Blue Haze: Songs of Jimi Hendrix
First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2001, Volume 8, #2
Written by John Metzger
In the years that have passed since Jimi Hendrix's death, countless artists have paid tribute to the legendary guitarist both on stage and in the recording studio. There is no question that his influence has reverberated throughout the music business, regardless of genre — an amazing feat given he only released a handful of albums while he was alive.
The latest memorial to Hendrix's music is Blue Haze, which collects newly recorded cover material from the likes of Alvin Youngblood Hart, Eric Burdon, Michelle Shocked, Walter Trout, and others. This set is an intriguing compilation due to the fact that it focuses on some of Hendrix's lesser-known material while largely forgoing any attempts to imitate his guitar pyrotechnics — with the notable exception of Eric Gales' churning take on Voodoo Chile and three tracks with guitarist Walter Trout. In many hands, this might be a disaster waiting to happen, but both Trout and Gales are more than capable of emulating Hendrix's incendiary leads while imprinting them with their stylistic sense. On the rest of the songs, guitar solos aren't completely absent, but they thankfully are subdued more than one might expect. Consequently, it's Hendrix's sense of a tuneful phrase and his deft songwriting skill that garner the attention — and deservedly so.
Of course, as with most tribute albums, not everything on Blue Haze works. Eric Bibb's rendition of Angel lacks the beauty of Hendrix's own rendition and instead sounds like an adult contemporary pop ballad. Likewise, Friend 'n' Fellow manages to turn Purple Haze into a throwaway track, and Eric Burdon's Third Stone from the Sun imposes a spoken word piece over the gorgeous instrumental, mutilating it in the process.
But the majority of the album does find a way to take Hendrix's music in some new and interesting directions. Burdon's delivery of I Don't Live Today packs all the fire of the original; Taj Mahal jazzes up Bob Dylan's All Along the Watchtower; and Michelle Shocked completely reinvents and reinvigorates House Burning Down. Though nothing can surpass Hendrix's readings of his own material, this set does a more than adequate job of paying tribute.
Of Further Interest...
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2001 The Music Box