Jimi Hendrix – Vienna 1969 (No Label)

Vienna 1969 (No Label)

Konzerthaus, Vienna, Austria – January 22, 1969

(78:12) 1st Show: Intro, Tune Up, Come On (part 1), Hey Joe, Fire, Hear My Train A Coming, Spanish Castle Magic, Foxy Lady, Stone Free, Purple Haze. 2nd Show: Are You Experienced, Fire, Lover Man, Sunshine Of Your Love, Spanish Castle Magic

The Jimi Hendrix Experience began 1969 with a tour of Europe with dates in Sweden, Denmark, Austria, and Germany. This short 10 day trek would be European fans’ last glimpse of the trio, months later bassist Noel Redding would leave the Experience. Several of these early 1969 concerts were recorded and are vital documents of the last days of the band. This new release from the No Label folks documents the recordings of both early and late shows at the Konzerthaus in Vienna, Austria. This title features upgraded sound founded recently on a torrent track and while I do not own the previous releases of this concert, Stimmen Der Welt (Dandelion DL-094) or Electric Sunshine Magic (Main Stream MSBR-040/041), the use of lower generations tapes should offer improved sound quality.

The recordings are audience sourced and probably the work of the same taper, as these recordings commonly circulate together. To begin with the first show, the recording is distant and solidly into the good range. The recording equipment was poor and could not handle to power of the Experience. There is distortion as one would expect and the instruments are muddy during the louder sections of songs with Jimi’s guitar and vocals being the clearest, close listening one can start to discern the bass and drums. There is sporadic audience chatter as well, nothing that interferes. That being said, once one puts on their “bootleg ears”, this recording becomes quite listenable.

After a rough start to the tour the band begin to really gain momentum and the first set in Vienna is a really good one. Curiously the only song played from Electric Ladyland is the opener, a fast version of Come On (part 1), Jimi’s vocals are great and he rips a great, frenzied solo. The next song is introduced as being from 1773 recorded at the Benjamin Franklin studios, these references go right over the audience’s heads. There is a massive ovation as the band play Hey Joe, this version is described as muscular and is an accurate description, the band is tight and dynamic.

Hear My Train A Coming is the only somewhat quiet song of the evening, there is a cut at the 2:16 mark likely due to a tape flip. It being a slow blues and not as frenzied as others makes for a clearer sound and at times the rhythm section sounds nice and fat. The epic of the evening is most certainly Spanish Castle Magic, it amazes me how easily he goes from almost linear playing then drops down into these heavy bombast’s then back to linear. The middle section has him getting into an almost funky Voodoo Child like jam that leads to a fine Mitch Mitchell drum solo and an all too brief Noel Redding bass jam. Once Jimi enters back into the fray the intensity raises and he plays a wonderful swirling solo, a brilliant version.

Foxy Lady is very heavy and retains the swagger of the original, Jimi’s solo is just incredible and the whole song reeks of sexuality in the best way. Stone Free sounds like the band loses their communication, their timing is a bit off but Jimi does a great solo and the song finishes strong. With another show to play the band break into the set closing Purple Haze. Just a standard version, nothing to write home about and the recording finishes at the 2:20 mark eliminating the end of the song.

The second show recording is better, it sounds closer to the stage and is clearer with the instruments and vocals being able to be more clearly heard. There is still distortion but is much easier on the ears and after the first two songs the taper adjusts the location of his equipment and the recording goes up a bit from there. The best parts of this recording fall close to the very good range.

The band take the stage and tune up, they care about the listeners ears and the concert begins with a wonderful Are You Experienced, I have seen this version listed as being the last live version, that is incorrect as the last known live version is Newport June 20, 1969. The playing has an ethereal quality to it, psychedelia at its dreamlike best and one feels like they have been on a dream filled journey. The band instantly follows this up with a blistering version of Fire, more dynamic than the version from the earlier show. One can hear the sound improve about 15 seconds into Lover Man, the clarity is much better and the only drawback is it is a bit thin sounding. The song is a little loose but in a good way, Hendrix is going where he wants, Noel and Mitch are trying their best to follow.

The Experience’s instrumental take on Cream’s Sunshine Of Your Love follows. The tempo is much faster than The Cream’s and for me looses the heaviness in the process. Noel’s playing is pronounced and he is playing superbly perhaps taking a page from Jack Bruce’s style of lead bass playing. The recording ends 3:24 into Spanish Castle Magic, one that sounds as fiery as the early show with Jimi soloing into the stratosphere. Hardcore collectors consider these Vienna performances as highlights of the European tour and for good reason.

The inserts are nice, the inner cover features actual photos from the concerts and the standard picture CD’s and sticker are included as well. This is a very nice title that due to its limited sound quality will only really appeal to the committed Hendrix collector.

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