Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix
At The Isle Of Wight
The Dick Cavett Show

Jimi Hendrix

Commemorating the 41st anniversary of Jimi Hendrix's passing, Experience Hendrix has busted out the goodies once again with a slew of discs for the ears and eyes. There's the four-CD set from Winterland. There's the reissue of In The West, a posthumous live album from 1972. But perhaps the hottest, most fascinating of all is the two reissued DVDs: Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix At The Isle Of Wight and The Dick Cavett Show.

Director Murray Lerner has broken up footage he got at the 1970 Isle of Wight concert into numerous configurations. In addition to the Isle of Wight film, additional CDs and DVDs featuring complete sets from the Who, Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, the Moody Blues and Leonard Cohen have all found their way to the marketplace. But the most coveted performance of all may be that of Jimi Hendrix, whose return to the European stage after a lengthy absence was highly anticipated. In fact, it could said that the festival was built around the triumphant guitarist's

In the sequence that begins the DVD, road manager Gerry Stickells gets an inordinate amount of face time before Hendrix takes the stage and plays, arguably, the last great show of his life. Through much of the performance, Hendrix is hugging a Flying V like a long-lost girlfriend. He eventually switches over to a Stratocaster and chips start to fall. That along with the colorful, flaring outfit made this one of Hendrix's most memorable appearances.

In addition to the stirring 15-song set - highlighted by epic, revelatory strokes on tracks like "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," "Freedom" and "Voodoo Child (slight Return)" - Hendrix played with bassist Billy Cox and drummer Mitch Mitchell, there's commentary from Cox, Mitchell, Stickells and other bit players before and after the performance. Bonus features include the Second Look option, which consists of multiple camera angles of various songs, a recently discovered clip of "Hey Joe" from the festival, a behind-the-scenes feature with Lerner, and slides of rare Hendrix memorabilia.

Hendrix's two appearances on The Dick Cavett Show are something else altogether. Back in those days, rock music and television were polarized, despite glimpses of hope from the Ed Sullivan Show and the Smother Brothers Comedy Hour. Cavett, who is briefly profiled in the behind-the-scenes documentary (which also features interviews with Cox and Mitchell), took a more cerebral approach by inviting Hendrix, Janis Joplin and John Lennon to not only perform, but chat about their careers, share their views on the topics of the day, and sidle up with the establishment.

In both sequences, Hendrix is soft-spoken, somewhat guarded, yet humourous at turns, and spiritually affirmative in his own convictions. He is also consistently exhausted, which gives you some indication of the hectic pace and mania surrounding the guitarist's life at the time. When asked by Cavett if he works every day, Hendrix dryly replies: "I try to get up every day..." You find yourself simultaneously laughing and feeling bad for a man whose life was cut way too short, likely attributed to the trails and travesties of the fame game.

The live performances may way be the icing on the disc. During the July 7, 1969 appearance, Hendrix was with his own band, so he rips out a killer version of "Hear My Train A Comin'" with Cavett's house band, the Bobby Rosengarden Orchestra. For his September 9, 1969 spot, Hendrix has Cox, Mitchell and percussionist Juma Sultan on board for "Izabella" and "Machine Gun." While the setting for both may be a bit sterile when compared to a real concert stage, Hendrix, no matter how worn-out he may have been, is simply brilliant. Your own Jimi Hendrix experiences have much to gain in viewing Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix At The Isle Of Wight and The Dick Cavett Show.

~ Shawn Perry

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