West Coast Seattle Boy:
The Jimi Hendrix Anthology

Jimi Hendrix

Move over 2010…because Jimi is here again. After the beefy reissues of the Jimi Hendrix Experience catalog earlier in the year, Legacy and Experience Hendrix, L.L.C. complete the 40th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s untimely passing, with a brilliant, broad stroke — West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology — a four CD, single DVD box set. Like no other Hendrix collection before, this one covers it all — from the guitarist’s role as sideman to superstar and beyond.

The first disc collects the best of Hendrix’s days as a hired hand, backing everyone from the Isley Brothers to Little Richard to King Curtis. While most of these tracks are vocally-based for pop audiences, there are glimpses of Hendrix’s flair on the guitar. He truly shines on the Isley Brothers’ “Testify” and adds the proper dashes to Don Covey’s “Mercy, Mercy” and “Can’t Stay Away.” The opening lines on Rosa Lee Brooks’ “My Diary” are unmistakably Hendrix. The fluttering notes that grace Little Richard’s “I Don’t Know What You Got But It’s Got Me” work their magic, but nowhere on this first disc do Hendrix’s fingers dance as delightfully as on the Isley’s “Move Over And Let Me Dance.” Still, you can’t sneeze at yet another winning introduction from the man on the Icemen’s “(My Girl) She’s A Fox,” the bite behind Jimmy Norman’s “That Little Old Groove Maker,” or the steady rhythm (overtaken by the horns) of King Curtis’ “Instant Groove.”

It’s on the second disc that we get into the meat and potatoes of the Hendrix we’ve come to know and love. Curiously, the scores of alternate and live tracks that appear here may not be something you’re wholly familiar with. Give it time, because these cozy versions are vivid reminders of how endless the talent was. Who couldn’t appreciate a fully instrumental, raw backing track of “Are You Experienced” veering off into a psychedelic playground of epic proportions? Or how about a stirring live version of “The Wind Cries Mary,” once available on the out-of-print Stages box set and reprised here?

The previously unreleased “Little One,” one of the first tunes Hendrix did on his own after the Experience took off, flutters to the surface with Dave Mason slinking up lines from the sitar before Jimi gallops through and slides into home. “Cat Talking To Me,” another instrumental that received a vocal from drummer Mitch Mitchell over 40 years later, scathingly attests to the guitarist’s diversity and sensitivity to sound. The raw integrity behind the impromptu jam Hendrix and Paul Caruso held in the guitarist’s New York hotel room shows yet another side. “1983 (A Merman I Shall Turn To Be)” retains a golden intimacy, coughs and all, while “Angel” is simply angelic. We’re back to the Experience for a raving and rollicking “Calling All The Devil’s Children,” a heavy metal tomb before there was heavy metal. An alternate recording of “New Rising Sun” does an ample job of sweeping up the mess.

Disc three starts off with a spirited, organ-powered “Hear My Freedom.” The organist is believed to be Lee Michaels, while Noel Redding mans the bass and Mitchell helps out on percussion, ceding his drum throne to Buddy Miles. Hendrix’s guitar is there, but not as dominant. “Messenger” is another unreleased and dizzying instrumental track that screams potential. For whatever reason, no one is credited with playing the piano part, although studio chatter afterward might indicate it was Hendrix himself. A live take of “Star Spangled Banner,” followed by “Purple Haze,” from Los Angeles predates Woodstock by four months. But then we’re doused with an intrepid jam called “Young/Hendrix,” leading us out to pasture before all memories of the Experience are extinguished by Band of Gypsies.

The fourth disc explores the post-Experience phase of Hendrix’s music in more detail. In between half-hearted sessions with Miles and Billy Cox, there’s a slice of Arthur Lee and Love’s “Everlasting First” that Hendrix lent a few slaying notes to. The sessions becomes more lively for a quirky run-through of “Peter Gunn” and “Catastrophe,” followed by a truly spirited take of “In From the Storm.” For his first tracking session at the then brand-new Electric Lady Studios, Hendrix unfurled a romping, unfinished piece called “All God’s Children,” previously unreleased. Additional bits and pieces from the studio that finish up the set include “Play That Riff,” “Bolero” and “Hey Baby.” But it’s the acoustic “Suddenly November Morning,” recorded in Hendrix’s Greenwich Village apartment, that has the last word.

The shear amount of unreleased material is enough to make your head spin, but you’ll get an extra kick out of the footage on the Jimi Hendrix Voodoo Child DVD. Directed by Bob Smeaton, the man responsible for the Beatles Anthology and Festival Express, the film attempts to take the viewer through Hendrix’s life, as told by the guitarist himself. With some interviews dropped in here and there, most of the dialog is handled by Bootsy Collins. Fortunately, rare photos and live performance clips more than make up for any of the DVD’s shortcomings. To sugarcoat a year of Jimi Hendrix, Legacy has also released Merry Christmas And Happy New Year, a three-song EP featuring the guitarist’s renditions of your favorite holiday tunes. If that, along with West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology, ain’t enough to crack your Hendrix fix, then nothing ever will.

~ Shawn Perry

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