Such is the towering legacy of Jimi Hendrix that it can become all too easy to forget his struggle in establishing his talents. Be it racism, bad management or his own uncompromising vision, Hendrix’s career was one endless battle to be accepted on his own terms. Hollywood Bowl, August 18, 1967 is a case in point.
Having travelled to England to establish his musical identity by forming the Jimi Hendrix Experience in late 1966, the trio were still to make any kind of dent in the US. With their headline set at the 1967 Monterey Pop festival and ill-fated tour with The Monkees behind them, the band found themselves at the Hollywood Bowl at the behest of singer John Phillips, and sandwiched between his group the Mamas And The Papas and opening act Scott McKenzie.
Despite the sonic limitations of the two-track source material, the sheer firepower of the Jimi Hendrix Experience is palpable throughout. While Hendrix takes his guitar to dizzying levels (see Purple Haze, a US flop), his bandmates play just as vital a role. Noel Redding’s superb bass playing underpins an incendiary Catfish Blues, which includes a precise drum solo that reveals Mitch Mitchell’s jazz roots.
There’s also tenderness (The Wind Cries Mary), and Hendrix’s underappreciated singing voice is warm and rich throughout. Recorded just five days before the US release of their debut album Are You Experienced, and with Axis: Bold As Love already in the can, this is the sound of the future fighting against the odds.