Posts Tagged ‘Buddy Miles’

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First, there was Band of Gypsies. Just a few years ago, there was Machine Gun. And, in between times, sundry compilations, bootlegs and all manner of other sources drip fed other moments from four momentous shows onto the collectors’ market.  Now, all four have been gathered together, and the result is one of the most spectacular Jimi Hendrix collections yet.

Band of Gypsies was Hendrix’s union with Buddy Miles and Billy Cox, a shortlived union that effectively debuted and departed in the space of 48 hours, New Year’s Eve 1969 and New Year’s Day, 1970. Two shows per day at the Fillmore East marked the band’s brief life, and for a long time, the soundtrack – the original Band of Gypsies album alone – was regarded by some as one of those take-it-or-leave-it Hendrix albums, released out of sequence out of contractual obligation, and effectively filled with overlong jamming through songs we’d never heard.

The passage of time, of course, dismissed that opinion, and Machine Gun, which served up the first of the four shows, placed at least some of the music into the context of a show… a great show, which danced back and forth between Jimi’s past and future, and ranks today among the most exhilarating single disc Hendrix live albums of them all.  And now that it has been expanded to five discs, it’s even better.

You can play favorites with the different shows according to their repertoire. On the first night, new material predominated, with only “Lover Man” and “Hear My Train A-Coming” coming through to satisfy the oldies fans. But a few more crept in on the second set; there was the glorious blast of “Stepping Stone” and “Foxey Lady” amidships in the third; and the final show was greatest hits a-go-go, as the evening ended with a colossal “Voodoo Chile,” a brutal “Wild Thing,” a leviathan “Purple Haze” and even “Hey Joe,” the song that started it all for Hendrix, but which he’d never seemed to have that much time for.

The sound is excellent throughout; the booklet well-presented and written. The box won’t take up much room on the shelf, and the whole thing, frankly, is a joy from beginning to end. The Band of Gypsies travel on.

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.

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Consistently named the greatest guitar player of all time by pretty much every publication that has ever compiled such a list, Jimi Hendrix combined untouchable virtuosity, an improvisational spirit and poignant soul every time he picked up the instrument. But Hendrix was more than just a guitar slinger. He combined undeniable songwriting talent, a great ear for melody and a love of music rooted in tradition but with a definite slant towards experimentation and desire to break new ground in the studio.
On the surface, it’s very easy to look at Jimi Hendrix’s recorded output, After all, he only had a four-year recording career, with as many albums. With the Jimi Hendrix Experience, he recorded Are You Experienced (1967), Axis: Bold As Love (1967), Electric Ladyland (1968) and then the self-titled Band Of Gypsys, with the Band Of Gypsys in 1970. Each album is a killer in its own way but things start to get tricky when you delve into the myriad of releases that have appeared since the guitarist’s untimely death.

Cry Of Love  ( 1971 )

 ‘The Cry of Love’ is a posthumous fourth studio album by Hendrix. Originally part of an ambitious double album project ‘The Cry Of Love’ is a 10 track album compiled and mixed by Eddie Kramer and drummer Mitch Mitchell at Electric Lady Studios.

Inspired by the movie Easy Rider, this tune initially appeared on Cry of Love – the first posthumous release of Hendrix studio recordings and a collection of basically what was intended to be his next album. It seems to point in the direction that Jimi’s music was headed at the time: less sprawling and trippy, more straightforward and funky. It appeared on two more attempts to complete Hendrix’s fourth studio album: 1995’s Voodoo Soup and 1997’s First Rays of the New Rising Sun.

Blues ( 1994 )

Blues was among the early posthumous release that collected 13 tracks of you guessed it – blues-styled numbers, although for the most part they’re studio outtakes that probably were never intended for release. That said, “Hear My Train a Comin'” is featured twice, the closing number being a recording of an electric version he frequently played live. On the opening number, the keeper, Hendrix lets loose on the 12-string acoustic, showing off his skill as an unplugged player with a song that sounds very much like a timeless blues standard but is in fact an Hendrix original.

First Rays of the New Sun (1997)

When he died, Hendrix was working on a followup to Electric Ladyland that promised to be even more ambitious than that 1968 classic. First Rays of the New Sun is the best attempt to reconstruct the record that most likely would have been Hendrix’s fourth studio album. Most of the 17 songs here had shown up on other posthumous records (many of them are now out of print), but they make much more sense within this context. Other songs from the sessions appeared on South Saturn Delta . Highlights: “Freedom,” “Angel,” “Ezy Rider,” “My Friend” and “Stepping Stone.”
Finally, after years of finagling, this set was released with the blessing of the Jimi Hendrix estate. If anything, this is an approximation of what would have been the next Jimi Hendrix album, a sequel of sorts to Electric Ladyland. Where this album succeeds, when many posthumous (and unofficial) releases had failed, was that the Hendrix Estate involved Eddie KramerHendrix’s longtime recording engineer to assist in its assembly. While we’ll never know what Hendrix’s next album would have sounded like, this is as close as we’ll ever get ‘Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)’, the stunning ballad ‘Angel’, the dreamy ‘Drifting’ with its deft guitar work, ‘EZY Rider’ – featuring a guest appearance from Traffic’s Stevie Winwood – and the blistering funk rock of ‘Room Full Of Mirrors’, they all feature here and continue to indicate Hendrix’s brilliance as player, songwriter and singer. This is an album worthy of the Hendrix name, and worthy of your cash.
“If you give deeper thoughts in your music, then the masses will buy them,” Hendrix said, and if he’d finished this double LP his dreams might have come true. But as reimagined by longtime engineer-collaborator Eddie Kramer, it’s less startling musically than Electric Ladyland and not too profound lyrically. It’s also a powerful collection by a genius whose songwriting kept growing and whose solos rarely disappoint.
Alternative: Polydor Russia’s The Cry of Love/War Heroes combines two early-’70s posthumous releases.

South Saturn Delta (1997)

This 1997 album gathers a bunch of leftovers that had shown up on other posthumous albums over the years, like the out-of-print Rainbow Bridge and War Heroes. It’s mostly a collection of demos, alternate takes and sketches of songs recorded between 1967 and the time of Hendrix’s death, but it’s an essential piece for collectors.
The unreleased “Here He Comes (Lover Man)” and the 1967 B-side “The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam’s Dice.” Released the same year as First Rays Of The Rising Sun, South Saturn Delta is a hotchpotch of demo takes, alternative and unfinished versions. Now, that usually spells disaster, but in this case the Hendrix Estate came up with another winning release. The alternate version of ‘All Along The Watchtower’, his take on ‘Drifter’s Escape’ – another Bob Dylan song – and the beautiful instrumental ‘Pali Gap’ (originally featured on the Rainbow Bridge LP) are worth the price of admission alone. The completely new ‘Look Over Yonder’ is an interesting (and particularly strong) addition and it makes you wonder why Hendrix omitted to include it on any of his records released in his lifetime, while this is one of the few places you’ll find a genuinely acoustic Hendrix track  ‘Midnight Lightning’ may only be a demo take, but Jimi’s swampy delta blues-style song is a definite winner. Notably, the title track is probably the most unusual and unlikely Hendrix song – it’s almost jazz rock in nature and unlike anything you ordinarily associate with him – there’s even a horn section. It makes you wonder just what direction Jimi would have pursued if he was still alive.

‘BBC Sessions’ (1998)

Everybody who is anybody in British music has performed for the BBC — the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Who, among countless others, have recorded live sessions for British radio. In 1967 and 1969, Hendrix and the Experience laid down more than three dozen tracks. This two-disc set gathers almost all of them. There’s plenty of familiar Hendrix songs here (“Fire,” “Hey Joe,” etc.), but the great covers — including Bob Dylan’s “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?” and the Beatles’ “Day Tripper” — make it one of the Top 10 Posthumous Jimi Hendrix Albums.
Given that the Jimi Hendrix Experience were a primarily British band, it’s hardly surprising that they managed to rack up several performances for the BBC. Packaged together here as the BBC Sessions, we’re treated to everything they ever recorded for the Beeb, whether for TV or radio, including the candidly aborted ‘Hey Joe’ morphing into ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ from the Lulu show the day after Cream split up.
It’s the cover songs that really hold the most interest – Jimi takes on The Beatles’ ‘Day Tripper’, Willie Dixon’s ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ (featuring Alexis Korner on slide guitar), Leiber & Stoller’s ‘Hound Dog’ and somewhat bizarrely Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Was Made To Love Her’ with none other than the song’s composer on drums.
Of the 32 tracks on this record, we’re given no less than three versions of both ‘Foxy Lady’ and ‘Hey Joe’ but it matters little since Jimi opted to extend and jam every time he played them, so on each recording you’re treated to something a little different. Another bonus point for this collection is the simple fact that the quality is astounding. It isn’t a half-arsed bootleg, these are studio masters lovingly taken care of by Eddie Kramer before release
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The Jimi Hendrix Experience’ (2000)

This four-disc box set includes some previously released material — mostly the songs you’d expect on an anthology like this. But it’s also stuffed with lots of alternate versions, live cuts and other rare tracks making their first appearances. This is one of the best primers for fans who want to dive a little deeper into Hendrix’s surprisingly vast catalog.

Valleys of Neptune (2010)

Remarkably, the dozen studio tracks on this 2010 album had never been released before. Mostly recorded with the original Experience after the release of Electric Ladyland in 1968, Valleys of Neptune includes reworked versions of Jimi Hendrix classics like “Stone Free” and “Fire” as well as instrumental cover of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” and a few bluesy originals. Highlights: the title tune and a cover of Elmore James’ “Bleeding Heart.”

West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology (2010)

Like The Jimi Hendrix Experience box the four-disc West Coast Seattle Boy tells Hendrix’s story through his music. But this terrific set plays out like a biography, starting with his session work for R&B stars like the Isley Brothers and Little Richard, and ending with some of the final recordings he made just months before his death. In between are tons of previously unreleased studio jams, concert performances and cover songs (like an acoustic cover of Dylan and the Band’s “Tears of Rage”) that confirm Hendrix’s legacy as one of the all-time greats.

People Hell And Angels

People, Hell & Angels is an album of twelve previously unreleased Jimi Hendrix studio recordings. The album showcases the legendary guitarist working outside of the original Jimi Hendrix Experience trio. Beginning in 1968, Jimi Hendrix grew restless, eager to develop new material with old friends and new ensembles.

Outside the view of a massive audience that had established the Experience as rock’s largest grossing concert act and simultaneously placed two of his albums together in the US Top 10 sales chart, Jimi was busy working behind the scenes to craft his next musical statement.

Both Sides Of The Sky (2017 )

Legacy Recordings present this dynamic new album of 13 previously unreleased studio recordings, made between January 1968 and February 1970. Notable collaborators include Stephen Stills. This is the third and final volume in a trilogy of previously unreleased material

The previously unissued version of “Lover Man,” which UNCUT deemed “a weaponised piece of funk, with Buddy Miles in particularly thunderous form,” was recorded at the Record Plant in New York on December 15th, 1969 by Hendrix’s then recently assembled new band: Billy Cox on bass, Buddy Miles on drums and, of course, Hendrix on guitar and vocals. The session took place two weeks before the trio introduced itself to the world via four triumphant New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day concerts at the Fillmore East, which would ultimately yield the live album Band of Gypsys (1970) as well as its, critically acclaimed follow up, 2016’s Machine Gun.

Heralded by Relix as “both a historically valuable document . . . and a treat musically,” Both Sides of the Sky, the album home of “Lover Man,” is the third volume in a trilogy of albums intended to present the best and most significant unissued studio recordings remaining in Jimi Hendrix’s archive. It follows Valleys of Neptune (2010) and People, Hell and Angels (2013), which both achieved top 5 chart ranking on Billboard’s Top 100 album chart. Recorded between January 1968 and February 1970, and featuring guest appearances by Stephen Stills, Johnny Winter and Lonnie Youngblood, Both Sides of the Sky contains 10 unreleased tracks. The project was co-produced by Eddie Kramer, Jimi Hendrix’s recording engineer on all of his albums made during his life,

Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy” was reworked by the trio that would come to be known as Band of Gypsys (Jimi Hendrix, bassist Billy Cox, drummer Buddy Miles) during their first ever recording session on April 22nd, 1969 at the Record Plant in New York.

At this point, some 47 years after Jimi Hendrix’s death, it’s probably unrealistic to expect that a set of deep-vault studio tracks can expand the guitarist’s legacy in any meaningful way. This no doubt dismays the Hendrix obsessives, who pine for the long-whispered-about radical experiments they believe Hendrix squirreled away in some Electric Ladyland broom closet. Both Sides of the Sky is the third and purportedly final instalment in a trilogy of albums (starting with 2010’s Valleys of Neptune and 2013’s People, Hell & Angels dedicated to highlighting Jimi’s creative development throughout the last two years of what was an incredibly short albeit spectacular career.

For the rest of us, the arrival of any sort of Hendrix material, especially if it’s captured in the studio, is a chance to be awed, all over again and in surprising ways, by this human’s freakish powers of musical persuasion. No rock figure before or since could breathe fire like Hendrix does, on his beloved well-known albums and on the assortment that is Both Sides Of The Sky. Even when he’s playing the well-worn heard-it-a-zillion-times blues like the opening track “Mannish Boy.” Even when he’s dropping an over-the-top theatrical solo on his original “Hear My Train A-Comin'” that alternately celebrates and shatters blues tropes.

Jimi Hendrix, Both Sides of the Sky
Both Sides of the Sky comes out March 9th via Experience Hendrix LLC.

Both Sides Of The Sky culls music from sessions Hendrix began in 1968 as the follow-up to Electric Ladyland – but never completed as a cogent single album. Though its track list includes a tune with original Jimi Hendrix Experience members Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, the bulk of the set features the lineup that became Band of Gypsies – bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles. Given the high-elevation stratospheres the second great Hendrix trio visited later on, it’s interesting to hear the group attend to rhythm in more foundational ways – check out the way they lock into and maintain the blazing breakneck pace of “Stepping Stone.” The steady backing allows Hendrix to tear into the massive contorted fistfuls of notes that define his solo.

Starting with “Mannish Boy,” a bluesy funky rocker that finds Hendrix exploring his inner Muddy Waters, the cut is also the first known recording he made with Buddy Miles (drums) and Billy Cox (Bass) in April 1969, several months before the trio officially named themselves the Band of Gypsys. “Lover Man,” also recorded with Cox and Miles in December 1969, is another up-tempo tune Jimi had been tinkering with since 1967’s Are You Experienced but never quite managed to perfect to his satisfaction.

Hendrix was open to all kinds of ideas during this period, and some of the most interesting moments involve studio visitors. Stephen Stills sings and plays on two tracks (his original “$20 Fine” and a new Joni Mitchell tune called “Woodstock,” which features Hendrix on bass). Johnny Winter appears as a Hendrix jousting partner on “Things I Used To Do,” and a figure from Hendrix‘ pre-stardom days, the singer and saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood, steps in for “Georgia Blues.”

He lets rip on a scorching “Hear My Train A Comin’,” backed by Mitch Mitchell (drums) and Noel Redding (bass), followed by a country-tinged rendition of “Stepping Stone,” the last single released during his lifetime.

On other tracks Jimi burns the midnight amp via “Jungle,” a previously unreleased instrumental, along with an embryonic take of “Sweet Angel” (recorded in January 1968), a song inspired by a dream Jimi had of his late mother, and continued to work on until his death.

Fans of Crosby, Stills & Nash may be fascinated to hear a nascent reading of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” with Stephen Stills singing and Hendrix filling in the role on bass. On other tracks Jimi branches out, exploring new musical territory on the medium-tempo ballad “Send My Love To Linda,” 

All these performances – along with the searching guitar/sitar/drums instrumental “Cherokee Mist” that closes the album – overflow with the single salient trait that made Hendrix unstoppable: his spirit. No matter what he’s playing, whether it’s a workman’s blues or some high-concept improvisation, he conveys, just through the way he sings and the way he shapes the notes, that what he’s doing matters. And will not be stopped. There’s always something deep and existential on the line, and it is that emotional intensity – not the songs, not the flashy solo playing – that defines every Hendrix encounter. This one just doesn’t disappoint.

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

The four shows that Band Of Gypsys played at Fillmore East to bring in the New Year have rightly gone down as some of the best shows of all time, especially those on New Year’s Day itself. There were moments on New Year’s Eve where the band seemed to be lacking energy for whatever reason but on the whole every show was fantastic, as stated by the lucky devils I interviewed who were there to witness the shows for themselves. The music was funkier than that of the Hendrix Experience and while the drums may seem simple at times especially compared to Mitch Mitchell, the drums are a pivotal piece to the music that Hendrix was playing at this particular time. The Band Of Gypsys wouldn’t last for much longer with their final show coming less then a month later at Madison Square Garden in New York (Hendrix would leave the stage after just two songs and Miles would be fired backstage) but the music the band played at these four shows was and continues to be nothing short of exceptional.

There are certain artists who played certain shows with certain performances that will always be remembered, and that is certainly the case with the Band Of Gypsys at Fillmore East.

JANUARY 1ST 1970: SECOND NIGHT (THURSDAY)

FIRST SHOW: Setlist:

Who Knows
Machine Gun
Them Changes
Power Of Soul
Stepping Stone
Foxy Lady
Stop
Earth Blues
Burning Desire
The two shows from New Year’s Day 1970 are considered to be the finest shows the Band Of Gypsys ever played together. The band open the early show with the funky Who Knows which was debuted the night before at the late show. This version would end up on the self titled live album released later in 1970 with a call and response from Hendrix and Miles. The riff from Who Knows is definitely one of the most infectious Hendrix riffs of all time and it’s one hell of a way to open a show. Not a bad introduction. Machine Gun follows and this exact performance is what people today consider one of the finest moments in rock history and you can’t help but share that view when you listen for yourself. What Hendrix managed to do with the guitar in his lifetime was exceptional and in a live setting he was even more on his game than he was in the studio, and that’s saying something. But this performance of Machine Gun is musical perfection in every sense of the term. You can only imagine how incredible it was to witness this performance in person and thankfully we have a recording to re-live it as best as we can over and over again. Buddy Miles returns on lead vocals for Them Changes with Hendrix playing that funky riff whilst being able to take a back seat and focus on his playing. The solo that he plays is gorgeous with splashes of wah-wah once again to create that Band Of Gypsys tone that so many guitarists long for even today. Halfway through the song things slow down as Miles takes over on lead vocals. Hendrix and Cox remain composed in the background waiting for the moment where the song will take off once again. Before that happens, Miles begins to quick things on drums before everyone else comes in on that funky riff once again.

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Power Of Soul makes it’s third appeared in three shows and any of the energy present the previous evening hasn’t diminished one bit. Hendrix is in fine form and brings in the wah-wah once again for a second solo near the end of the song, having playing a solo without it to begin with. It’s a great mixture of tone to say the least. Stepping Stone during this early show is the complete opposite to how it was played the day before where it appeared to lack energy, at least if the recording has anything to go by. But this performance is fantastic with Buddy Miles driving the song forward and coming across as far more laid back and relaxed than he had the previous night. Hendrix on vocals comes across as confident and in control and the guitar playing is as you’d expect it would be. Incredible. It’s followed by Foxy Lady which, once more, would prove to be one of the finest moments from not only this particular show but the entire Fillmore East run.

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Mark Waldrop (Fillmore East Usher – Present At All Four Shows)

“The thing I remember most was that he didn’t look stoned like he often did and he was clearly enjoying himself more than I’d ever seen. His hair was shorter and it seemed like a different Jimi in a good way. I do recall that the 1st show was unspectacular, but that’s well documented. The other three shows were outstanding.”

Tony Fradkin (Audience Member)

“I’m pretty sure I wasn’t there on the 31st. I do recall that we were really disappointed that he was just standing there and not moving much, but when the LP came out later, we realized that he was playing his ass off. I think he did do Foxy Lady and moved around a bit on that one. I’m always amazed at folks that remember all of these details, I certainly don’t!”

Stop is a song which, as you can hear from the New Year’s Day early show, sounded so much better than it did the previous night. The band appear to be on top of things and Miles really impresses on lead vocal duties with Hendrix supplying some tasteful backing vocals when needed. Hendrix goes on to take a short solo before Miles takes control of the song once more with another vocal verse. It’s quickly followed by Earth Blues although sadly the start of this song is cut from the recording, but what you’re able to hear is Hendrix (yet again) at the top of his game. Something he’s always been known and admired for was his ability to have the music flow from his fingertips and this performance is a really good example of that. Paired with the incredible tone he produces, you feel like you’ve been hit by a freight train once the song ends. Burning Desire then returns to close the set just like it did at the early show the previous evening.

When you listen to a recording of this show from start to finish you’ll realise at the end how fast it went by. There were only nine songs played but with the first two clocking in at twenty two minutes combined, it was anything but short. The fact that it goes by so fast is a testament to how great these three guys played, after all, time flies when you’re enjoying yourself.

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thanks to Tom Caswell for this article

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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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