Saturday, January 15, 2011
My 2010 Illinois Entertainer Reviews, p. 8
West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology
It’s fitting that half the title of this latest Hendrix box is redundant (anyone know of any East Coast Seattles?) because at least half the music is redundant too. Although each of the forty-three songs on Discs Two through Four is “previously unreleased,” a lot of them (“Purple Haze,” “Stone Free,” “Foxey Lady,” “Star Spangled Banner,” et al) are merely alternate versions, mixes, and takes of songs that Hendrix fans have loved lo these many years. And while with Hendrix “alternate” is often still pretty impressive, a déjà vu effect does accumulate.
But it’s also fitting that the other half of the title is The--not A--Jimi Hendrix Anthology because what it does better than any other Hendrix omnibus so far is trace the creative evolution of one of the very few rock stars who actually evolved creatively as opposed to sashaying from one style to another in an increasingly unbecoming attempt to maintain commercial viability.
Take, for instance, Disc One. Everyone knows by now that Hendrix spent years backing early-’60s R&B stars, but having fifteen examples of his woodshedding in one place, only one of which even dented Billboard’s Top 40 (Don Covay & the Good timers’ “Mercy, Mercy”), makes for one funky alternative-universe Chitlin’ Circuit jukebox. Lesser-known workouts from the Isley Brothers (“Have You Ever Been Disappointed”), Little Richard (“I Don’t Know What You Got but It’s Got Me”), and King Curtis (“Instant Groove”) join cuts by lesser-known performers (Ray Sharpe, Jimmy Norman, Frank Howard & the Commanders [not to be confused with Frank Howard & the Senators?]) and in so doing provide glimpses into not only Hendrix’s early licksmanship but also his penchant for opposite-sex nomenclature (the Icemen’s “[My Girl] She’s a Fox”).
Then there’s Disc Five, a DVD containing all one hundred minutes of the Biography Channel’s Jimi Hendrix--Voodoo Child documentary. Chockfull of the vintage performance and interview clips you’d expect and some you wouldn’t, it also emphasizes the importance Hendrix placed on his family and that you could die by making a drinking game out of every time he said “you know.” (Speaking of drinking games, the doc never even alludes to his reliance on intoxicants and therefore--plot spoiler alert!--makes his death at the end seem like an act of random randomness.)
As for the aforementioned Discs Two through Four, much of what they contain isn’t redundant at all.