Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Jimi Hendrix - Freedom

This CD documents the Jimi Hendrx Experience (in this case Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell) at the Atlanta Pop Festival, where they performed on the 4th of July in 1970. Jimi had gone through numerous changes since the break up of the original Experience (with Noel Redding on bass) and had tried other line-ups (Band of Gypsies with Buddy Miles and Cox was his current LP at this time) and studio musicians before reverting to his tried'n'true trio. On this recording Hendrix varies from his usual brilliance to, frankly, fairly sloppy. This would be his last American performance as he would be dead in a matter of weeks.

Here he starts blazingly strong with a fierce rendition of "Fire" and, after a moment of tuning and fairly incomprehensible banter, a rockin' take on his riff-laden "Lover Man" (with its "Flight of the Bumblebee" solo). "Spanish Castle Magic" has a cool, psychedelic solo section, "Red House" is given a lengthy blues jam with some spectacular playing, "Room Full of Mirrors" is a little disjointed (though still some fine soloing from Jimi), but "Hear My Train A'Comin'" is damn good and CD 1 closes with a solid, if not spectacular, "Message to Love".

Disc two gets off to a bit of a shakey start with a kind of ragged version of "All Along the Watchtower" - Jimi even begins in the wrong key and forgets some words - and he seems a bit unsure in "Freedom", although Billy and Mitch are on point. He comes back with a ferociously powerful "Foxey Lady" (listen to that guitar tone!) that is a highlight of the set and then, after an odd false start of the "Star Spangled Banner", he blasts into a strong rendition of the classic "Purple Haze" that includes some stellar solo work. "Hey Joe" lacks a bit of spark, though is fine, and after seemingly forgetting the intro for a second, "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" is about as good as it gets as Jimi works out one of his - obviously - favorite guitar showcases. His voice kinda strains in the speedy take on "Stone Free", though the extended psychedelic solo is rockin' and slides into his beautifully, anarchically noisy  "Star Spangled Banner" (which apparently was accompanied by fireworks at this show) which then blends into a cool, jammy take on "Straight Ahead".

I wouldn't say that this was essential or one of his best live sets, but I cherish any new Hendrix releases and am grateful that so much was recorded. Always a pleasure to hear this genius at work.