Jimi Plays Berkeley
New and undiscovered footage of Jimi Hendrix seems to come and go, but when a restored, expanded edition of Jimi Plays Berkeley comes to Blu-ray Disc, it's time to take notice and cherish the moment. This historic documentary, released in theaters just months after the guitarist's passing, captures Hendrix during two concerts he played at the Berkeley Community Theatre on Saturday, May 30, 1970. This is so much more than a concert film; it is a snapshot of a very lurid, post-Woodstock time. Consequently, viewers get a glimpse of a world outside the walls of the concert hall where a number of fans and adversaries in Berkeley exchange views on politics, war and how to get in without paying to see Jimi Hendrix.
Made from a new, digitally-restored transfer from the original 16mm negative, Jimi Plays Berkeley features more than 15 minutes of previously unseen footage of "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)," "Machine Gun" and "Hear My Train A Comin'" not featured in the original film release. In addition to a 5.1 surround stereo soundtrack mixed by original Jimi Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer, there's an audio-only 5.1 surround sound mix Hendrix's second Berkeley show, which is also available in regular old stereo on CD and vinyl as Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live At Berkeley (The Second Set). Songs like "Pass It On (Straight Ahead)," "Hey Joe," "I Don't Live Today," "Machine Gun," "Foxey Lady" and "Star Spangled Banner" are featured.
The bulk of the film, of course, is all about Hendrix, bassist Billy Cox and drummer Mitch Mitchell running through smoking versions of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," "Hear My Train A Comin'," "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)" and "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)." While some of the shots are grainy, the general direction dodgy in spots, and the cut-aways to miscellaneous Berkeley activities somewhat miscalculated, the general consensus is that Jimi Plays Berkeley is one of the finest cinematic documents of Hendrix in action, fingers a-flying. And now, in all its high definition splendor, you can appreciate the man, still without much argument, the greatest guitar player to ever plug the instrument in and squeeze it for every ounce of blood and soul he could conjure.
~ Shawn Perry