Nearly everyone recognizes how important the Woodstock festival is in the fabric of American rock music; few, however, understand the significance of the actual town Woodstock. Of course, the festival was not held in the town, but the creative output from the town is undeniable when viewed through the lens of history. The subtitle of Barney Hoskyns’ latest book, Small Town Talk, lists the major players that decided to “get it together in the county”: Bob Dylan, the Band, Van Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix. But there were others, such as Paul Butterfield and Todd Rundgren.
Hoskyns collects memories and anecdotes from the atmosphere of the 1960s, based on numerous first-hand interviews, telling tales of the legends of folk rock. So much of the art that was imagined there was pure and honest, and has impacted and continues to impact the world for generations since. Fans of the sixties music scene, especially the brilliance of Dylan, will enjoy this history of the time.
27: A History of the 27 Club through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse by Howard Sounes (2015)
27: A History of the 27 Club through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix,
Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse
by Howard Sounes
Da Capo Press, 2015
Drugs, drunkenness, and depression all too often lead to one conclusion: death, especially if you are a famous musician aged 27. From blues legend Robert Johnson to Grateful Dead keyboardist Pigpen McKernan, the list of “27 Club” members is long and varied, but drugs and mental illness played a part in a large number of deaths. There are, of course, some who are more famous than others, and they are the main focus of Howard Sounes’ book, 27: A History of the 27 Club. Sounes examines the life, ascent to fame, descent into madness, and ultimate death of the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors’ Jim Morrison, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse.
The in-depth look at these six individuals, their disposition to addictive behaviors, their frantic mood swings and deep depressions, creates a sort of sympathy for them in the reader’s mind. They had the faculty to alter their course, but for whatever reason could not bring themselves to change in time. I have read quite a bit about Hendrix and Morrison in the past, but this was my first real exposure to the rise and fall of the other four musicians and the similarities they shared with each other. I can still remember hearing of Cobain’s demise on the radio in 1994; though I was not a fan of the grunge scene, the significance of the singer’s age was not lost on me.
Sounes does a great job profiling each of the rockers, without offering a solution for future superstars to avoid death, other than perhaps to steer clear of intoxicants and surround yourself with positive people that can help combat bouts of depression. 27: A History of the 27 Club is a worthy addition to the library of classic rock bookworms.
Starting At Zero: His Own Story
by Jimi Hendrix
Bloomsbury USA, 2014
No one asked Jimi Hendrix to write an autobiography while he was alive. No one expected him to die when he was only twenty-seven. One of the most innovative guitarists of all time never sat down to write his life story, but by pulling quotes from interviews, letters, lyrcis and journals, we have the left-handed rocker’s life presented to us in his own words. The collaboration by filmmaker Peter Neal, record producer Alan Douglas, and fan Michael Fairchild is the closet we will ever have to an authentic Hendrix autobiography.
When reading through this book, one wonders how the man was not locked up in an insane asylum. The things he says are so off-the-wall that any normal person would certainly be evaluated on his mental status. But as a celebrity, and one who was usually under the influence, his words were seen merely as eccentric. He took his music seriously, though, and was affected by its public and critical reception. He wanted to be heard, and he wanted to be remembered. The editors present these words as the final words of the autobiography: “When I die, just keep on playing the records.”
An interesting book, one that Hendrix fans will appreciate. There is not much revealed here that has not been stated in other biographies, but it is enlightening to read them from the guitarist’s own thoughts.
Jimi Hendrix is one of the most innovative guitarists of all-time. Much of his music, which seemed otherworldly in the 1960s when first released, still seems futuristic today. It is timeless rock and roll, and his influence will forever be heard on rock radio.
Two of Hendrix’s well-known songs, “All Along the Watchtower” and “Hey Joe,” are actually cover songs. The left-handed axeman put his unmistakable stamp on both of them and the originals are all but forgotten; honestly, when is the last time you heard Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”?
Not only did Hendrix take the music of other people and put his own spin on it, others have paid tribute to the fallen icon by covering his music over the past 45 years. Below are just a few of those covers. In creating this list, I have attempted to avoid “tribute albums,” focusing rather on bands who chose to include a Hendrix song on their own records. I have also limited each artist to only one cover song, so Stevie Ray Vaughan only appears once in the list. Further, each song is only represented once, so “Fire” does not appear 3,752 times.
- Booker T. & the MGs – “Foxey Lady” (Soul Limbo, 1968)
- Derek & The Dominoes – “Little Wing” (Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, 1970)
- Rod Stewart – “Angel” (Never a Dull Moment, 1972)
- Stevie Ray Vaughan – “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” (Couldn’t Stand the Weather, 1984)
- Devo – “R U Experienced?” (Shout, 1984)
- Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – “You Got Me Floatin’” (Good Music, 1986)
- The Pretenders – “Room Full of Mirrors” (Get Close, 1986)
- Winger – “Purple Haze” (Winger, 1988)
- Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Fire” (Mother’s Milk, 1989)
- Richie Sambora – “The Wind Cries Mary” (Stranger in This Town [bonus track], 1991)
- Rickie Lee Jones – “Up From The Skies” (Pop Pop, 1991)
- Soundgarden – “Can You See Me” (“Outshined” CD single released in the Netherlands, 1991)
- Albert King – “Red House” (Red House, 1992)
- Willy DeVille – “Hey Joe” (Backstreets Of Desire, 1992)
- Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso – “Wait Until Tomorrow” (Tropicalia 2: Caetano e Gil, 1994)
- Axiom Funk (Bootsy Collins with Buckethead) – “If 6 Was 9” (Funkcronomicon, 1995)
- Emmylou Harris – “May This Be Love” (Wrecking Ball, 1995)
- Yngwie Malmsteen – “Manic Depression” (Inspiration, 1996)
- Psychograss – “Third Stone From The Sun” (Like Minds, 1996)
- Kenny Wayne Shepherd – “I Don’t Live Today” (Trouble Is…, 1997)
- Brian May – “One Rainy Wish” (Another World, 1998)
- Chris Whitley – “Drifting” (Perfect Day, 2000)
- Charlie Daniels Band – “Crosstown Traffic” (Redneck Fiddlin Man, 2002)
- John Mayer – “Bold As Love” (Continuum, 2006)
- Francis Lockwood – “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” (Jimi’s Colors, 2012)
Of course, none of them measure up to the greatness of Jimi Hendrix, but it is good to see such a diverse collection of artists offering up their versions of both classics and forgotten tracks and keeping the music of Hendrix alive for younger generations to discover.
Yesterday, I posted my “Top Ten Albums of 2013” list. Today, I’ll give you the best songs from eleven other albums that didn’t quite make the cut. Go check them out, and purchase the songs you like.
- Anvil – “Flying” from Hope In Hell
- Boston – “Heaven On Earth” from Life, Love & Hope
- Alvin Youngblood Hart – “Motherless Children Have a Hard Time” from True Blues
- Jimi Hendrix – “Hear My Train A Comin’” from People, Hell & Angels
- Tom Keifer –“Solid Ground” from The Way Life Goes
- Kopecky Family Band – “Heartbeat” from Kids Raising Kids
- LL Cool J – “We’re The Greatest” (featuring Eddie Van Halen and Travis Barker) from Authentic
- Lorde – “Royals” from Pure Heroine
- Lynch Mob – “Wicked Sensation” from Unplugged: Live from SugarHill Studios
- Tigertailz – “One Life” from Knives
- Luke Winslow-King – “I’ve Got My Mind Set On You” from The Coming Tide
The Jimi Hendrix Experience box set
Experience Hendrix, 2013
4 discs, 4 hours, 46 minutes
One of the most intriguing guitarists in the history of rock is Jimi Hendrix. The studio recordings released during his lifetime are staples on classic rock stations and will always be revered by those who play the guitar. The left-hander’s name is inevitably mentioned in any discussion of the greatest guitarists; his legacy is secure in the annals of music.
Since his death in 1970, the albums released with Hendrix’s name on them far exceed the output during his lifetime. Some concert recordings and a wealth of unreleased recordings, whether full songs, snippets, or different mixes, make up the majority of these albums. In recent years, Experience Hendrix has reigned in many of the unofficial releases and has made efforts to improve on those worth preserving. The Jimi Hendrix Experience box set, originally released in 2000, has just received the re-issue treatment by Experience Hendrix.
This four-disc box set features a number of live recordings and alternate versions, including some of Hendrix’s most well-known songs. “Purple Haze,” “Little Wing,” and “Hey Joe” are all here, in both the concert and studio setting. Also included are a couple of Bob Dylan covers that made their way into Jimi’s repertoire, “Like A Rolling Stone” and “All Along The Watchtower,” and select performances from some of the world’s most famous venues, including Monterey, Winterland, and Royal Albert Hall. One of my favorite cuts here is the live version of “Purple Haze” from the San Diego Sports Arena in 1969, showing that the guitarist had a great sense of humor as he sings the oft-misheard lyric, “Excuse me while I kiss that guy.”
As with any box set full of previously unreleased materials, there is sure to be some filler. The studio version of the National Anthem should have never seen the light of day, especially after the electrifying rendition at Woodstock. The alternate take of “Hey Joe” begins with Hendrix talking to the engineer as the music plays, and was obviously never meant for public consumption. It and a few other cuts are more of a behind-the-scenes look at what eventually became great songs, a concept that may make a great single disc but feels out of place on a box set like this.
Overall, The Jimi Hendrix Experience box set is a fantastic look at the all-too-short musical career of one of the most influential instrumentalists of the twentieth century. Fans of classic rock and Hendrix in particular should absolutely own this set, but be prepared to make your own playlist that skips the filler once you have ripped it onto your computer.
1. Purple Haze
2. Killing Floor (live)
3. Hey Joe (live)
4. Foxey Lady
5. Highway Chile
6. Hey Joe
7. Title #3
8. 3rd Stone From The Sun
9. Taking Care Of No Business
10. Here He Comes (Lover Man)
11. Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
12. If 6 Was 9
13. Rock Me Baby (live)
14. Like A Rolling Stone (live)
15. Burning Of The Midnight Lamp (live)
16. The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam’s Dice
1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (live)
2. Burning Of The Midnight Lamp (live)
3. Little Wing
4. Little Miss Lover
5. The Wind Cries Mary (live)
6. Catfish Blues (live)
7. Bold As Love
8. Sweet Angel
11. (Have You Ever Been To) Electric Ladyland
12. Gypsy Eyes
13. Room Full Of Mirrors
15. Peace In Mississippi
16. It’s Too Bad
17. Star Spangled Banner
1. Stone Free
2. Like A Rolling Stone (live)
3. Spanish Castle Magic
4. Hear My Train A Comin’
5. Room Full Of Mirrors
6. I Don’t Live Today (live)
7. Little Wing (live)
8. Red House (live)
9. Purple Haze (live)
10. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (live)
1. Message To Love
2. Earth Blues
3. Astro Man
4. Country Blues
6. Johnny B. Goode (live)
7. Lover Man
8. Blue Suede Shoes (live)
9. Cherokee Mist
10. Come Down Hard On Me
11. Hey Baby/In From The Storm (live)
12. Ezy Ryder
13. Night Bird Flying
14. All Along The Watchtower (live)
15. In From The Storm (live)
16. Slow Blues
People, Hell and Angels
Experience Hendrix, 2013
More than four decades after his death, Jimi Hendrix is still relevant in the world of rock and roll. The number of albums that have been released posthumously featuring the innovative guitarist’s work continues to grow, but not all posthumous records measure up. People, Hell and Angels is an interesting mix of little-known Hendrix songs, and while these particular recordings are not available on other collections, the songs do appear in other forms elsewhere.
The highlights on this record are “Earth Blues,” “Hear My Train A Comin’,” and “Hey Gypsy Boy.” Conversely, the producers would have been wise to omit the noodling of “Easy Blues” from the final release. “Let Me Move You” is interesting as it features saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood on vocals rather than Hendrix; “Mojo Man” also sees the guitarist focus on his instrument while Albert Allen handles the microphone. Since this is a compilation, the other musicians featured on the album vary, including Billy Cox, Buddy Miles, and Mitch Mitchell. Even Stephen Stills makes an appearance as a bassist on “Somewhere.”
Is this a good Jimi Hendrix album? Nearly everything Hendrix recorded was good, so the answer is yes. Is it an essential Hendrix album? Sadly, the answer is no.
Listen to “Earth Blues” below:
1. Earth Blues
3. Hear My Train A Comin’
4. Bleeding Heart
5. Let Me Move You
7. Easy Blues
8. Crash Landing
9. Inside Out
10. Hey Gypsy Boy
11. Mojo Man
12. Villanova Junction Blues
Jimi’s Colors: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix
Fremeaux & Associes, 2012
If you have ever wondered what it would sound like if Jimi Hendrix wrote songs for Peanuts cartoons, wonder no more. Francis Lockwood answers that question with his jazzy renditions of Hendrix classics on Jimi’s Colors. Lockwood’s skills on the piano shines on every track; he is joined by Gilles Naturel on bass and Peter Gritz on drums. The album was originally released in the 1990s, but was recently reissued by the French label Fremeaux & Associes.
Of the eleven songs presented here, only five were actually written by Hendrix; three others were standards in the guitarist’s repertoire while Lockwood contributes three of his own compositions to the tribute. As often happens when one genre is translated to another, some of the tracks work better than others. “Third Stone from the Sun” sets the tone for the album and sounds as if it was written for this style, and “Sunshine of Your Love” is a bombastic tune that is nearly as memorable as the Cream’s original. Conversely, “Hey Joe” sounds a bit forced. Lockwood’s originals fit right in to the flow; “Speed Peanut” in particular is a fun and frivolous number.
Fans of Jimi Hendrix will appreciate this record; fans of Vince Guaraldi will absolutely love it.
1. Third Stone from the Sun
2. All Along the Watchtower
3. Speed Peanut
4. Snow in Eckford Street
5. The Wind Cries Mary
6. Party Song
7. Gipsy Eyes
8. Sunshine of Your Love
9. Burning of the Midnight Lamp
10. Hey Joe
11. Little Wing
Hendrix on Hendrix:
Interviews and Encounters with Jimi Hendrix
edited by Steven Roby
Chicago Review Press, 2012
We all know Jimi Hendrix as a legendary guitar player: a revolutionary, innovative musician whose creativity has not been matched in the four decades since his untimely death. What we fail to realize, however, is that the icon was not seen in such a universally positive light during his lifetime. Often erratic and moody during his interviews, portrayed at times as a flake by reporters, Hendrix’s place in history was debatable in the 1960s.
In Hendrix on Hendrix: Interviews and Encounters with Jimi Hendrix, edited by Steven Roby, fans are presented with interviews and articles from both major publications such as Rolling Stone and Melody Maker as well as lesser-known newspapers like Atlanta’s Great Speckled Bird and Queens University’s The Gown. There are also transcriptions from Jimi’s appearances on The Dick Cavett Show, The Tonight Show, and local radio interviews.
The book is highly entertaining, shedding light on Jimi’s career through his own eyes, his plans for the future, and even his chilling proclamation, “I am not sure I will live to be 28 years old,” just weeks before his demise. Other books about Jimi attempt to put him up on a pedestal; Hendrix on Hendrix simply puts his own words on the page.