The Jimi Hendrix Experience
(Experience Hendrix / MCA)

THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE: The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Experience Hendrix / MCA)Universally recognized as one of the most creative and influential musicians of the 20th century, Jimi Hendrix single-handedly pioneered the explosive popularity of the electric guitar. His innovative style of combining fuzz, feedback & controlled distortion created a new and unparalleled music form. Unable to read of write music, Hendrix was entirely self-taught. His main influences came from all the major bluesmen: BB King, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Robert Johnson, etc.

In September of 1966, he moved to London with Mitch Mitchell & Noel Redding. The Jimi Hendrix Experience quickly became the talk of the town. Their first single, "Hey Joe" spent 10 weeks on the UK charts, reaching a respectable #6. The Are You Experienced? album quickly followed. With such signature tunes as "Purple Haze," "The Wind Cries Mary," "Foxey Lady" and "Fire," it eventually went on to become one of the most popular rock albums of all time.

For his next album, Hendrix took greater control of his music, spending considerably more time in the studio. The result was the ambitious Axis: Bold as Love. Shortly after the release of Axis, Jimi designed and built Electric Lady Studios in New York's Greenwich Village. The studio became the namesake for the Electric Ladyland album, his most demanding musical endeavor to date. It would also be the last album he would release before his untimely death.

In August of 1969, Hendrix headlined the infamous Woodstock Music and Arts Festival in Saugerties, NY, where he whipped the weary, mud soaked crowd into a frenzy with his groundbreaking rendition of The Star Spangled Banner." The end of '69 found Hendrix playing with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles. The trio performed 4 concerts at the legendary Fillmore East. Highlights of the shows were released by Capitol as the now classic album, Band of Gypsys. An expanded version was released in 1999 as Jimi Hendrix: Live at the Fillmore East.

This brings us to the present. The folks at Experience Hendrix/MCA recently released the cleverly titled new box set: The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Spanning 4CDs/8LPs, this new collection includes 56 tracks of unreleased material, live cuts, alternate takes, and rarities. The 80-page book is loaded with rare photos, notes on each track, essays by noted Hendrix historians, plus Jimi's handwritten lyrics to several songs. Enclosed in a beautiful, crushed velvet box, the new box is sure to please fans. From live tracks recorded in Paris in 1966 (the band's fourth live performance ever) to his last known studio recording, the material covers Jimi's entire career. All but nine of the songs are previously unreleased, and several of those are appearing on CD for the first time.

Highlights are too numerous to mention, but for starters: the box includes alternate versions of "Purple Haze," "Foxey Lady," "Highway Chile" (appearing in stereo for the first time), "Hey Joe," plus extended versions of "Third Stone From the Sun," "Spanish Castle Magic," and "Gloria." Then there are the first known recordings of "Little Wing," "Sweet Angel," "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" (along with the first live rendition of the song). The last disc ends with "Slow Blues," Jimi's last known studio recording.

Even though this collection is aimed at existing Jimi-philes, there are more than enough tunes here to satisfy even the casual fans. Experience Hendrix/MCA has done a consistently great job with the titles they've released, and this box set is the crème de le crème. Highly recommended.

Vinyl collectors note: There was only one press run of the box on vinyl. If you see it, buy it.

© 2000 Steve Marshall

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