Jimi Hendrix Experience | Hollywood Bowl August 18, 1967 – Live Release Review

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Even before Are You Experienced was released in the States, the buzz around the Jimi Hendrix Experience was ubiquitous. Their performance at the Monterey Pop Festival on June 18, 1967, caught everyone within earshot off-guard. They spent the next month playing gigs all over California before playing nine dates opening for The Monkees. After being tossed off the Monkees tour (it was bad fit), they played more gigs in and around New York. Then, just before heading back to the UK, they were booked by John Phillips to open for The Mamas & The Papas at the Hollywood Bowl. A recording of that 40-minute slot has now found its way to the marketplace with the no-nonsense title of Hollywood Bowl August 18, 1967.

The Hollywood Bowl performance, taking place just five days before Are You Experienced made its appearance in U.S record stores, was the calm before the storm, in terms of the group’s success. They’d already made a splash in Europe, especially in the UK. However, they were still trying to find an audience in the States. Despite the impact they made at Monterey, they remained relatively unknown to the rest of the country. Even “Hey Joe” and “Purple Haze” failed in lighting up the singles chart. With everything going against their brand of psychedelic acid rock and the lack of enthusiasm from the 18.000 or so who were at the Hollywood Bowl for the Mamas and Papas, the Experience’s level of energy and commitment shines through on this recording.

Opening with their take on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” which they added to their set two days after the Beatles album by the same name was released, the Experience are merely warming up for more visceral material to come. Moving onto Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor,” Hendrix’s spiraling leads take precedence, backed by the equally explosive rhythm of Mitch Mitchell’s incalculable drumming and Noel Redding’s booming bass lines.  “The Wind Cries Mary,” dedicated to all the “Marys” in the audience, slows the pace, but the intensity is still stirring in the summer air. “Foxey Lady” ramps the mood back into overdrive before “Catfish Blues” pushes its sharp nose ahead for the next eight minutes.

“Fire” does everything right to live up to its name, even as the background vocals are little awkward in the mix. Afterwards, Redding mentions the song is on the group’s new upcoming album. Hendrix dedicates Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” to “everyone” and keeps it steady and somber. If “Purple Haze” fell short of phasing the Hollywood Bowl audience, you’d like to think the provocative stab at “Wild Thing” closed the set on a high note. In the album’s liner notes, The Mamas & The Papas vocalist Michelle Phillips recognizes that while their audience was unmoved by this new sound, the Jimi Hendrix Experience would eventually win over the masses. Ironically, Phillips also notes that the Hollywood Bowl show was the last hurrah for the Mamas & Papas, which, in a way, is symbolic of a major shift toward what she calls “music theatre.” In the Summer of Love, a major sea change took place, and Hendrix was there to make a swift bottom turn.

Of the countless Hendrix live recordings released, Hollywood Bowl August 18, 1967 may be one of the few with a true perspective. To hear their performance before an unappreciative audience is to hear a band ripe and ready for a challenge. Their hunger and desire to succeed was like the carrot and the stick. Once Are You Experienced made its roar heard in the United States, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Hendrix in particular, were in a much better place to dictate the terms. Hollywood Bowl August 18, 1967 is a flip of a coin, caught mid-air. We’re all on edge to see where it lands. Until then, the excitement of the act leads to one question: Will it yield a positive or negative effect? We all know what happened afterwards. It’s just a shame it didn’t last a little longer.

~ Shawn Perry

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