New Hendrix Music Resurrected
March 19, 2013
Although die-hard fans may welcome “People, Hell and Angels” with open arms, this latest posthumous release from legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix, one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, may represent the scrapings on the bottom of the musical petri dish.
The distinct and clear-as-a-bell tone of Hendrix’ Fender Stratocaster and his masterful use of the wah-wah pedal are still prevalent and the re-mixed, re-mastered tracks should please the audiophiles’ tender ears, but the songs are lacking in substance.
There is probably good reason these never-released songs were put on the shelf.
The melodies are unmemorable. It is doubtful that listeners will walk away humming or whistling these tunes. While Hendrix laid-back singing style stands up front in the mix, his lyrics seem forced and unmetered.
Hendrix’ first two albums were rife with heavy and recognizable guitar riffs such as “Purple Haze” and “Foxey Lady.” His third album, “Electric Ladyland,” held haunting melodies such as “Voodoo Child,” and a version of Bob Dylan’s iconic song, ”All along the Watchtower.”
Instrumentally, there are some incredible guitar solos and surprising funk grooves. If he had lived, Hendrix might have led the R&B movement of the ‘70s. The song, “Mojo Man,” featuring the sax and vocals of Lonnie Youngblood, an old-school soul musician that Hendrix had done sessions with, is a good indication of where Hendrix’ music was headed.
“Hey Gypsy Boy” is reminiscent of Hendrix’ instrumental anthem, “Little Wing,” which has been covered by many other guitarists, including Stevie Ray Vaughn. Still, none of these songs quite hit the mark.
“Valleys of Neptune,” the previous compilation of studio recordings released in 2010, featured the original “Jimi Hendrix Experience” members and was recorded in 1969. “People, Hell and Angels,” (Experience Hendrix/Legacy Recordings) recorded around the same time, brings together a few different combinations of musicians.
Stephen Stills (Crosby, Stills and Nash) plays bass on the ballad, “Somewhere” and Hendrix himself over-dubbed the bass on “Inside Out,” the only real ‘60s jam on the recording.
“People, Hell and Angels” features four songs with Buddy Miles on drums and Billy Cox on bass. That trio, known as “Band of Gypsies,” recorded a live album which was released in 1970, just six months before his death. “Earth Blues,” “Villanova Junction Blues,” “Hear My Train a Comin’,” and “Bleeding Heart” are all heavily blues oriented tunes.
Of course all songs on this CD can be auditioned on iTunes or Amazon but there are two songs that neophyte Hendrix listeners may want to download: “Mojo Man,” a soul tune with horns, much different than anything previously recorded and “Hey Gypsy Boy,” the song that most represents the Jimi Hendrix that fans know and love.
Nearly 43 years since his death, Hendrix’ “People, Hell and Angels,” debuted at number two on the Billboard charts but maybe it’s time to let his music rest in peace.