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Newly-released Jimi Hendrix: People, Hell and Angels'

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Less than four years separated Jimi Hendrix's first London recording session for 'Hey Joe' in October 1966 and his final studio visit, a mastering session with Bob Ludwig (now of Gateway Mastering in Portland) in August 1970. In that narrow window, Hendrix recorded a body of work that continues to surprise, inspire and influence generations of fans and musicians alike.  

Since 1995, when Experience Hendrix (then headed by the late Al Hendrix, Jimi's father) gained control of Jimi's musical legacy, his core music catalog has been restored and a series of carefully compiled and annotated albums has been issued, each offering a bounty of previously unavailable material. The latest is 'People, Hell and Angels,' a collection of 12 previously unreleased studio recordings from 1968 and 1969 due on March 5 from Experience Hendrix/Sony Legacy.

According to longtime Experience Hendrix catalog manager and co-producer, John McDermott, the concept behind 'People, Hell and Angels' was to create a compilation of some of Jimi's experiments outside of the original Jimi Hendrix Experience. 'Thematically, what we've tried to do with all of our releases is to present a group of recordings that are significant and show what Jimi was trying to achieve at that particular point in time,' McDermott explained in a recent phone interview.  

'People, Hell and Angels' is a companion of sorts to 2010's 'Valleys of Neptune' which showcased Hendrix's last recordings with the original Experience and his first steps into the future. 'This was a very fertile time for Jimi,' McDermott said. 'How many artists with hugely successful groups were comfortable, particularly at that time, with stepping outside to incorporate the talents of other musicians inside a collection of new songs? Today, in a contemporary world, producers and artists do that all the time. In 1968, it was a pretty interesting step to say, I have this amazing group, but I'm feeling something differently here and I want to pursue it.'' 

In early 1970, 'Rolling Stone' magazine sarcastically bestowed Jimi with a 'No news is good news' headline, proclaiming, 'Jimi Hendrix had a big year. A pretty neat trick for a musician who made no music.' In actuality, Hendrix spent much of 1969 and 1970 recording voraciously as he strove to realize a follow-up to his epic 1968 double album, 'Electric Ladyland.'   

'Ultimate Hendrix,' McDermott's 2009 book, chronicles every known studio session and concert and reveals that Jimi was seldom satisfied with his own performance in the studio. He had accumulated an abundance of promising new songs and filled hundreds of reels of tape with various arrangements, rehearsals, jams and experiments as he moved from song to song and take to take.  

Fortunately for fans, most of those takes are preserved, thanks to Jimi's insistence on having fresh tape at the ready. For example, from the session for 'Somewhere,' recorded on March 13, 1968, engineer Angel Sandoval told McDermott about the massive cache of tapes Jimi had accumulated at New York's Sound Center studios: 'I would say, Jimi, you know some of these tapes, you can run again.' He'd say, Oh no, just keep putting (new reels of tape) on' And I thought, Oh my God.''  

'Somewhere' marked Hendrix's first session with drummer Buddy Miles with friend Stephen Stills on bass and is a wholly different version from that which appeared on the 'Jimi Hendrix Experience' box set (released in 2000 and commonly referred to as The Purple Box').  When it was issued as a single in early February 2013, 'Somewhere' debuted at #1 on Billboard's Hot Singles Sales Chart.  

Three days after the 'Somewhere' session, The Jimi Hendrix Experience played their only Maine concert at the Lewiston Armory. It was a show that attendees are still buzzing about 45 years later.  

While some of the song titles on 'People, Hell and Angels' will look familiar to fans, these versions are seeing official release for the first time. Among the album's many highlights are an earthy, funky, early take of 'Earth Blues' a later Band of Gypsys highlight. 'Hear My Train a Comin'' features a jaw-dropping Hendrix solo and a deep groove from Billy Cox on bass and Miles on drums. 'Easy Blues' has been mercifully restored to its full length. The sweet, infectious, jazz-inspired instrumental was first issued (in edited form) on the long-deleted 'Nine to the Universe' compilation in 1980.   

Casual observers may be forgiven for wondering how it is possible to find enough previously unheard Jimi Hendrix material to fill another album worthy of major-label release more than 42 years after his death. They may be amazed to find out that there is more to come.  

Jimi Hendrix would be 70 years old if he were still with us. Experience Hendrix marks that milestone with 'People, Hell and Angels' and has further plans to celebrate a musical visionary and the incredible body of work that he left us all created in less than four years.  

 

Inside People, Hell and Angels' with co-producer John McDermott

Dow: The title - 'People, Hell and Angels' was that an album title that Jimi was considering in 1970?

McDermott: 'People, Hell and Angels' was a title that Jimi had at that time. At one point, they had so much material that he actually considered a triple album, and this was going to be one of the ideas. We dug it because it was a Jimi Hendrix title just like 'South Saturn Delta,' 'Valleys of Neptune' and 'West Coast Seattle Boy.' I think there's a danger in trying to extrapolate, 'Well, Jimi was thinking this, therefore this is what he meant' no. It's his title, but whatever he intended, he didn't live to follow through. We certainly don't want to suggest that, in 1970, Jimi envisioned that this album would be connected with this title. 

Dow: Take us through the tracks on 'People, Hell and Angels,' starting with 'Earth Blues' (Recorded Dec. 19, 1969).

McDermott: What's cool about this particular version is that it differs greatly from the version on 'First Rays of the New Rising Sun' (issued by Experience Hendrix in 1997). This is really the stripped down, funked version of the song. There's a drum break instead of the solo in the middle, the lyrics are different, the approach is different - it's a little more laid back. It's great to hear both, and this is our opportunity to make this version available for everybody to hear. 

Dow: It's amazing that Jimi had recorded 'Somewhere' (March 13, 1968) when he was accumulating tracks for 'Electric Ladyland,' yet this great song was ignored and forgotten about.

McDermott: Part of it is that I think he was chafing a little bit to get out from under Chas Chandler's control as producer. He made a conscious decision not to involve Mitch and Noel in this particular recording, and I don't know that Chas was comfortable with that kind of thinking. Certainly, when Jimi did 'All Along the Watchtower' with Dave Mason, that was outside of his work with Chas. He did the session with Eddie Kramer. I wonder if Jimi was trying to assert a little bit of independence as a producer.

I think what's brilliant about the version of 'Somewhere' here is that it marks a different approach. There's a version of the song that we put on 'The Purple Box' that Mitch had overdubbed drums on (in 1971). It's a different take entirely, and it's great to be able to show the different approach, the different style and technique that Mitch used and hear, in this version, how Buddy did it.

This version of 'Hear My Train a Comin'' comes from the same session as 'Bleeding Heart' (May 21, 1969). Right from the start, Billy and Buddy start playing this really menacing groove, and the arrangement is really great. They're hearing it as a contemporary work, not as pure homage to blues. This song is a Hendrix original not a cover of an old blues tune. They see it and feel right from take one that fire is there. When they're setting that foundation, you hear Jimi soaring freely above it on the incredible solo that he worked into the body of the song. 

Dow: (on 'Bleeding Heart') This is a much different arrangement of the song that he had played just a few months earlier with the Experience at the Royal Albert Hall.  

McDermott: Elmore James was a huge influence on Jimi. I remember Faye Pridgeon, Jimi's girlfriend, telling me that 'Anna Lee' was one of Jimi's all-time favorite songs. He tried 'Bleeding Heart' in a number of different ways. The version he played at the Royal Albert Hall, three months before this recording, was in a slower tempo. Here, he very specifically said to Billy and Buddy, 'I want to do this with a different beat.' And they kicked off this really funky, slow groove which, again, made the song his own. Like 'Hey Joe' or 'All Along the Watchtower,' you get a sense that this is more than just a cover. It's him truly interpreting the song and I think people will love it. 

Dow: 'Let Me Move You' (March 18, 1969) is a new track for many Hendrix fans.

McDermott: It is. I think Jimi was a loyal friend to a lot of people he had worked with on his way forward. Lonnie Youngblood was a saxophonist and R&B sideman that he had done a number of sessions with in 1966. In March of '69, Jimi invited Lonnie to a session. Try to imagine what Lonnie was doing in '66 and Jimi saying, 'We're going to do this as a contemporary thing the way I see it, feel it and hear it.' It's an amazing kind of high-energy take of these guys doing the kind of funk, soul, R&B and rock that Lonnie was hinting at in '66 and here is Jimi doing it in '69.  

Dow: This version of 'Izabella' (Aug. 28, 1969) was recorded only 10 days after Jimi's performance at 'Woodstock' and is entirely different from what we've heard before.

McDermott: Jimi and Eddie Kramer brought the guys into The Hit Factory in New York City - a new studio for them. This track and the next, 'Easy Blues,' were cut at the same session. This is the promise that Jimi got hints of with this band. I think this he was enticed by the idea of a sympathetic rhythm guitar player like Larry Lee who could play - not against him but in support of what he was trying to do. Eddie Kramer and I heard this version years ago and said, 'This needs to go on the right record.' The solo is fantastic, and this is one of the songs that had gone very well at the festival. I think Jimi was excited to try to capture it on tape.  

Dow: It's great to hear the original version of 'Crash Landing' (April 24, 1969) just how Jimi did it - minus the 'Frankenstein' edits and overdubs committed by the previous administration in 1974.

McDermott: We've tried to present a lot of those songs that had been on those records in their original form. This is a different take than what was used on that album. When you listen to it, I think the original session was really good. It's obviously a precursor to the song 'Freedom,' which was much more fully formed and I think more convincingly performed at Electric Lady (Hendrix's studio in New York City which opened shortly before his death. He recorded there in 1970 during the studio's construction). 'Crash Landing' is a very interesting glimpse at the development of how Jimi approached writing and recording. You're hearing a song with other elements put together some of which he'll extract later some of it he'll develop or set aside. This is the song heard with the original instrumentation and fans can enjoy it for what it is. I think that's important. 

Dow: 'Inside Out' (June 11, 1968) is another new title for Jimi fans but a track with a familiar riff.  

McDermott: This song incorporates the riff that Jimi later used for 'Ezy Rider.'  He had this riff and loved it. I think Jimi was still very much interested in 'Tax Free,' the instrumental by (Swedish jazz-fusion duo) Hansson and Karlsson, that he loved to play live. I think the approach here is, he's trying to marry that riff to the rhythmic structure of a song like 'Tax Free.' We chose it because it's him and Mitch and it's really the start of Jimi saying, 'I have a vision I don't have to work in a group format I'm going to approach the song as I feel it,' and we thought this was a compelling example of that approach.

(on 'Hey Gypsy Boy' March 18, 1969)

McDermott: Jimi was co-producing Buddy Miles's 'Electric Church' album during this period. This track features Jimi, Buddy and an unnamed bass player. I have a sense that it was Buddy Miles's bass player, but we don't have any documentation to confirm that. This track was the start of 'Hey Baby.' This is the original version of a track that was overdubbed and tinkered with on the 1975 album 'Midnight Lightning.' Here, we present the original track. Like a lot of those songs, we wanted to put it before his fans with the original instrumentation so that people could say, 'OK, this is what that song was all about.' 

Dow: 'Mojo Man' is another new title. I've never heard this before.

McDermott: Jimi was a friend to the Allen twins (Arthur and Albert) who had a band called The International G.T.O.'s which was kind of a traditional R&B band. They had gone to Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and cut this really great track with James Booker on piano and the house band. They played it for Jimi in June of '69. At that point, The International G.T.O.s kind of ended and ultimately, what became The Ghetto Fighters began. In 1970, once Jimi had Electric Lady (Hendrix's own recording studio) going, he suggested that they bring the tape to him. He did a couple of guitar overdubs and transformed the song. Fame was a fantastic studio at that time with a great feel for making hits during that era, but Jimi took a step back and said, 'This is how I approach it,' and when you hear it, it sounds like nothing that would have come out of a studio like Fame at that time.

Dow: I've always loved 'Villanova Junction Blues' that slow instrumental that he played at the end of his set at Woodstock. This version was recorded three months earlier (May 21, 1969), so he'd been holding onto it for a while.

McDermott: It really speaks to Jimi's belief in his material. Here's a guy who, on his major television debuts ('The Tonight Show' and 'The Dick Cavett Show'), did not play his hits. He's throwing new material at an audience who is wondering, 'What album is this on?' Most artists of the day were promoting their big hits of the time. Hendrix was like 'No, I'm moving forward.' At Woodstock, this was a great example. The song was brilliantly performed there, and as you hear on 'People, Hell and Angels,' the song was in his head months before. He was doing it with Billy and Buddy. The idea was there, the melody was there, and at the right time he was going to bring it forward, and that's what he did so brilliantly at Woodstock.  

Dow: The single for 'Somewhere' is out on CD (available at Walmart) and on 7' vinyl (available at record stores) each with exclusive bonus cuts. Tell me about those tracks.

McDermott: The vinyl single offers 'Power of Soul' and was mixed by Jimi and Bob Hughes at the Record Plant on Feb. 3, 1970. Unfortunately, during the 'Crash Landing' era, the multi-track had been cut and altered with a couple of pieces of the song excised. We presented that version, mixed by Eddie, on South Saturn Delta in 1997. This is the last version that Jimi himself had his ideas and fingerprints on and includes the extra material which, sadly, isn't on the multi-track anymore. The CD single has a previously unreleased version of 'Foxy Lady' performed by the Band of Gypsys recorded at Fillmore East on the first of January 1970. On the 'West Coast Seattle Boy' box set, we had issued the version recorded the night before. This is the next day and it's a really cool version. Again, it's interesting to hear the approach Buddy Miles takes versus Mitch. It shows you that the supporting musicians really do influence the final music you hear, and we thought this was a really cool track to put forward. It's on the 'Band of Gypsys' DVD in stereo and 5.1, but it's never been out in this quality on CD. 

Dow: Are there plans for future releases in 2013 what would have been Jimi's 70th year?  

McDermott: We're hoping to do a number of things, and this is the start. We're looking forward to making available his performances at the Miami Pop Festival (May 1968) for example.  

In another release for record stores, we're putting out the original mono 45 mixes of 'Stone Free' and 'Hey Joe' that had come out in the U.K. (This will be released in tandem with Record Store Day on April 20). We're trying to support local record stores as best we can because they've been the most loyal to Jimi throughout his career. 

We're also releasing vinyl versions of the mono mixes for Jimi's two albums that had discrete mono mixes, 'Are You Experienced' and 'Axis: Bold As Love.' (The 200-gram vinyl mono editions of Jimi's first two albums will be available on March 5 the same day as 'People, Hell and Angels.' The mono mixes are not mere 'fold-downs' of the left and right channels -they differ considerably from their well-known stereo counterparts ).  

Dow: For those people who don't play vinyl but would like to have the mono mixes, do you think they will be issued on CD at some point maybe as a companion disc to a reissued version of the album? 

McDermott: Oh, I think so. We've looked at doing a CD or even an SACD of the mono and stereo versions. I think the demand is stronger for the vinyl initially, but there is no reason why we wouldn't make them available on CD certainly.  

Dow: What is the current status of the Royal Albert Hall project? (The Feb. 1969 film and recordings have been tangled in litigation for decades. Experience Hendrix has already prepared a release for audio and video).

McDermott: We've essentially made the film and it's wonderful. Eddie Kramer has mixed the sound. The work is done we've just had some stones in our path that have been unforeseen and problematic. We hope to release it and will do that as soon as we can.  

Final thoughts on 'People, Hell and Angels' 

McDermott: Jimi left such an incredible body of music. Here we are more than 40 years later talking about how exciting it is to hear different examples of songs or different versions of songs. I think an artist of that appeal, charisma, power they are so few and far between. You really recognize what a loss it was to not have him creating music beyond 1970. 

With a lot of the Experience Hendrix releases, you hear the version that was on 'First Rays of the New Rising Sun,' and now you hear this version. It's Jimi approaching a great song almost two different ways. The players he selects, the approach he selects it's fascinating. Absent him here creating new music, really the best we can do is to provide these different snapshots, if you will, of songs as he developed them.  

'The Big Morning Show with Mike Dow' can be heard each morning on Big 104 FM The Biggest Hits of the '60s, '70s & '80s - airing on 104.3,104.7 and 107.7.

'Somewhere' (Audio) Jimi Hendrix 'Here My Train a Comin'' (with Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer)

Last modified on Friday, 01 March 2013 09:54

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