South Saturn Delta
Jimi Hendrix: Band of Gypsys (Live at Fillmore East)
Power Of Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix
In 2010, Experience Hendrix LLC and Legacy Recordings rolled out a truckload of Jimi Hendrix products, including Valleys Of Neptune, which featured 12 previously unreleased recordings put down over a four-month period in 1969, along with deluxe CD/DVD editions of Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold As Love, Electric Ladyland and First Rays Of The New Rising Sun. Later in the year came a reissued Smash Hits, a compilation originally released in 1968, a DVD / Blu-ray Disc of Live At Woodstock, and West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology, a four CD, single DVD box set. By the end of 2010, you’d think they’d pretty much had it covered, but now a third wave of releases in the Jimi Hendrix Catalog Project has surfaced. Included in this round are the posthumous CD South Saturn Delta , a deluxe DVD edition of Jimi Hendrix: Band of Gypsys (Live at Fillmore East), and a second CD called Power Of Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix.
Originally released in 1997, South Saturn Delta covers Hendrix's days with Gypsy Sun & Rainbows (his Woodstock ensemble) and Band of Gypsies, along with a few leftovers with the Experience. The CD's first track, "Look Over Yonder," which first appeared on the Rainbow Bridge album, went through a number of different translations and was never really completed to Hendrix's satisfaction. Fortunately, the next track was. This rough, instrumental version of "Little Wing" would eventually become one of the guitarist’s most dramatic pieces. The title track is something a little to the left for garden variety Hendrix aficionados. Filled out by a horn section, "South Saturn Delta" pays homage to the guitarist’s jazz heroes like Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery.
An alternate mix of "All Along The Watchtower," considered by many, including the writer himself, one of the best Bob Dylan covers ever recorded, includes Dave Mason on acoustic guitar and Rolling Stone Brian Jones on percussion. The production is also significantly different as Chas Chandler, the former Animal who discovered Hendrix, goes for a much more rudimentary style. Finishing up with tunes mostly culled from War Heroes and Rainbow Bridge, there’s definitely change and progress being made in Hendrix’s need to push the outer limits. "Sweet Angel," which he plays alone, would blossom into "Angel," one of the best songs Hendrix never saw released. "Midnight Lightening," is a blues number, again with only Hendrix on guitar and vocals. He attempted to complete this song with Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox, but this lonely outing shows just how pure and heartfelt the guitarist could be in moments of isolation. We can only imagine what would have been.
Another reissue from the late 90s (back when Experience Hendrix LLC first did the dance with MCA), the Jimi Hendrix: Band of Gypsys (Live At Fillmore East) DVD won a Grammy Winner for Best Long Form Music Video in 1999. The reissue includes the 83-minute documentary featuring Mitch Mitchell, Noel Redding, Billy Cox and Buddy Miles, as well as well-known fans like Lenny Kravitz, Vernon Reid and Slash. In between the commentary on Hendrix’s post-Experience transformation into a renaissance hipster are clips of the guitarist in interviews, in the studio or in performance. There are also large chunks of Band of Gypsy’s Fillmore East concert, but a more complete version, shot in black white with two cameras, is available for the first time in the bonus section of the DVD. Best of all, Eddie Kramer did a 5.1 mix of the audio, so the dark and grainy picture isn’t half-bad in lieu of superior sonic playback. “Machine Gun” is out of this world, “Foxey Lady” has never been so funky, and “Stop” is very much a Band of Gypsys song. All the talking heads seem to have their own idea about what would have happened next, but the final few seconds of Hendrix’s Isle of Wight performance are telling enough to know that Hendrix
Power Of Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix is the first Hendrix tribute album the Experience Hendrix LLC organization has been behind, so you could almost call it a definitive, official Hendrix release. Not quite, but close. Musiq Soulchild sings “Are You Experienced?,” Santana dips his wick in “Spanish Castle Magic,” Prince takes a stab at “Red House” (retitled “Purple House” for obvious reasons), and Sting sings a steadfast version of “The Wind Cries Mary.” You have to appreciate the spirit with which younger guys like Lenny Kravitz and Robert Randolph take the baton and run with it, instilling their own distinct style into “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)” and “Purple Haze,” respectively. Still, it’s hard to resist the guitar masters who pay tribute, namely Eric Clapton’s “Burning Of The Midnight Lamp” and Stevie Ray Vaughn in a live 1983 perfromance of “Little Wing/3rd Stone From The Sun.” After all, the guitar is what Hendrix was all about, and who better than the one man (Clapton) whom the guitarist most admired and emulated, and another man (Vaughn) who carried the torch in the 80s, to be a part of this odd and intriguing 19-song collection. Like the man himself once said, “If you look around you, you will see a few minds being blown...”
~ Shawn Perry