First Night At The Royal Albert Hall (Eat A Peach – Eat 34/35)
Royal Albert Hall, London, England – February 18th, 1969
Disc 1: (47:36) Introduction, Tax Free, Fire, Hear My Train A Comin’, Foxy Lady, Red House
Disc 2: (43:18) Sunshine Of Your Love, Spanish Castle Magic/Message To Love, Star Spangled Banner, Purple Haze, Final Speak, Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
Jimi Hendrix played two nights at the Royal Albert Hall, February 18th & 24th, in early 1969. These would ultimately become the final two British dates to feature the original Experience. For many years the latter performance has been widely available on both bootleg and semi-official releases. The 24th was known to be professionally recorded and filmed and will presumably be released by the Hendrix estate at some point but a soundboard from the first night had never been realized. Fortunately for us, the Eat A Peach label is making this stereo soundboard available on CD for the first time.
Eat A Peach uses a very good to excellent soundboard recording that sounds like it could be sourced from a multi-track tape so perhaps Experience Hendrix are preparing some sort of RAH project for release with this being a reference copy escaping the vaults (speculation and/or wishful thinking on my part, of course).
Hendrix had completed a short European Tour which consisted of two weeks worth of dates in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and Austria in January. The first rehearsals for the RAH shows basically took place during the soundcheck on the 18th with some referring to this performance as lifeless. It is also widely known that there was growing tensions in the group, especially between Jimi and Noel at this time but in my opinion they still deliver a good overall performance. Jimi seems to be in fine form although Mitch and Noel do sound a bit uninspired at times.
Jimi’s introduction comes from the audience source (also used in a few places between tracks) but switches over to the soundboard just as he introduces “Tax Free”. This is a nice opening jam for the band to loosen up on and features a short Mitch Mitchell drum solo in the middle. Hendrix is in a somewhat jovial mood and keeps the atmosphere light between songs. Jimi unleashes some smokin’ blues in both “Hear My Train” and “Red House” yet manages to keep the audience satisfied with the likes of “Fire”, Foxy Lady”, and “Purple Haze”.
Disc two starts off with Hendrix’s instrumental version of Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love”. A few more seconds of the audience source are used to fill a tiny cut in “Spanish Castle Magic” which also contains a reference to “Message To Love”. This may be one of the earliest live references to this track which is an instrumental jam based loosely around the chord structure. The “Star Spangled Banner” is typically wild and leads non-stop into “Purple Haze” before Jimi address the crowd one final time. A devastating version of “Voodoo Child” is the final track leaving the audience shouting for more.
An audience source from this show has been previously released as First Night At The Royal Albert Hall from the Midnight Beat label (MB CD 047/048) back in 1996. As the Eat A Peach liner notes point out, the audience tape is merely a fair to good sounding source making this new soundboard all the more valuable.
The packaging is excellent with picture CDs housed in an LP style jacket. It comes with a 4-page booklet with sleeve notes inside and care even went into the individual disc sleeves which are adorned with both color and black & white photos. The beautiful packaging and excellent sound quality makes this a highly recommended title. Even though the Eat A Peach label hasn’t been around that long yet, they are certainly making quite a name for themselves with an impressive catalog of releases featuring a nice variety of artists.