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The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Winterland

Experience Hendrix

Just when it was thought the Hendrix estate did a clean closet cleaning of releasing the legendary musician’s recordings, they still manage to unearth more material to add to a legacy that still looms larger than life.

Recorded at a three night stand at Winterland in 1968 and taken from a series of six shows, this four cd set presents this trio performing at a musical zenith before falling apart as a unit months later. Hendrix’ mood is up-beat, talking and joking with the audience as if he was really having a good time at that juncture of his career.

While bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell are not endowed with the musical prowess that Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker had in pushing Clapton to great heights in Cream (who were breaking up when Hendrix was taking the stage at Windterland), they still proved an adequate rhythm section for a guitarist who pushed things to a breaking point. Whether experimenting with feedback to create airy solos brushed with psychedelic mayhem or bringing it back to the blues (as proven in the earthy “Hear My Train A Comin”), it was that type of exploration that defined the man for taking things to excess, on-stage as well as off.

And for being recorded 44 years ago, this set of music just smokes when coming out of the speakers. Not surprising considering this package was engineered and mixed by Eddie Kramer who was Hendrix’ co-visionary back in the day. At the rate the Hendrix family keeps discovering more recordings, its doubtful Kramer will ever get to enjoy the fruits of retirement. For that man it’s a small price to pay to turn on a younger generation just getting wind of the Hendrix legend.

While his performance of the “Star Spangled Banner” achieved notoriety at the infamous Woodstock festival, he was already honing the patriotic staple into its Vietnam effigy on-stage at Winterland. Special guest appearance by Jack Casady, bassist with the than burgeoning Jefferson Airplane shoots a blast of effervescent blues-rock into “Killin Floor.” Rarely performed versions of “Manic Depression” and “Are You Experienced” you can’t enough of with the later stretching itself to the 12 minute mark. Virgil Gonsalves from The Buddy Miles Express drops in to add flute lines which are almost indecipherable in the mix. It might be just as well. Take it in two ways: a terrific psychedelic journey or your worst heroin nightmare.

The added bonus is a backstage interview taken from the Boston Garden featured on the fourth cd. Hendrix speaks of his influences and what the support unit the Experience was even though their final days were shortly ahead of them.

Of all the odds and ends the Hendrix family discovers when they want to clean up shop, this might just be crowned jewel of the recordings they have stumbled on. And if it serves a purpose of getting a person psyched up when the Hendrix Tribute Tour rolls into town, than you know you‘ve gotten your money’s worth. Take it as a piece of history capturing a musician whose star was on the rise only to crash too quickly due to living in the fast lane and finally going over the edge.

Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.

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