Old Time: Record Plant Jams 1970.1.23 (no label)
Record Plant, New York City, New York, USA – January 23, 1970
Disc One: (1) Ezy Rider/Jam/Cherokee Mist (AKA Martin Luther King Jam), 20:16; (2) Ezy Rider/Jam/Cherokee Mist (AKA Martin Luther King Jam)(alternate mix), 16:04; (3) Villanova Junction Jam, 19:40; (4) Once I Had a Woman (extended blues version), 8:17; (5) Once I Had a Woman (alternate mix), 5:23
Disc Two: (1) Blue Suede Shoes, 13:42; (2) Freedom Jam/Highway of Desire/Seven Dollars in My Pocket, 23:38; (3) Country Blues/Astro Man (w/harmonica), 10:39; (4) Country Blues (w/o harmonica), 8:30; (5) Country Blues (dry mix w/harmonica), 8:26
“The Fillmore is proud to welcome back some old friends with a brand new name, A Band of Gypsys” opened that band’s live album for not only the New Year in 1970, but what many surely saw as a new era of Jimi Hendrix’s creative genius. Although they played four shows on New Year’s Eve and Day in 1970, only a part of them was released on their barnstorming album and, much like Jimi, The Band of Gypsys was also a streak of light with an unfortunately brief existence.
The no-label release, Old Time: Record Plant Jams 1970.1.23, captured The Band of Gypsys in the studio and in total free form shortly before they disbanded. The recording quality is high and there was no mistaking that Jimi was the shining star of these sessions. Buddy Miles’ unmistakable “cement mixer” style, as Mitch Mitchell described it, and Billy Cox’s bass playing go nowhere near the heights where Jimi was playing in these recordings.
This is quickly evidenced in the opening “Ezy Rider/Jam/Cherokee Mist (AKA Martin Luther King Jam),” which is a rambling instrumental that lasted more than twenty minutes. Jimi’s guitar sounds in this track are at times mesmerizing, vicious at others, but always electric with loads of tasty feedback and whammy bar attacks. Calling this a “jam” is entirely correct as Miles and Cox improvised with Jimi through multiple fascinating links that abruptly ended after Miles hit his snare and hi-hat while Jimi seemingly drifted off.
Like the opening track, the second jam starts already with the playing in progress. Once again there were no vocals and lots of fuzz-box and unmistakable stratospheric Jimi Hendrix soloing during the more than sixteen minutes of this recording. Billy Cox’s bass is a bit more prominent in this track than the first. Differing from how the first jam’s recording ended, here Jimi asked for someone to come in and change a string he had broken. This is the type of unedited stuff that makes music collecting so special.
Track three, called “Villanova Junction Jam,” is a more polished “song” if you like than the prior two tracks. It also is without vocals and laden with constant exploring by Hendrix, but we get a better taste of Miles’ playing and booming drum sound here. About 3:25 into the track they slow down as Jimi commented on “treble” in the sound, but without halting his amazing wah-wah noodling. Amazing creativity on display. Then, after more than 2 minutes pass of relatively idle playing, the band launches into a fantastic composition that leads into yet another thrilling Hendrix solo. It is here that you get a vivid glimpse into what the Band of Gypsys had brewing, and the excitement that surrounded that short-lived group. Because this track exceeds nineteen minutes, the spikes in playing temper as they amazingly drop into a blues groove that – for the first time to this listener’s ears – has Hendrix accompanied by a soulful harmonica performed by an “unidentified harp player.” The first three tracks alone encompass about an hour’s worth of music, and it’s all passionate, creative and unmistakable Jimi Hendrix, making this title a treasure.
The final two tracks on disc one are alternate versions of a slow, southern blues song called “Once I Had A Woman.” Accompanied again by harmonica, Hendrix delivers vocals about heartache while never letting us forget he’s still got that guitar strapped around his neck. His strat work with Cox and Miles juxtaposed the harmonica playing, and didn’t work quite frankly because the band was in one place and the harp player was somewhere else.
Disc two opens with a great take on “Blue Suede Shoes.” The track is more than thirteen minutes long, but not all of it is playing. In fact, it is here where we find out where the title “Old Time” apparently came for this release. Jimi, who was “stoned as hell and asking where’s the rest of that grass?”, described the drum pattern he wanted on the cymbal and snare. It was a “very old time, real old time” pattern he scatted for Miles who eventually got it down. Once he did, Jimi said he felt “evil” and joked “if you want trouble, you’ve come to the right place” before singing a little “Heartbreak Hotel.” The version of “Blue Suede Shoes” that was then played is nothing short of remarkable. A harmonica solo moved alongside Hendrix’s inspired playing that was wringing devilish sounds out of his guitar while Miles and Cox drove the rhythm section. The beautiful clarity and completeness of this recording allows us to travel back and experience the creative and thoroughly entertaining juices flowing during those sessions, further showing why this is an essential release for any Hendrix or rock music collector.
The second track on disc two is another eclectic rock & blues jam exceeding more than twenty-three minutes, akin to the first two tracks on disc one.
Track three, “Country Blues/Astro Man (w/harmonica),” is yet another unbelievable performance captured in pristine studio quality. While undeniably blues in its foundation, this is a Jimi Hendrix instrumental that quickly takes the listener on one of those rides only he could provide. Some initial strumming was played while the harmonica player, Cox and Miles laid down the beat, but his cavernous guitar sound gradually and steadily drove the song into greater and greater heights. This could be considered a highlight track on the whole release, and the two remaining “Country Blues” tracks continued with that caliber of playing and creativity.
Old Time: Record Plant Jams 1970.1.23 comes with tasteful inserts and is most definitely a treasured recording of the incomparable Jimi Hendrix with his Band of Gypsys. Repeated listenings will only reveal further depth in these performances, easily making this title highly recommended.