a final mix and song was never done, and as such it has been left until now to be released.
13. Pali Gap ****
A song that was originally released as part of the soundtrack to Rainbow Bridge, albeit in a shortened form. This is a nice laid back instrumental which suits the film that it went on to soundtrack, which itself is based in Hawaii and as such the title was created to go with that.
14. Drifter's Escape ****
Another interpretation of a Dylan song from Hendrix, and again it is a cover of a John Wesley Harding track. This is a hard version of the song, and for me, I think that the acoustic representation provided in the original is more suitable for the lyrics of the song. Not his best Dylan cover, but quite a good song nonetheless, which was also considered for his fourth album, but never fully developed and considered.
15. Midnight Lightning *****
To round of this album, we have Hendrix by himself with his electric playing this Delta blues track which feels so personal and beautiful. The slow beat of the song is the main thing that hits you and this is done in the style of many early bluesmen. The song is kept in time by the tap of Jimi's foot on the floor as he sits in his chair. He made a few attempts at this as a group with Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell, but a final cut was never made, and as such this sits as a good representation of his image for the song, in bare work in progress form.
Overall, this is a solid set of unreleased recordings, charting his entire career and taking in a huge number of influences and styles. This is of course not an essential purchase in the Hendrix catalogue for the casual fan, but I would hope that those who are interested and want to take a deeper look at the great man, would take a look at this as one of the first ports of call along with First Rays Of The New Rising Sun, which for me is essential.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Look Over Yonder
2 Little Wing
3 Here He Comes (Lover Man)
4 South Saturn Delta
5 Power Of Soul
6 Message To The Universe (Message To Love)
7 Tax Free
8 All Along The Watchtower
9 The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice - Jimi Hendrix Experience
11 Sweet Angel (Angel)
12 Bleeding Heart
13 Pali Gap
14 Drifter's Escape
15 Midnight Lightning