Hendrix in the West
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2012, Volume 19, #1
Written by John Metzger
Tue January 24, 2012, 05:30 AM CST
The original version of Hendrix in the West contained a hodgepodge of material that was culled from shows that were held in 1969 and 1970 in California and England. Issued posthumously, the album was designed to showcase the transitional nature of Jimi Hendrix’s music as he dissolved the original incarnation of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and searched for its successor. Some of its tracks were recorded prior to the legendary shows at the Fillmore East that featured Band of Gypsies; others were captured in the months following the outfit’s utter collapse in the wake of a calamitous concert in New York City.
Hendrix in the West had been out-of-print for a while when Experience Hendrix and Legacy Recordings decided to bring it back to market last fall. The outing that the partnership produced, however, is not the same as the set that was issued on vinyl in 1972. The order of the songs was altered slightly, and three new cuts were added to the collection (Fire, I Don’t Live Today, and Spanish Castle Magic). Most notably, though, different versions of Little Wing and Voodoo Child (Slight Return) appear on the new edition of Hendrix in the West.
The changes are likely to annoy only the purists among Hendrix’s fans. On the 1972 rendition of Hendrix in the West, Little Wing was a work of soulful beauty and grace, and the same thing can be said about the track that appears on the latest version of the endeavor. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) offers a modest improvement to its counterpart. A reflection of the times in which it was created, the song is handled violently and aggressively, and each chord erupts with detonating force, igniting an all-consuming inferno of torment and rage.
As for the rest of the endeavor, Hendrix in the West still conjures the same moods and contains the same flaws that it always did. Hendrix tackles Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode and Carl Perkins’ Blue Suede Shoes with manic explosiveness, while covers of The Queen and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band remain curiosities that undoubtedly worked better on stage than they do on an album. Elsewhere, Hendrix sounds bored with Fire, and while I Don’t Live Today and Spanish Castle Magic have their moments, he and his band occasionally stumble through the punishing rhythmic fury.
Once again, Red House serves as the highlight of Hendrix in the West. Here, in the slow, smoldering blues of one of his earliest songs, is where Hendrix’s heart lies. Over the course of his all-too-brief career, he made numerous attempts to fit the tune into the context of his studio work, but he was never satisfied with the results. In concert, however, Red House always managed to shine. Its dark corners consistently elicited a heightened emotional delivery from Hendrix, and the version that appears on both incarnations of Hendrix in the West is no exception. The raw, aching devastation in his vocals as well as his guitar playing is matched by the brutal, pounding, rhythmic churning provided by Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell.
Hendrix in the West has never been viewed as a perfect example of Hendrix’s concert persona. Its patchwork quilt of material has always left the set feeling more like a series of snapshots than a cohesive performance. Nevertheless, it does showcase the mercurial nature of the guitarist’s music, highlighting both his strengths and his weaknesses along the way. In spite of the changes that were made to the endeavor, Hendrix in the West sounds exactly as it always has. ½
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2012 The Music Box