The Jimi Hendrix Experience Box Set

The Jimi Hendrix Exeprience

The Jimi Hendrix Experience Box Set is a definitive collection of alternate outtakes and vintage live recordings. Spanning a career that exploded in 1966 and never let up for four years, this four-CD, 56-track compilation may not be the last of the literally dozens of posthumous Hendrix releases, but it certainly is the most comprehensive.

There is no doubt that the Hendrix vault has been exploited and revamped many times over since the guitarist’s untimely demise 30 years ago. In the last few years, the Experience Hendrix organization – which is overseen by Jimi’s father Al and half-sister Janie – with the likes of Eddie Kramer, Hendrix’ longtime engineer, have released some high quality collections that unequivocally capture the legendary axe slinger in all his splendor and glory. First Rays Of The New Rising Sun was supposedly the album that Hendrix was in the midst of completing when he passed away. South Saturn Delta includes historic alternates and remastered tracks previously only available on sub-standard releases of the mid 1970s. Live At The Fillmore East and Live At Woodstock exhibit the post-Experience Hendrix at the height of his powers as a live performer. But it’s as if these releases were merely laying the foundations for what was to come. With the box set, Janie Hendrix, Eddie Kramer and co-producer John McDermott have unearthed the mother lode.

Disc one opens with an alternate version of probably Hendrix’ most well known song, "Purple Haze." From there we are taken to the fourth live performance by the newly christened Experience where Hendrix, drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding unleash killer performances of "Killing Floor" and "Hey Joe." The disc goes on to document Hendrix' songwriting and studio prowess with stunning, somewhat raw versions of "Foxey Lady," "Third Stone From The Sun," "If 6 Was 9" and a Dylan cover that even Dylan admired, "Like A Rolling Stone."

Disc two sustains the momentum with sizzling renditions of "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band" – at this point only three months old – and "Burning Of The Midnight Lamp." On to more studio outtakes, we glimpse the Experience/Chas Chandler combination in full bloom. It’s arguable that when Chandler – the former Animal who had more or less "discovered" Hendrix – took the producer helm, Hendrix was at his most creative. Certainly there was a free amount of experimentation taking place as verified by the alternate takes of "Little Wing" and "Bold As Love." The disc shuffles back and forth from studio and live tracks, much of it without Mitchell, Redding or Chandler. It is conceivable to understand that once everyone went home, Hendrix would continue to record with who ever was around. The final track captures a solitary Hendrix plucking out an elaborate production of "Star Spangled Banner," months before his most celebrated translation at Woodstock.

While a revolving door of personnel continue to make appearances, the essence of Hendrix, Mitchell and Redding persists throughout disc three. Even in their final days, the band gave their all, as exhibited by smoking "live" versions of "I Don’t Live Today," "Little Wing," "Red House," "Purple Haze" and "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" – all intended for release during Hendrix’ lifetime. The disc closes with an unreleased take of "Izabella," one of the first post-Experience recordings made with Billy Cox on bass.

As things wind down with disc four, Hendrix continues to excel as a guitarist, songwriter, singer and studio junkie. Hendrix floats back and fourth from basic blues to more cerebral, less frantic material. The rare Band of Gypsys studio sessions here signal a more stripped down direction. Much of the subsequent "live" material – with Mitchell returning to the fold – is of then-unreleased studio experimentations. By the reaction from the few hundred in Hawaii to "Hey Baby/In From The Storm" to over half-million at the Isle of Wight – Hendrix’ biggest audience – to a more seasoned version of "In From The Storm," you’d have thought these were staples in his catalog. While the finishing touches of the studio version of "In From The Storm" were still being added, Hendrix strummed "Slow Blues," the last session he ever recorded, and appropriately the last track on the set.

Even as the Hendrix family continues to release live concerts and odd compilations from a seemingly endless number of tapes, The Jimi Hendrix Experience Box Set, complete with an 80-page, full-color booklet, should placate even the most casual of fans. Inferior product is bound to follow while the catalog is salvaged for every last note. I could expand on the plunder of millionaire family members, but at least they’re doing the material justice. What a shame that Jimi Hendrix himself isn’t around to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

~ Shawn Perry

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