Posts Tagged ‘Band of Gypsys’

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There’s no discography in rock like Jimi Hendrix’s, not because he died at the age of just 27 but because–unlike Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain, all also gone at the age of 27 years of age, Hendrix was a true improviser. So in his case, The concert tapes merit prolonged attention. Jimi Hendrix’s studio career began in October 1966 and ended when he asphyxiated on his own vomit in September 1970. While alive he generated three albums with the Jimi Hendrix Experience (Brits Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums) plus the live Band of Gypsys LP (Africa-Americans Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums). That he left behind a much vaster body of important music reflects his enduring status as the greatest electric guitarist ever. How many versions of “Foxy Lady” do you need to hear ? So start deciding here.

Jimi Hendrix was despite being so enigmatic and galvanizing in front of a live audience, he actually hated being out on the road. In his defense, “the road” in the 1960s was an unforgiving and punishing place to be, especially when plotted out in advance by Hendrix’s manager, Michael Jeffery. One night he and his band, The Experience, would be playing a gym in Santa Barbara, California, and the next night they’d find themselves in an arena in Seattle, Washington. Patently brutal. Then there was the added anxiety of being far away from the recording studio — the place where he felt most at home. To Hendrix, touring was more stress than it was worth. It was just something he had to do to keep the black lights at Electric Lady Studios on.

Jimi Hendrix was only on the scene for about four years of his life, but he absolutely made the most of that time. Amid a vast number of classic, immortal live recordings, he toured incessantly and performed an incredible number of live shows that still have the ability to shock and surprise nearly 50 years on. From the Fillmore East to the Fillmore West, from Woodstock and Monterey to Paris, and London, and everywhere else that he and whatever group was backing him went, the possibility that real magic might present itself .

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THE OLYMPIA THEATRE  Paris– OCTOBER 18th, 1966

Some concerts are bound to get a little more shine due to their historic nature, like this gig at the Olympia Theatre in Paris from 1966. This was the first time that The Jimi Hendrix Experience, with Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding on bass, played together as a group in front of a paying audience — opening for the “French Elvis Presley”, Johnny Hallyday, no less. This was the first recorded live set as opposed to Hendrix’s last known gig at the Isle of Fehmarn on September 6th, 1970, other highlights are maybe his performance at the Isle of Wight a few weeks earlier, but both of those are kind of shambolic and more than a little morbid. Even though this show was only 15 minutes long, you get a real sense of the kind of fire Hendrix was playing with around the time he first hit the scene. The band’s first single, “Hey Joe”, sounds great, but it’s the Howlin’ Wolf cover “Killing Floor” that will leave your jaw on the floor.

Rumour has it that there were 14,500 people attending, however the theatre can’t hold more than 2,500. During the first part of the show the JHE played for just 15 minutes and did three songs. Jimi also played guitar during the finale before the intermission. Chas Chandler and Jimi watched the performance of Johnny Hallyday and Chas made a study of Hallyday’s stage-act. After the show everyone (including Chas Chandler) went to a Paris nightclub. The 1966 tour of France marked the first shows performed by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, on October 13th. This was only one week after the formation of the band, after drummer Mitch Mitchell joined on October 6.

THE MONTEREY POP FESTIVAL – JUNE 18th, 1967

When Jimi Hendrix left New York City for the UK in 1966, hardly anyone in his home country even noticed. When he came back on June 18th, 1967, for the Monterey Pop Festival in northern California, they could hardly tear their eyes away. As opposed to Woodstock where one song transcended the rest of the Hendrix’s set, at Monterey, the guitarist’s violent, sexually charged rendition of The Troggs’ “Wild Thing” was a culmination. Seemingly intent on topping The Who’s explosive performance of “My Generation” that preceded him, when it came to ending his own showing, Hendrix pulled out all the stops. Even watching now, the display of him grinding his custom-painted Stratocaster against the stack of Marshall amps before throwing it down to the ground and riding it like a familiar love is shocking to behold. Then comes the lighter fluid; and then the match and then the flames. At Monterey, Hendrix threw down the gauntlet to his generation of fellow artists: Either become daring, or remain irrelevant.

This remastered version of 1986’s Jimi Plays Monterey features one of Hendrix’s most significant performances: What was his breakthrough show at the Monterey Pop Festival on June 18th, 1967. You can’t see him set his guitar on fire here, but you can hear the electricity surging through the festival grounds. Most of the songs come from Hendrix’s just-released debut album, “Are You Experienced” along with a few blues covers, like the scorching set-opener, Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor.”

Hendrix was such a creative mercurial genius that no two shows were ever alike. His legendary performance at the Monterey Pop Festival captures The Experience in full flow, culminating with an incendiary version of Wild Thing . Although not available in full until 2007, half of his extraordinary set was released in 1970 with highlights from Otis Redding’s equally memorable appearance as Historic Performances Recorded at the Monterey International Pop Festival. Now that’s a concert bill to go down in history.

THE CAFÉ AU GO-GO – New York City MARCH 17th, 1968

One of the great things about going to any live show is the feeling that anything can happen. The patrons of the small Café Au Go-Go Club in New York City couldn’t have known when they ordered their drinks that they were about to witness one of the great, public rock and roll jam sessions of all time that spring night. To be sure, Hendrix was known to play around town while in New York City, but this gig with Elvin Bishop on rhythm guitar, Paul Butterfield on harmonica and vocals, and Buddy Miles on the drums is some next-level stuff. It’s clear from the recording that the guys were just interested in messing around, but there are some real spine-tingling moments to be gleaned here like the pickup group’s all-instrumental rendition of “Little Wing” or the cover of T-Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday.” Jimi jammed (on ‘a rainy night’) with Paul Caruso (vocal & harmonica), Buddy Miles (vocal & drums) Elvin Bishop (guitar), James Tatum (saxophone), Herbie Rich (organ), Harvey Brooks (bass), Phillip Wilson (drums).  Jimi recorded the jam on his Sony reel-to-reel deck from the mixing board. Featured are “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” “Stormy Monday,” “Three Little Bears,” and “Little Wing.”

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live In Ottawa

OTTAWA CANADA CAPITAL THEATRE  March 19TH, 1968

This unique, authorized ‘bootleg’ release features a raw, two-track mixing console recording of Jimi’s March 19th, 1968 concert in Ottawa, Canada.

Jimi’s appearance in Ottawa was part of an extensive US tour organized in support of his recently issued second album, “Axis: Bold As Love”. The guitarist arrived in New York on January 30th, 1968 and immediately took part in a press reception organized by publicist Michael Goldstein. Goldstein dubbed the event “The British Are Coming” and made the Experience, as well as the other groups in the Michael Jeffery/Chas Chandler stable available to journalists and photographers at the Copter Lounge atop the Pan Am building in Manhattan.

Following the media hoopla in New York, the Experience flew to San Francisco where their tour began in earnest at the Fillmore Auditorium on February 1st. Eight shows over the course of four memorable nights at the Fillmore and Winterland Ballroom launched the tour in grand fashion.  From San Francisco, the Experience ventured across the US, performing at a mix of clubs, colleges, and medium sized auditoriums. Despite the growing popularity of Are You Experienced, issued the previous August by Reprise, Jimi’s US distributor, the Experience had only begun to develop a national following.  As a result, limited finances eschewed the comforts of a tour bus and made leasing a tour airplane unfathomable.  Instead, the group, guided by their faithful road manager Gerry Stickells, made much of their journey across the country in a rented station wagon.  In what can only be described as a remarkable test of their endurance and enthusiasm, the Experience performed sixty concerts in sixty days during the first leg of this tour.

Five weeks into their dizzying tour itinerary, the Experience arrived in Ottawa to perform two shows at the city’s venerable Capitol Theater. As he often did when performing two concerts in one evening, Jimi varied his set lists.  He maintained some staples such as “Fire” and “Foxy Lady” in each concert, but in the evening’s early performance, of which no recording is known, newspaper reviews reveal that he featured “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “I Don’t Live Today”.  These songs were not revived for the second show, but in their place came “Spanish Castle Magic”, an energetic reading of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” and the lengthy instrumental workout “Tax Free”.

Experience concerts bore little resemblance to seamlessly produced present day rock events.  In 1968, a Jimi Hendrix concert was truly a counter cultural gathering, fueled in large part by the support of underground radio and college newspapers.  The concerts themselves were miles away from today’s rigidly structured events which more often resemble a Broadway production than a traditional rock and roll show.  Technically, Jimi lacked virtually everything from amplifiers capable of withstanding his sonic demands to adequate stage monitoring [during this era, Mitch was often without any monitoring whatsoever].  There were no light cues or pyrotechnics timed to announce Hendrix’s arrival onstage. Jimi simply walked out, greeted the crowd, and would quickly tune his guitar.  During the performance, technical demands and other challenges were either solved on the fly or not at all.  This hasty work invariably took place in plain view of the audience.  Jimi’s Ottawa performance was no different.  As he and his crew struggled to overcome a variety of technical difficulties, Jimi peppered the crowd with his sly wit.

If a desultory [and now rather humorous] review of Jimi’s performance, printed the following morning in the Ottawa Citizen, can be believed, the Experience sold out the second concert of the evening. It is this inspired performance which is featured on this disc.

The concert at the Capital Theater took place four days after the March 15th, Clark University performance issued as the second Dagger Records release in this series.  Like that show, the Experience were in top form throughout.  The grinding toll of their first major US tour was masked by the group’s upbeat demeanor and spirited performance.  Most important, coupled together with Live At Clark University, Live In Ottawa provides a compelling and detailed look at the Experience cresting at the peak of their friendship and unity.

There is much to be relished in this unpolished recording.  Jimi’s train whistle feedback announces his powerhouse rendition of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor”.  A stinging “Red House”, Jimi’s own blues masterwork, is even stronger.  Live In Ottawa also presents the earliest live version of “Tax Free” issued to date.  Here Mitchell and Redding push Hendrix insistently throughout the song’s complex arrangement.  The expanded introduction to “Hey Joe”, a precursor to the more elaborate efforts which would follow in the weeks and months to come, is wickedly clever and no doubt a salve to Hendrix’s restless creative spirit.  The guitarist loathed having to replicate his hits in the same manner night after night.  It is alterations and embellishments such as these which made every Jimi Hendrix performance so unique.

More than three decades later, it is performances such as these which reveal just how exciting it was to have a witnessed a Jimi Hendrix Experience concert.

How and why the concert was recorded is somewhat of a mystery.  The performance was not professionally recorded, as were later Hendrix performances at Woodstock and the Fillmore East.  Nonetheless, Jimi was obviously well aware of a tape recorder capturing the proceedings.  During his set, he made mention of it onstage, exhorting the crowd at one point to cheer so that the group’s girlfriends wouldn’t think they had bombed in Ottawa!

It is possible that Jimi himself recorded this performance on his own Sony reel to reel tape machine.  He frequently made recordings of various jam sessions and club performances for his own enjoyment.  It is more likely, however, that member of the Capital Theater stage crew documented the performance for posterity.  All of Jimi’s performance is presented in its original running order.  “Wild Thing”, the final song of the evening, cuts out just as Jimi tore through the song’s unforgettable opening chord sequence.  Apparently, the tape operator loaded his reel to reel tape machine with a 2400 hundred foot spool of blank tape.  Such a spool would provide slightly more than sixty minutes of recording time at seven and a half inches per second.  The recording begins with the introduction of the group by CKOY radio personality Nelson Davis and continues until the spool runs out. Lost is the balance of “Wild Thing”, but most of us know what happens at the end there …

MIAMI POP FESTIVAL, MAY 18th 1968

Never previously available in any form, Miami Pop Festival, introduces the first recorded stage performances of “Hear My Train A Comin'” and “Tax Free” while showcasing definitive live takes on such classics as “Fire,” “Hey Joe,” “I Don’t Live Today” and “Purple Haze.” The package includes never before published photos taken at the festival and an essay by award-winning music journalist and Grammy Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli. This album includes the show as originally recorded on site by Hendrix’s long term sound engineer, Eddie Kramer.

Footage of Hendrix performing at the 1968 Miami Pop Festival was revealed in the two-hour documentary American Masters: Jimi Hendrix – Hear My Train a Comin’, the film debuts, you can get an look at this amazing clip of Hendrix performing “Foxy Lady” onstage in Miami on May 18th, 1968 during his headlining set. The video depicts the famed left-handed guitarist powering through one of his most enduring numbers. Sporting a fedora, blond streaks in his hair, a puffy white shirt and red velvet pants, Hendrix clearly stuns his daytime audience with his explosive, soulful playing.

This live album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, documenting their May 18th, 1968 performance at the Miami Pop Festival. It album features eight songs recorded during their evening performance, along with two afternoon-show performances.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live At Woburn

WOBURN MUSIC FESTIVAL on JULY 6th, 1968

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live At Woburn is the eleventh release in the Dagger Records authorized ‘bootleg’ recording series. Live At Woburn presents a 100% previously unreleased concert recording capturing The Jimi Hendrix Experience in concert at the Woburn Music Festival on July 6th, 1968.

The Woburn Music Festival was one of Britain’s first large scale, open-air rock music events. Staged by brothers Richard “Rik” and John Gunnell, who were well respected individuals in the burgeoning London music scene where they were heavily involved in many aspects including band managed, show promoters and club owners. Rik in particular, who owned three fashionable 1960’s London nightspots—the Ram Jam Club, Flamingo, and Bag O’ Nails—presented authentic, first generation American icons like John Lee Hooker and Otis Redding and some of the brightest examples of a swelling wave of emerging British talent such as The Rolling Stones, Jack Bruce and Georgie Fame.

Jimi’s co-managers Chas Chandler and Michael Jeffery—a fellow nightclub entrepreneur—enjoyed a friendship with Gunnell. Gunnell had been an early supporter of The Animals, and extended the same courtesy to Hendrix and The Experience, presenting some of the group’s earliest London engagements.

Jimi’s popularity had grown exponentially since those early days in 1966 and he arrived at the Woburn Festival as its eagerly anticipated headline act. This anticipation was fueled in part by Jimi’s absence from Britain. The Experience had spent much of 1968 touring and recording in America and had not performed live in Britain since December 1967.

Woburn Music Festival featured separate afternoon and evening sets for both Saturday and Sunday. While rhythm & blues was the primary focus with Gunnell drawing heavily from his own talent pool, casting John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Alexis Korner, and Geno Washington together with the more folk influenced Pentangle, Roy Harper, and Tim Rose. The Jimi Hendrix Experience were scheduled to close the Saturday evening show where an enthusiastic crowd some 14,000 strong turned out for the performance.

Axis: Bold As Love was still a top selling album in July 1968 but Jimi had long since moved on to new challenges. To Hendrix, performances such as Woburn were unique, shared experiences and not simply personal appearances intended to help shift units of albums or singles. At Woburn, Jimi skipped songs from Axis: Bold As Love altogether, electing instead to ‘jam’ as he called it kicking off his set with a spirited “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” regrettably missed in part by the late start of the recording machine]. The trio followed “Sgt. Pepper” with “Fire,” and despite beset with buzzing, crackles and otherwise unwanted noises throughout their set, uThe Experience continued to persevere doing their best to surmount the technical problems that hampered an otherwise animated set.

Jimi may have bypassed Axis: Bold As Love, but he did foreshadow his next album at Woburn, stretching out a marvelous “Tax Free,” a contender for Electric Ladyland and a favourite Experience vehicle for improvisation. Hendrix followed up with an extended improvisational rendition of “Red House” before diving into “Foxey Lady.” He also offered his Woburn audience what he called, ‘…a song that we recorded for our new LP. It’s nothing but a hard rock—it’s called “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”.

Equipment problems were always an irritant for Jimi and Woburn was no exception. He prefaced “Purple Haze,” the group’s final song, with an apology. “We’re very sorry that we have to play through broken amplifiers,” he explained. “Like I said before, it’s really a hang up. It’s very hard to get our own sound across so we would like to end it and say thank you very much for showing up. We would like to do this last song “Purple Haze.” Jimi kicked off a boisterous feedback opening, buttressed by Mitchell and Redding and complete with tremolo bar swoops, wah-wah pedal shadings and soaring dive bomb styled bursts that transitioned seamlessly into the song’s unmistakable opening notes. At its conclusion, the audience roared with approval. While no microphones were positioned to fully capture the intensity of their reaction, their enthusiasm and calls for more can be easily heard through Jimi and Noel’s stage microphones.

The Experience’s performance at Woburn Music Festival would mark the trio’s last performance in England until the two celebrated concerts in February 1969 at the Royal Albert Hall.

Technical Note:

Like many of the live releases issued as part of the Dagger Records series, The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live At Woburn was not professionally recorded using multi-track technology. It was instead drawn from a recording made from the stage soundboard.

As a result, the recording is not without its share of flaws and technical limitations. The recording is raw and occasionally overdriven but it effectively presents all of the voices and instruments onstage. In addition to the aforementioned late start on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the ending of “Tax Free” was lost when the tape ran out. Fortunately, the tape spool was rethreaded and recording resumed for the start of “Red House”. It is entirely possible that another song was performed and not recorded but there is no firm evidence to definitively confirm this either way.

As noted, the buzzing, crackling and static not otherwise emanating from Jimi and Noel’s battered amplifiers are part of this historical document. Its flaws notwithstanding, this recording represents the only known documentation of this significant performance. The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live At Woburn, despite its technical imperfections, supplies yet
another fascinating piece to the Hendrix puzzle.

THE WINTERLAND BALLROOM – OCTOBER 11th, 1968

The Jimi Hendrix Experience performed six shows over three days at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom in October 1968. This four-disc set gathers 35 of the songs, plus a rambling interview Hendrix gave backstage from another venue a month later. it’s the cover tunes that make it worth hearing. The Highlight: a bluesy, crawling take on Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” Burning guitars and rockets red-glaring aside, this show, the second in a run of three dates in San Francisco, was the absolute peak of Jimi Hendrix’s live performance career. Throughout its history, the Winterland Ballroom was a venue that brought the best out of those who performed there, whether it was Led Zeppelin in 1969, The Band in 1976, or Bruce Springsteen and the Sex Pistols in 1978. Hendrix, already one of the best live acts on the scene at the time, with a tremendously loyal and dedicated following in the Bay Area, brought his pure A-game to the Bill Graham-promoted concert hall.

It’s actually a pretty tall order to pick from which of the three nights from the 10th through the 12th was the best of the bunch. On the first evening, you have a tremendous, electrified version of “Hear My Train a Comin’” to go along with a twisted, psychedelic rendition of “Tax Free”. On the last night, there’s that great cover of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” and an explosive “Spanish Castle Magic”. But then you have the second night, and Hendrix gives you perhaps the best version of “Purple Haze” that he ever performed live to go along with a mind-blowing cover of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”. You can’t go wrong with any of these gigs to be perfectly honest, and taken together, they really are the iconic guitarist at the very top of his game.

“Jimi Hendrix Experience- Winterland”  (versions available: 4 Disc Deluxe Box Set or 8 12″ 180 gram Vinyl Audiophile LP Deluxe Box Set .

Winterland is drawn from six stellar shows recorded over three days (October 10th, 11th and 12th, 1968) at San Francisco’s historic Winterland Ballroom.  These special performances celebrated the two year anniversary of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and came just as the groundbreaking album “Electric Ladyland” was released.

Winterland presents some of Hendrix’s most spectacular guitar work and the four CD set (also available as eight 12″ vinyl LPs) is filled with rare live versions of classic songs such as “Manic Depression,” “Are You Experienced?,” “Tax Free,” and “Little Wing” that are not part of any other Sony Legacy release.  Fans will also enjoy Hendrix’s dramatic interpretations of Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” [with the Experience joined by Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady] as well his rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone,” which has been selected as the lead track for this special release.

This special deluxe box set features never before released music from each of the six unforgettable Winterland performances.  The new standard and deluxe editions of Winterland are markedly different from a single disc compilation, long out of print, that was briefly issued by Rykodisc in 1987 and 1988.

The deluxe edition also presents a rare interview with Hendrix recorded backstage at the Boston Garden a few weeks after the Winterland performances.  This previously unreleased bonus provides fans with a unique window into Hendrix’s views about his background, his approach to the guitar and songwriting and future direction of his music. The deluxe edition also features a 36 page booked filled with previously unpublished images by acclaimed photographers Robert Knight, Allen Tannenbaum and Jim Marshall as well as an essay by noted Rolling Stone journalist David Fricke.

The featured track, “Like A Rolling Stone,” will precede the album’s release as a CD and 7″ vinyl single . The single will also feature a previously unreleased live version of “Purple Haze” from the Winterland concerts that will not be featured on the box set.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live In Cologne

LIVE IN SPORTHALLE COLOGNE , JANUARY 13th 1979 

Live in Cologne is a posthumous live album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Released in November 2012, The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live In Cologne, the twelfth release in the Dagger Records official bootleg series, documents this spirited, January 13th, 1969 performance at the Sporthalle in Cologne,
Germany.

Hendrix kicked off the proceedings with a scalding “Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)” from Electric Ladyland. This Earl King chestnut had long been a favorite of Jimi’s and here he began with a driving solo introduction before signaling Redding and Mitchell to join. Next followed a blistering version of “Foxey Lady,” a perennial stage favorite. An abrupt tape cut precedes a memorable rendition of “Red House.” Thankfully the performance is essentially complete lacking only Jimi’s prefacing stage banter, offered as he likely changed guitars before starting. “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” followed next, not yet established as Jimi’s closing number as it would become later in 1969 and remain so throughout his career, but no less muscular.

Jimi then shifted directly into “Fire” and then a thunderous “Spanish Castle Magic.” The Experience were clearly locked in sync, pushing each other throughout all to the delight of their audience. The Experience never backed off, launching next into their first single “Hey Joe.” Jimi had to do some quick tuning on the fly, but he pressed on undaunted, boldly dashing off a lick from the Beatles’ “I Feel Fine” as he barreled through this uptempo rendition. This driving intensity built up after the solo, underscored by Jimi’s rhythm guitar work and Mitchell’s superb drumming before culminating in a rousing finale.

“Sunshine Of Your Love” was offered in tribute to Cream, all to the delight of the audience whose howls of approval can be heard even during Redding’s bass solo. “Star Spangled Banner” and “Purple Haze” capped off a truly memorable night and then the Experience were gone, whisked off to the next city and another unsuspecting audience.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live In Cologne is like other releases in the Dagger Records series. This album was not drawn from professionally recorded masters but instead an amateur, monophonic audience recording. As a result, the recording is not without various technical flaws and sonic limitations. Nonetheless, this special ‘official bootleg’ stands as a captivating document of this important chapter of Jimi’s legacy.

THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL – FEBRUARY 24th, 1969

It was over 50 years ago when the Jimi Hendrix Experience played an important concert at the Royal Albert Hall on February 24th, 1969. Although captured on film by a team of cameramen, the event seemed consigned to history and became just a distant memory of those lucky enough to be there. So, at the Royal Albert Hall the first concert was held on February 18th, 1969 . A week later on February 24th. the first show hadn’t been filmed because the lighting in the hall wasn’t sufficiently bright. On that occasion, the Experience was supported by a post-Traffic group billed as Mason, Capaldi, Wood & Frog plus Soft Machine. The first show was okay, if not wonderful.

Of course it was the music we came to experience and the sheer riveting power exercised by Jimi with that fingertip control of his trusty Fender guitar, was mesmerising. There were moments when he drifted away on secretive spiritual journeys, then came the blasting back down to earth, crash landing into total funk grind, all the while unleashing familiar riffs and teasing melodies.

Stone Free set us free from the outset. It wandered through different grooves but was always brought under control by the drummer and bass player, loyally responding to Jimi’s changing musical moods. A nod here, a glare there – there was no mistaking his unspoken directions. And when Jimi turned them loose, it was Mitch Mitchell who shone with a tumultuous drum solo that drew cheers from an audience not even at a ‘live’ concert but straining their necks to gaze up at the pulsating screen.

Mitch was always a highly regarded drummer even from his R&B days with Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames. His freewheeling style blossomed with the Experience, but could be erratic at times. Not so on the night in question. As the tiny figure launched into an astonishing assault on his double bass drum Ludwig kit, he disappeared in a mass of flying hair and shining cymbals. All we could see were the sticks flailing. On that night he out-drummed ‘em all, Baker and Bonham included. Noel Redding too stayed on the ball throughout. While never the focus of extensive camera attention, (given that all eyes were on Jimi), his bass playing gave sturdy support for Hendrix and Noel formed a perfect team mate for Mitch in the rhythm section.

As the show progressed Jimi embarked on a series of hypnotic performances playing such songs as Lover Man, I Don’t Live Today and the ultimate blues anthem Red House. The crowd leapt from the seats for Foxy Lady, Fire, Little Wing and Voodoo Chile (Slight Return), and sprawled exhausted for Purple Haze, the wonderful Wild Thing and Jimi’s tilt at the Star Spangled Banner, an anthem the former paratrooper must have heard played many a time during his 101st Airborne days.

‘Thank you very much!’ Was all Jimi could say to his audience after such a physically exhausting and emotionally draining performance that saw him kicking over Marshall amps and smashing a guitar to smithereens and finally hurling the broken neck out into the once restrained and now hysterical audience.

It was one of Hendrix manager Michael Jeffrey’s more canny moves that this gig was even booked in the first place. Originally, he and The Experience were only supposed to perform at the Royal Albert Hall for one night on February 18th, which was due to be recorded for a potential live album, but Jeffrey was worried that the band wouldn’t make the grade. His concern proved correct as both Redding and Mitchell sounded utterly lethargic at that show.

The band only had one more shot to make up for their lackluster performance, thus this gig a week later where they absolutely killed. Hendrix clearly knew that he and the band were on fire and actually went back on at the end of the night for a positively rare encore of the exceedingly rarely played “Room Full of Mirrors”. This ended up being the last show that The Experience would ever play together in Europe.

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WOODSTOCK – AUGUST 18th, 1969

One transcendent moment does not a complete concert make. Hendrix’s performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Woodstock will forever stand as one of the defining moments of the ‘60s, but the rest of the show around that singular and notably solo – rendition of the American national anthem is somewhat shambolic. For this gig, Hendrix brought together his regular drummer, Mitch Mitchell, and his Army buddy and Band of Gypsys bassist, Buddy Cox, but also an overstuffed array of world musicians who clearly weren’t ready to tackle this material. That this was also the longest performance of Hendrix’s career actually doesn’t help its case as one might assume either. It’s not a complete disaster, however, as both “Woodstock Improvisation” and “Hey Joe” are undeniably fantastic.

Hendrix’s festival-closing set is the stuff of legend — mostly because his instrumental take on “Star Spangled Banner” sounds like a thousand bombs dropping on unsuspecting hippies at an ungodly hour. This 1999 album gathers almost his entire show (two songs sung by a rhythm guitarist are MIA), which was made up of familiar songs like “Foxey Lady” and “Purple Haze,” as well as a few blues covers. And “Star Spangled Banner,” of course.

As celebrated as Hendrix’s appearance at the Woodstock Festival was, the double disc release containing Jimi’s entire 16-track performance is nothing short of an exhausting listen. The band weren’t as tight as they should have been and Jimi extended every track to within an inch of its life, not always to its advantage. While it’s undeniably great to have access to a good quality recording of the fabled show, chances are you’ll find yourself returning to a select few incendiary performances – more than likely ‘Foxey Lady’, ‘Red House’ and the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ – but most of it is far too reliant upon seemingly endless jam sessions, and there’s only so much of that you handle at one sitting without the heady visuals to match.

Woodstock Music & Art Festival, Bethel, New York

Set List: Message To Love Hear My Train A Comin’ Spanish Castle Magic, Red House Mastermind [Larry Lee] Lover Man Foxey Lady Jam Back At The House Izabella Gypsy Woman [Larry Lee] Fire Voodoo Child (Slight Return) Star Spangled Banner Purple Haze Woodstock Improvisation Villanova Junction Blues Hey Joe

Beginning in July 1969, Jimi relocated to Shokan, a quiet upstate New York village near Woodstock for the balance of the summer. Here Hendrix was accorded sufficient time to relax and refine his new musical direction. In time, the rustic summer retreat served to rejuvenate his creative spirit. “Jimi was taking a kind of vacation out in the country, trying to get his act together,” explains Eddie Kramer. “It was all part of his developmental process, wood shedding if you want to call it that. With Billy Cox in tow, Jimi revisited his Tennessee roots once more, reaching back to guitarist Larry Lee, another old friend and veteran of the chitlin’ circuit. Where Cox had been actively involved in various music projects prior to heeding Jimi’s call, Lee had just returned from a stint in Vietnam. Also invited to Hendrix’s vacation retreat were percussionists Jerry Velez and Juma Sultan. Hendrix met Velez at Steve Paul’s Scene Club prior to the break up of the Experience. “I had just finished jamming with The McCoys,” explains Velez. “When I walked over to my table, Jimi and his entourage were sitting behind me. A little later, I joined the band on stage again for a few more tunes. When I came back to sit down, he leaned over and said, ‘Listen, I’m recording this jam over at the studio tonight. We’ll be starting around four, after this thing ends tonight. Do you want to come down and jam?’ I said sure. I went over that night and jammed with Jimi and Buddy Miles, and we seemed to hit it off.” Juma Sultan was actively involved with the Aboriginal Music Society in Woodstock, New York, and was a highly respected percussionist who would performed regularly at the Tinker Street Cinema. Both were received well during their jam’s back at the house and were invited to join Hendrix’s expanded ensemble, Gypsy Sun and Rainbows. In the weeks prior to the Woodstock festival, Jimi jammed at his rented home, as well as the Tinker Street Cinema in downtown Woodstock. Making its first and only official public appearance, Hendrix’s expanded ensemble Gypsy Sun and Rainbows performs at the Woodstock Music & Art Festival in Bethel, New York. Hendrix takes to the Woodstock stage on Monday morning with the support of Mitch Mitchell (drums), Billy Cox (bass & backing vocals), Larry Lee (rhythm guitar), Juma Sultan (percussion), and Jerry Velez (percussion). His extended set includes his magnificent rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner”.

THE FILLMORE EAST – JANUARY 1st, 1970

The one and only performance of the short-lived Band of Gypsys came at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East. The only reason this project came to fruition in the first place was due to a legal settlement between Hendrix and Ed Chalpin of PPX Recordings, whereby the latter would receive total rights to one release by the former. It was a messy situation all around and one that Hendrix wasn’t about to resolve by giving Chalpin the tapes that would make up Electric Ladyland, so instead he enlisted his old Army buddy Billy Cox to play bass and Buddy Miles of Electric Flag to play drums for a special live album project. It’s hard to say that Band of Gypsys was superior to the Experience, but this show isn’t without its merits. “Them Changes” with Miles on lead vocals is funky and fun in a way that Hendrix rarely was while performing live, but it’s the song “Machine Gun” that takes the cake. At a runtime of 12:40, it’s by no means succinct, but with that signature, simulated-gunfire riff and wandering, adventurous solos, it’s one of the most thrilling tracks in Hendrix’s canon.

Live at the Fillmore East is basically an expanded version of the 1970 live album Band of Gypsies, which was recorded on New Year’s Eve 1969 at the legendary New York club. Hendrix’s new trio were bluesier and jazzier than The Experience, so the 16 songs here — including reworked versions of “Stone Free” and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” — swing harder. Highlight: was the anti-war jam “Machine Gun.”

With a myriad of debatable quality bootleg live recordings available, it’s fantastic to find a great live recording of Jimi at his fiery best. Live At Fillmore East is one such beast. The double CD is taken from recordings of four nights Jimi and The Band Of Gypsys (completed by bassist Billy Cox and Buddy Miles on drums) played over New Year’s Eve 1970. If anything, this is a better place to hear Jimi with this band than the official Gypsys release that came out during the guitarist’s lifetime. Hendrix’s self-written material comes across the best – lead-off track ‘Stone Free’ is particularly powerful as it clocks in at nearly 13 minutes, but it’s good to hear the guitarist stretching out on the Buddy Miles composition ‘We Gotta Live Together’, while closer ‘Wild Thing’ serves as a reminder that while Jimi liked to improvise and jam in a live environment he was more that capable of wringing the best out of a three minute pop song.

THE L.A. FORUM – APRIL 25th, 1970

There’s something about the sunny confines of the Forum in Inglewood, California, that brought out the best in a myriad of ‘60s and ‘70s rock bands, and Jimi Hendrix was no exception. This was the first live show that Hendrix played after his foray with the Band of Gypsys and the first in seven months with Mitch Mitchell back on the skins. Hendrix sounds completely re-energized and hits the SoCal crowd with a number of heavy-hitting tracks, including one of the first performances of “Ezy Rider” and “Freedom”, which both sound incredible. The cherry of this gig, however, is the sultry and bombastic “Foxy Lady”, which, per usual, was dedicated to one of the finer specimens of the opposite sex that the guitarist spotted in the crowd.

BERKELEY COMMUNITY THEATRE – MAY 30th, 1970

Loose is the operative word when it comes to describing this concert, which took place just outside the confines of the University of California. In the context in which it was performed, it’s actually an interesting contrast to the mania of the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations that were taking place right outside the venue. In his own way, Hendrix addresses the tension permeating the atmosphere in his intro to “The Star-Spangled Banner” when he asks the crowd to get on their feet and stand for the national anthem, reminding them that “we’re all Americans.” For their troubles, he then proceeds to knock them down back on their asses with seismic versions of “Purple Haze” and “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)”. For real music nerds, it should be noted that this show was one of the very few instances in his career when Hendrix didn’t tune his guitar down a half step and instead played this entire gig in standard tuning.

This is a tasty recording as it features Jimi Hendrix neither with the Experience nor with his Band Of Gypsys, rather the line-up here was a cross between the two. Gypsy bassist, Billy Cox and Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell backing up Jimi as he tears through blinding versions of ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘Hey Joe’. Encapsulating the best of both worlds, Hendrix was able to illustrate the experimental side of the Experience with the more funky, R&B-led style of the Gypsys. The concert captured here is the second show Hendrix and co. performed at the Berkeley Community Center in 1970. As ever, the live rendition of ‘Red House’ is stunning while ‘Voodoo Child’ is a textbook performance – the perfect blend of experimentation kept on a short leash, even though it’s a suitably extended version with a superb vocal track. It’s not all established material that Hendrix offers here – we also get to witness early versions of songs (notably ‘Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)’ and ‘Straight Ahead’ – here in the guise of ‘Pass It On’) that would go on to be featured on other posthumous releases.

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THE ATLANTA INTERNATIONAL POP FESTIVAL – JULY 4th, 1970

Many of Hendrix’s greatest live shows came in outdoor spaces, like this one at the Atlanta Pop Festival on Independence Day in 1970. In many ways, this Georgia gathering was the spiritual sequel to Woodstock that the fiasco in Altamont failed to be. Like Woodstock, it was billed as “three days of peace, love and music,” and you needed a ticket to enter. And just like in upstate New York, the deluge of 300,000-500,000 people crying out slogans like “music belongs to the people” forced the organizers to open the gates and let everyone in completely free of charge.

For his part, Hendrix actually delivered a set that was far more cohesive and tight than he had given the summer before, albeit without any of the iconic highlights. A rare performance of “Room Full of Mirrors” is a real gem from this show as is the extended “Red House” jam.

 

THE ISLE OF WIGHT FESTIVAL, AUGUST 31st, 1970

“Blue Wild Angel: Live at the Isle of Wight” is a posthumous live album by Jimi Hendrix released on November 12th, 2002. The album documents Hendrix’s last U.K. live performance at the Isle of Wight Festival on August 31st, 1970, just three weeks before his death. The set list for the concert contained songs from the original Experience albums, as well as new songs. Some were previously available on Isle of Wight (1971) and Live Isle of Wight ’70 (1991).

Included in the set was an adaptation of “God Save the Queen” and a cover of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, played just before launching into “Spanish Castle Magic”. The 22-minute version of “Machine Gun” includes walkie-talkie interference from security personnel feeding through the sound equipment. Apparently there were all sorts of issues with the organisation of the festival, and there were equipment problems, In some ways it’s a bit of a disappointing finale to his career, he’s seems a little tired or to be just going through the motions on much of this, maybe he was just getting tired of the band screaming out for Fire and Wild Thing, but at times the playing is as sublime as ever, and it’s interesting to see how the band with Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell continues to expand their style. Billy Cox makes the ensemble work much better than Noel Redding ever did, a fine example being where Hendrix sits out for some time on what is easily the longest of my 20 versions of Foxy Lady. The full set is available on this album “Blue Wild Angel: Live at The Isle of Wight” and I’m not sure why they didn’t release a double album first time around. The single release album is necessarily not even the best selection of songs from the gig so I’d recommend getting Blue Wild Angel instead. This isn’t his finest performance, but they’re all unique, so if you haven’t heard it, and you’re a Hendrixphile, you need to.

The CD set is more complete than the DVD release as it contains “Midnight Lightning”, “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)”, and “Hey Joe”, three songs that were omitted from the DVD. There was also a “highlights” album released as a single disc, which contained eleven songs – nine from disc one and two from disc two. It was re-released in 2003 as a three-disc “Deluxe Sound & Vision Edition” in a special box and slip cover format as part of Experience Hendrix’s plan to re-release most of Jimi Hendrix’s recorded material.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live At The Isle Of Fehmarn

LIVE AT THE ISE OF FEHMARN September 6th 1970

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live At The Isle Of Fehmarn marks the eighth release in Dagger Records’ popular bootleg-style recording series. This historically significant album features The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s final live performance on September 6th, 1970 during the Love & Peace Festival held on the Isle Of Fehmarn in Germany.

Originally slated to perform on September 5th, The Experience’s appearance at the festival was delayed by frequent rain storms that plagued the previous days shows. Having just completed a series of six concerts in six days including headlining shows at both the Isle Of Wight (August 30th) and Berlin (September 4th), the extra day of rest would serve the group well.

By the time The Experience took to the stage on September 6th, audience tensions were guarded following a series of fights between German bikers, that had escalated in ferocity, and included the festival Box Office being robbed at gun point and Jimi Hendrix’s own road manager, Gerry Stickells being attacked. Depsite these problems, The Experience delivered an enthusiastic hour-plus performance which saw Jimi lead the trio through a series of songs encompassing all of the different periods of the group’s existence.

Jimi’s Isle Of Fehmarn performance has been widely bootlegged over the last 35 years yet it was never professionally recorded. Amateur recordings made from the audience by fans have served as the only known documentation of this historic concert until now. As the eighth entry in this popular ‘bootleg’ series, Dagger presents a newly discovered recording made by the festival’s promoters. Unbeknownst to Hendrix, the promoters captured the group’s entire performance by feeding two overhead stage microphones into a consumer grade Revox reel-to-reel tape machine located off to the side of the stage. The resulting document, rough hewn and unmixed, is clear and not unlike the amateur
audience recording featured on the initial Dagger offering Live At The Oakland Coliseum.

In addition to “Killing Floor,” Live At The Isle Of Fehmarn also features “Spanish Castle Magic,” “All Along The Watchtower,” “Hey Joe,” “Message To Love,” “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun),” “Foxey Lady,” “Red House,” “Ezy Ryder,” “Freedom,” “Room Full Of Mirrors,” “Purple Haze,” and a particularly memorable rendition of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).”

Experience Hendrix L.L.C. and Legacy Recordings, a division of Sony Music Entertainment, are proud to release Songs For Groovy Children: The Fillmore East Concerts by Jimi Hendrix, on CD and digital November 22nd, with a vinyl release to follow on December 13th. This collection assembles all four historic debut concerts by the legendary guitarist in their original performance sequence. The 5 CD or 8 vinyl set boasts over two dozen tracks that have either never before been released commercially or have been newly pressed and newly remixed. Those who pre-order the digital version will instantly receive the previously unreleased track “Message To Love,” from the second New Year’s Eve performance on the collection.

Over the course of four extraordinary years, Jimi Hendrix placed his indelible stamp upon popular music with breathtaking velocity.  Measured alongside his triumphs at Monterey Pop and Woodstock, Hendrix’s legendary Fillmore East concerts illustrated a critical turning point in a radiant career filled with indefinite possibilities.

The revolutionary impact Jimi Hendrix, Billy Cox and Buddy Miles had upon the boundaries and definitions of rock, R&B, and funk can be traced to four concerts over the course of two captivating evenings.  These performances were first celebrated by Band of Gypsys, which featured six songs from the two January 1st, 1970 concerts, including “Machine Gun,” the album’s dramatic centerpiece. Issued in April 1970, Band of Gypsys challenged and surprised the wide following of Jimi Hendrix  with its extended arrangements and vibrant mix of rock and soul. 

In June of 1969, at the height of their fame, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, closed a musical chapter.  Before the shockwaves could settle, Hendrix assembled a new, expanded ensemble to perform at Woodstock in August. A new chapter was opened as Hendrix introduced Gypsy Sun and Rainbows.  The large ensemble included Jimi’s longtime friend Billy Cox, on bass, whom he had befriended when both were serving with the 101st Airborne Division in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky in 1962.  This Woodstock lineup was short-lived; from its ashes a new trio emerged in October that Hendrix dubbed Band of Gypsys, consisting of Hendrix, Cox and Electric Flag drummer Buddy Miles, who would also contribute occasional lead vocals. Hendrix was inspired by his collaboration with Cox and Miles and this creative renewal drove the development of promising new material such as “Power Of Soul,” “Burning Desire” and the extraordinary “Machine Gun.”  

Their debut live performances were a series of four concerts at the Fillmore East in Manhattan – two on New Year’s Eve 1969 and two on New Year’s Day 1970, each of which were professionally recorded. Hendrix had sold out Madison Square Garden just nine months prior, but the Fillmore East was chosen as the setting for a live recording.  Long before his fame, Hendrix had signed what he thought was a release for appearing as a studio musician in October 1965.  Unfortunately, the one page artist agreement drafted by PPX Industries bound his services for a period of three years.  Unwilling to live hands tied, Hendrix agreed to a 1968 legal settlement whereby Capitol Records would be granted the distribution rights for his next album.  By the autumn of 1969, Capitol and PPX were pushing hard for the album delivery and Hendrix decided to give them a live album.

However stressful this legal obligation had been for the guitarist, the end result proved to be an artistic triumph. True to his unpredictability, Hendrix opened his four-show stint with a masterful, eleven song set that did not feature a single song he had commercially released.  Exciting new songs such as “Izabella,” “Ezy Ryder” and “Burning Desire” thrilled the sold-out house.  Hendrix would pepper the remaining three shows with supercharged reworkings of favorites such as “Stone Free,” “Purple Haze,” and “Fire” but these were presented alongside such devastating, newly developed fare as “Machine Gun.”  In his review of the second New Year’s Eve concert, Down Beat critic Chris Albertson wrote, “That ability of his to utilize fully the technical possibilities of his instrument, combined with his fertile musical imagination, makes him an outstanding performer.”

By the end of January 1970, the band was history, but the blend of funk, rock and soul pioneered by the trio became history, making a profound impact on popular music in its wake. Notable devotees include funk pioneers ParliamentFunkadelic, Curtis Mayfield, the Isley Brothers (with whom Hendrix himself had at one time played) and Bootsy Collins, extending all the way forward to hip-hop.  Countless artists cite the record as a cornerstone in their appreciation of Jimi Hendrix ’s remarkable abilities.  

The original 1970 Band of Gypsys album was edited and sequenced from songs performed during the two Fillmore sets on January 1st, 1970.   Subsequent collections mined more material from each of the performances with significant chunks of these phenomenal recordings from those nights sitting unreleased for almost half a century. Newly mixed and restored in sequence without edits, fans can finally hear Hendrix, Cox and Miles blast through their genre-defying sets that included freshly written songs like “Earth Blues” and “Stepping Stone,” as well as Experience favorites inclusive of “Foxey Lady,” “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” “Wild Thing,” “Hey Joe” and “Purple Haze.” Additionally, exciting new versions of Howard Tate’s “Stop,” “Steal Away,” by Jimmy Hughes and a searing “Bleeding Heart” by Elmore James highlighted the command that the trio had over blues & R&B music.

The lavish package is filled with unseen photos from talent such as Fillmore East house photographer Amalie Rothschild, Jan Blom (whose iconic, color saturated images provided the original artwork for 1970’s Band of Gypsys) as well as Marshall Amplifier representative Marc Franklin, who had full access to the group in their dressing room backstage.  The booklet features remembrances from bassist Billy Cox and liner notes by author/journalist/filmmaker Nelson George.  Songs For Groovy Children was produced by Janie Hendrix, Eddie Kramer and John McDermott – the trio that has overseen every project for Experience Hendrix since 1995. The box set was mastered by Grammy-winning engineer Bernie Grundman.

Kicking off today at the Paramount Theatre in Jimi’s hometown of Seattle, WA is the fall leg of the Experience Hendrix Tour, the acclaimed multi-artist celebration of Jimi Hendrix’s musical genius. The trek winds its way down the west coast into Oregon, California, Nevada, and then heading eastward into Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas, culminating in San Antonio Oct. 22.  Participants include blues legend Buddy Guy, best-selling instrumental rock guitarist Joe Satriani,Taj Mahal, Dweezil Zappa, Jonny Lang, Eric Johnson and Billy Cox. His has, arguably, the longest lasting musical relationship with Jimi Hendrix, spanning their time in the U.S. Army, performance in Nashville-based soul combos and with Band of Gypsys, and continuing with the Tribute Concert Tours in honor of the legacy of Jimi Hendrix to the present day.

As the ’60s came to a close, Jimi Hendrix began to push the boundaries of funk, rock and R&B with a brand new group of musicians, Band of Gypsys. Together with bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles, Hendrix unveiled stunning, newly written material across four shows at the legendary Fillmore East in New York City. “Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 31/12/69” marks the first time Band of Gypsys‘ first show has ever been released in its entirety, newly mixed by Eddie Kramer from the original 1″ eight-track masters.

Well, this is something serious Hendrix collectors have been waiting for. Band of Gypsys famously played a total of four shows 12/31/69 and 1/1/70 at the Fillmore East (two shows each night). This is the complete first set from the first night; their debut live show. Although the original Band of Gypsy’s album was compiled from the second night, it wasn’t because there weren’t amazing performances to choose from on the first night. The first couple songs are a bit rough around the edges, but when Jimi goes deep blues with “Hear My Train a Comin’,” he really starts feeling it and turns in an absolutely amazing version (that’s why it was previously released on Band of Gypsys 2 and Live at the Fillmore East). “Machine Gun” is another stunner.

There are significant differences to the lyrics, and the structure of the song is different as well (Billy Cox says both Jimi and Buddy Miles were doing things that weren’t done in rehearsals). “Bleeding Heart” is another amazing blues performance leading into two songs that were almost never performed live: “Earth Blues” and “Burning Desire.” Throughout the set, the band is absolutely locked in. They aren’t just playing; they’re clearly listening to each other and Hendrix turns in some scorching guitar. The most interesting thing might be the realization of how much of these sets and songs was improvised by the band, as shown by the differences in “Machine Gun” from night to night. Eddie Kramer deserves credit for a truly excellent mix (and probably some judicious editing on “Changes”).

It’s not really fair to compare Machine Gun to Band of Gypsy’s since one is a largely unedited complete performance and the other is the best cuts selected from a couple shows. That said, there are performances here that rival those of the original Band of Gypsy’s album, and hearing Jimi on his game with great sound will always be welcomed.

Hear Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys First Performance from 1969

The debut concert of Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys will be officially released for the first time on September 30th. Titled Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/69, the album presents the group’s New Year’s Eve show at New York City’s Fillmore East. The band played two sets that night, and two more the next. While the second night’s performances were culled for 1970’s Band of Gypsys album, the first night’s concerts were never released. Those shows marked the first public performance of the band.

Jimi Hendrix – guitar, vocals; Billy Cox – bass; Buddy Miles – drums, vocals

The only album of completely live Jimi Hendrix recordings to be released during his lifetime, Band Of Gypsys found the iconoclastic guitarist with a new rhythm section and soaring to new creative heights. At last here is a good portion of the group’s public debut, recorded on opening night of a New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day engagement at Fillmore East. These performances gave Hendrix the opportunity to showcase new material and fulfill a contractual obligation simultaneously. The circumstances surrounding these shows are now well known; Hendrix had just successfully defended himself against drug possession charges in Toronto and now, due to a contract signed before he was known, was being forced to deliver an album of original material to Ed Chalpin, an entrepreneur determined to exploit Hendrix’s success.

Despite the troubling circumstances, the Band Of Gypsys performances would go down in history as some of the greatest of Hendrix’s career. Featuring new material that he had been developing in the studio and featuring an abundance of spontaneous jamming, this new music found Hendrix inspired by the solid funky bass of his old friend Billy Cox and the extraordinary gut-bucket drumming of Buddy Miles. This new rhythm section, which had been working in the studio with Hendrix for several months, contributed hard funk and R&B elements to Hendrix’s groundbreaking style. The lyric direction was also changing, displaying a social consciousness previously unexplored. Hendrix was clearly pushing the boundaries of his music and his newest blues-based numbers like “Machine Gun,” and “Hear My Train A Comin’,” was hitting emotional heights in his guitar playing that would never quite be duplicated again.

This composite is assembled from several different recordings made during the first of two Fillmore East concerts on New Years Eve, none of which were included on the original album release. Following the introduction, the Band Of Gypsys take the stage for the first time. They kick things off with the debut performance of “Power Of Soul,” a prime example of Hendrix’s new direction. Despite the vocals being muted during this and the following song, this is a powerful opening number, containing a deep funky groove previously unexplored with The Experience. Unlike anything Hendrix had written before, this song reflected a social and spiritual awareness in the lyrics. For the Fillmore East audience (who heard the vocals loud and clear), this song was in direct contrast to the psychedelic rock and enigmatic imagery that defined his songs with The Experience. Like much of the material Hendrix was now working on, this is a hard-edged funk anthem conveying the need for love and compassion during turbulent times.

The next two numbers represent new approaches to songs Hendrix had already been performing. Both take on a new vigor with this rhythm section. The first of these, “Lover Man,” is essentially a variation on B. B. King’s “Rock Me Baby.” This is a fascinating listen for its lack of vocal, as it facilitates undistracted listening to the intense instrumental interaction between these three musicians. It also serves as a good bridge between the funky opening number and the pure blues to follow with “Hear My Train A Comin.” At this point the vocals are now mixed in and the recording goes from mono to stereo, greatly improving the listening experience. Perhaps better than anything else featured here, “Here My Train A Comin'” displays why Hendrix was a peerless guitarist. The searing emotional wallop of the improvisations, the sophisticated technique and the sheer spontaneous artistry that Hendrix displays here is quite compelling.

Next up is the Band of Gypsys debut performance of Buddy Miles‘ biggest hit, “Them Changes.” A bit looser and featuring more jamming and Buddy Miles spontaneous rapping than the officially issued album version (sourced from the following night), this is just as infectious. The recording concludes with “Izabella,” which Hendrix dedicates to the soldiers fighting in Vietnam. This dedication makes more sense since this number segued directly into “Machine Gun,” which like the remainder of this performance, is unfortunately unavailable from the direct recording sources. “Izabella” would first see the light of day on the Woodstock 2 album, which is considerably looser and less focused than the version performed here.

jimi-hendrix-performing-fillmore-east copy 2

On the 31st December 1969, a new Hendrix group would take to the stage for the first time at the legendary Fillmore East venue in New York City. Often referred to as Band Of Gypsys, the band consisted of Billy Cox on bass, Buddy Miles on drums and Jimi Hendrix on guitar. It had been over six months since the end of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Band Of Gypsys took Hendrix’s music in a new direction, mainly down to the different musical techniques of his two new band mates. The songs were funky and contained grooves that roamed around the auditorium. New songs were debuted with one in particular leaving a lasting impression that remains to this day. It could only happen at Fillmore East and it could only have been Hendrix.

“ON BASS, MR BILLY COX. ON DRUMS, MR BUDDY MILES. ON LEAD GUITAR, MR JIMI HENDRIX. THE FILLMORE IS PROUD TO WELCOME BACK SOME VERY OLD FRIENDS WITH A BRAND NEW NAME. JIMI HENDRIX AND A BAND OF GYPSYS!”

DECEMBER 31ST 1969: FIRST NIGHT (WEDNESDAY)

FIRST SHOW Setlist:

  1. Power Of Soul
  2. Lover Man
  3. Hear My Train A Comin’
  4. Them Changes
  5. Izabella
  6. Machine Gun
  7. Stop
  8. Ezy Rider
  9. Bleeding Heart
  10. Earth Blues
  11. Burning Desire

After the band is introduced to the audience they launch into Power Of Soul which gives those listening the first taste of the new direction that Hendrix was heading in at this point. The drums are effortlessly simple yet it’s the bass and guitar which really drive the song forward and the same can be said for the second song, Lover Man. Both opening songs are fast paced and you can only imagine what it would have been like in the venue when these two were performed live. Very much a “hold on to your hats” experience. The Gypsys then slow things down with a fantastic rendition of Hear My Train A Comin but if you think slow means laid back then you are mistaken because Hendrix really takes off in the solo sections with enough feedback and power to last any music fan a lifetime. Next up is the Buddy Miles song, Them Changes, which is often considered one of the highlights from the Fillmore East shows. Miles takes charge of lead vocal duties which enables Hendrix to sit back into the groove and supply some tasty wah-wah licks from start to finish. Absolutely divine!

Izabella is the fifth song and ended up being the shortest song performed during this early set at Fillmore East. The song opens with that beautiful and now famous riff before drums and then the bass come in for the main riff. Exquisite playing by Hendrix on this particular number with the band as tight as a ducks arse from the very start. Definitely a highlight from the entire set although it pales in comparison to what would come next, Machine Gun, which is arguably one of Hendrix’s most famous live songs. The version that featured on the live album is taken from the third Fillmore East show (New Years Day, early show) but it was played at each show during the New Year run. Machine Gun itself debuted in September 1969 when Hendrix, along with Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox, played it on The Dick Cavett Show. This version is available to view online although it contains none of the explosiveness of the live performance played at Fillmore East and even though this version played during the early set on New Year’s Eve isn’t the definitive version everyone knows, it still packs one hell of a punch. The feedback that Hendrix creates while he roams the fretboard is astronomical as if he’s deliberately trying to reach into outer space. Fantastic, plus, it’s the first time the song was performed in concert.

Stop follows (or at least tries to) and features Buddy Miles on lead vocals, while Hendrix is allowed to do his thing with a tasty solo midway through the performance. Sadly the solo is probably the most notable moment of an otherwise forgettable song, not that it wasn’t enjoyable to listen to. But any song immediately after Machine Gun is going to struggle to gain attention unless it’s equally as fantastic, which sadly it isn’t. Thankfully the band then turn to Ezy Rider which is a song Hendrix debuted earlier in the year at Olympic Studios but this performance, like Machine Gun, is the first time he ever played it live. The energy level returns to what you’d expect a Hendrix concert to be after Stop, with all three guys on fine form. There are certain songs you listen to and know instantly the band had fun playing them and this is certainly one example of that, without a doubt. The song builds and builds until it cuts out with the audience roaring their appreciation from the rocking auditorium.

 

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Steven Newman (Audience Member)

“What I remember was that at the time Jimi was catching a lot of flack for being a flashy guitarist with no substance. This truly drove him nuts at the time and what I remember the most about that show was Jimi standing in one place the entire concert. Not moving a muscle except to play the guitar. He was getting sounds out of that guitar that were mind boggling. And the entire show he just stood there and played the guitar. He only played new stuff at the early show and didn’t play one song anyone heard at the time. The late show he did some old tunes. I remember leaving the theatre with my jaw agape.”

John Koons (Audience Member)

“Beside my personal recollection which is somewhat unique it was an amazing show. The only other unique thing I can remember is that Buddy Miles’ drumsticks resembled those souvenir bats they used to give kids at Shea.”

Martin Kahn (Audience Member)

“To be honest I (as were many others) was under the influence of hallucinogens. I do not recall which night I went. I can hear the music and I can feel the bass. I am a musician and I was concentrated on the music and between listening intently and being impaired (or ENLIGHTENED) I do not recall the visual portion.”

Bleeding Heart, an Elmore James cover, lights up the auditorium but in a different way. The slow blues radiates from Hendrix’s Stratocaster, drawing the audience in from the very reaches of the venue. From a personal point of view this is probably my favourite song of the set, you cannot beat a slow blues performed by Jimi Hendrix and this one is no exception. It’s quickly followed by Earth Blues which continues in the same vein as the majority of songs before it, fantastic guitar playing and wonderful musicianship between the three guys gracing the stage at Fillmore East. The next, and sadly final song, is Burning Desire. As far as bringing an end to a set goes this is pretty incredible and loose, encapsulating everything great about each song that came before it. Loose playing, roaring solo sections, groovy riffs, tempo changes. Jimi Hendrix at his finest and an excellent end to what would be the first of four incredible shows at Fillmore East.

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