|Jimi Hendrix - Band of Gypsys (Live at the Fillmore East)|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Tuesday, 06 July 1999|
Sound Quality = 8.5
Studio: Experience Hendrix
Injustice is defined by the fact that Jimi Hendrix didn't make it through the year he celebrated with such tremendous style and musical genius on this new double CD remastered from the Hendrix archives. The Band of Gypsys, featuring Buddy Miles on drums and Billy Cox on bass, represented a musical departure for Hendrix from his famed Experience. The Band of Gypsys were a more jazzy, free-flowing and less poppy project, capable of and frequently found extending jams into the 15 to 20 minute range.
With Buddy Miles picking up the vocals on a number of tracks, The Band of Gypsys project gave Jimi the ability to focus on and explore his guitar artistry to levels that, prior to this album, were never available for us to hear. This recording was made over two nights -- December 31, 1969 and January 1, 1970 -- at the legendary Fillmore East. The performances are loose in format, but tight in execution even though Hendrix was true to form with his self-deprecating comments about his playing and his band.
The musical highlights on disc 2 of Live at the Fillmore East include an absolutely smokin' version of the rare cut "Earth Blues," an improv-based "Who Knows" and one of my personal favorite Hendrix cuts, "Burning Desire." On disc 1, you'll find a few more of the Hendrix standards including a charged-up version of "Stone Free" that features some of the most developed and funky two-part Hendrix rhythm-lead guitar chops. These fills are the kind that, even 29 years after the performance, have Hendrix wannabes still practicing.
Cut two on disc 1 has one of the coolest insights in the life and passions of Jimi Hendrix. He takes the time to thank the mighty (and my beloved) University of Southern California Trojans for dismantling some football team from Michigan. He quickly rips into what may be the biggest jam of the record in "Power of Soul." Preaching the sermon of peace and love, the lyrics "with the power of soul, anything is possible" is still a potent mantra for 1999.
"Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" was played hard to appease the loyal Experience fans in attendance. The rifts were cutting, swirling and as fuzzy as ever. When Jimi emerged from the cacophony of sound his psychedelic lyrics almost couldn't cut through the roar of the crowd. I still can't comprehend how he can sing the first lines of the song and play the melody at the same time. The solo on "Voodoo Chile" is the best I have in my collection of over 50 Hendrix recordings.
The Vietnam- and riot-inspired "Machine Gun" appears on the album twice and seemed to be a theme of The Band of Gypsys. However, at lengths of 11:30 on disc 1 and 12:30 on disc 2, I think you get more than enough of perhaps the most dated song in The Band of Gypsys' repertoire.
When we boil it all down to determine the most influential musical geniuses of the 20th century, Jimi Hendrix will likely have my vote. He redefined the rock and roll guitar, spoke of timeless subjects and created melodies that stand the test of hindsight. The Band of Gypsys Live at The Fillmore East is an absolute must-have for any Hendrix fan and, unlike some Hendrix's early work, should not be overlooked by a new collector or music lover. The more developed, jazz-influenced sound of The Band of Gypsys is a great entrée into the musical brilliance of Jimi Hendrix.