The phrase ‘for completists only’ is commonplace in rock journalism. But Jimi Hendrix is one of a handful of artists across the board in the 20th century (among whom the select likes of Charlie Parker would also be included) for whom completism is a necessity. Hendrix’s warm-up takes, off-days and strolls through the motions eclipse the vast majority of his peers even when they were at the top of their game and straining at their utmost.
Some have argued that People, Hell And Angels doesn’t quite live up to the billing of all-original new material – that much of its contents have previously seen the light of day in one form or other, and questioned whether we really need yet another version of Hear My Train A-Comin’.
Certainly, Experience Hendrix have shown a knack of making the most of the finite resource of their star’s recorded output, and one imagines that no jam jar gets thrown out at their HQ canteen before it’s been scraped absolutely clean. But while no shock new Hendrix material rises to the surface of this compilation like a chunk of Atlantis, most of what is included here is noteworthy, much that inspires fresh pangs of awe.
Highlights include Somewhere, which first emerged swaddled in overdubs on the posthumous 1975 release Crash Landing album. Here it is presented in unadulterated form, with Hendrix casually unleashing multiple fretboard paintball explosions. Baby Let Me Move You sees Hendrix defer to saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood, with whom he’d worked back in his chitlin’ circuit days. Recorded in 1969, if has Hendrix cheerfully spitting phrases back and forth from the back line with the R&B sax man in a nostalgic but electric workout. Much anticipated by aficionados is a ‘clean’ version of Crash Landing – so clean and immaculate it sounds like it was recorded yesterday.
The silvery, raucous Inside Out feels wholly unfamiliar, until you realise from its middle section that it’s an early incarnation of Ezy Ryder from The Cry Of Love. Even more alluring is Hey Gypsy Boy, an early version of Hey Baby (New Rising Son), its lovely, mesmeric tuning and garrulous, string-bending soloing casting a whole new, alternative light on the recording. And, damnit, the version here of Hear My Train A-Comin’, rocks, with Hendrix throwing down new lines of rail track as he hurtles towards ever new horizons during the guitar solo.
There’s enough here that’s new to renew your love of Hendrix. Yes, there’s blood in the stone yet.