Jimi Hendrix – [Box Set]

Monday, 15 November 2010

In the four decades since his passing, Jimi Hendrix' name, likeness, music and legacy have all been rehashed, re-serviced, re-imagined and reissued so often that everything about his body of work has become very superficial; “Hendrix” has really become a set of four albums, a series of classic singles and riffs and a surprising number of posthumous releases. Sure – people will concede that the guitarist has a rich and storied history, but most don't even know the half of it. The “nearly secret” history of Jimi Hendrix involves a remarkable resume of sideman positions with Sixties R&B royalty including tenures of employment with The Isley Brothers, Little Richard and many more but, given the way that music was recorded and how credit was given back then, figuring out who is who on which recording is often an exercise in futility. that is the portion of Jimi Hendrix' story – the pre-Experience days – that the West Coast Seattle Boy box set attempts to shed a bit more light on, as well as the more “indie” side of the guitarist's work including the home demos that the guitarist made to keep notes on ideas that he had while he was on the road, and live cuts from those tours as well. True, the selection of material isn't what most people would consider “Essential Hendrix” but, for really big fans and historians who really want to know the guitarist and understand his motivation for working the way he did and have a keen interest in seeing the evolutions that the guitarist's legacy underwent before he became the institution he is today, West Coast Seattle Boy is fantastic and of great interest indeed.

In order to make the transitions through this four-CD, single DVD set run smoothly and without too many lapses in continuity, it's key that attention to chronology is both established and maintained – so of course West Coast Seattle Boy begins at the beginning before there was a Jimi Hendrix. From an art-history standpoint, disc one of the set is very interesting; while none of the songs that Hendrix played on for Little Richard or The Isley Brothers are widely regarded as either act's “greatest hits,” listening to them here with a hair more emphasis placed on the guitar parts (the tracks have been remastered and Hendrix' guitar has been turned up a bit in the mixes) as is the case, it's possible to trace a few hints of the tone and style Hendrix would later use when he began working on his own music with the Experience; the slippery and soulful R&B of “Testify” and “I Don't Know What You Got But It's Not Me” echo the “rock from Saturn” strains of songs like “And The Gods Made Love” and “Long Hot Summer Night” – albeit in a less personally authoritative way. In spite of the fact that these are not Hendrix' songs and they aren't “definitive” performances for the guitarist, they're still of interest, if only because they offer up a few dots that further articulate his image; listening to them, it's possible to get a better impression of where Hendrix cut his teeth, and what role that experience would play in his future. Likewise, the demos  the demos that Hendrix made at home, on the road and in Electric Lady Studios between 1968 and 1970 offer a bit more of the connective tissue in the development of songs like “Are You Experienced?,” “Freedom,” “Hey Baby” and “Room Full Of Mirrors,” and measuring the differences that appear here versus on the final studio versions will definitely be of interest to the most devoted Hendrix fans, and to young guitarists who are interested to chart Hendrix development as a player and performer, and see how that knowledge may in turn help them improve.



West Coast Seattle Boy
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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