The Jimi Hendrix Experience – In The Legend (Tarantura TCDJH-4-1,2)
Disc 1; Introduction / MC / Lover Man / Stone Free / Drum Solo / Stone Free (reprise) / Hear My Train A Comin’ / I Don’t Live Today / Red House / Foxy Lady (54:20)
Disc 2; Sunshine Of Your Love / Bass Solo / Sunshine Of Your Love / Bleeding Heart / Fire / Little Wing / Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) / Room Full Of Mirrors (Many guests) / MC by Jimi / Purple Haze / Wild Thing / The Star Spangled Banner-Guitar Crashing (51:54)
Monday 24th of February, 1969 Royal Albert Hall, London, England.
Jimi Hendrix was, without doubt, in all the right places at the right times in his career. Swinging between festival to small club to large venue, his presence at any location was almost mandatory to attend, one of rock’s most favoured guitarists and political masthead, Jimi was as eager to play at the drop of a feathered hat as people were to catch him.
One of his most famous appearances was held at one of the pinnacles of British venues in the 1960’s – The Royal Albert Hall. One of the grandest themed halls in Britain, built on request of the royal family in the 19th century, the concert was perfectly placed to bring together the old guard and the regally dressed. This was the second time he’s appeared at the venue after 1967’s dual support tour but this time, it was Jimi who was headlining.
Never officially released baring 4 tracks on a long out of press LP, “Experience”, another 7 tracks on the “More Experience”LP a much derided i-Tunes download and a 10 song sampler given away with Britain’s Sunday Mail newspaper and with a hulk of great unofficial releases including the day’s rehearsals, (‘Smashing The Amps’ on the Rattlesnake label (RS 055/56) is one that springs to mind as is the No Label, “Listen To This Eric” (JH 003-004)) Jimi’s RAH show is presented here by Tarantura with an exclusive set of reels produced by Glyn Johns to be used as reference for the film soundtrack or subsequent releases made of the show.
Glyn has had his vaults raided in this way before, 2 sets of his reference reels for the Beatles ‘Get Back’ sessions have seen unofficial release in the past, they were of stunning quality and revealed a different side of the fab’s could have been album were it not for the unbalanced hand of Phil Spector. The recording reveals different stages of the sound levels bing checked. The initial introduction is near perfect but with a little distance, Jimi’s speech section is much better and while there are a couple of attempts at balancing during the first track, everything comes together nicely. For the main of the recording however, it’s Jimi and Mitch who are most precicely heard. Noel’s bass heads towards white noise as it’s tempered a little too loudly.
Compared to the Rattlesnake set ( I don’t have “Listen To This Eric” to hand) it’s a rawer listen, the audience is barely audible on this newer version, it’s not as clean but in a way, it’s more interesting for it. For clarity, the Rattlesnake release trumps the Tarantura release, for longevity and bootleg crunch, the reward goes to Tarantura.
The set begins with an introduction by the M.C. to the reason behind the filming of this show and how the audience can get premier tickets to the eventual screening of the film, backed by the roadies setting up the stage. Upon Jimi’s entrance on to the stage, Mitch mutters that he would like to dedicate the performance tonight to his motherland Keith Moon – a sentiment that Noel would also like to recipricate. Jimi explains that there will be a short interval while the band warm up with their instruments. The tape then cuts and returns with a much better quality, maybe a little hiss but nothing too strenuous. Jimi asked the band what they’ll be playing, we have to assume that they both shrug at this stage as Jimi deciders that they’ll just jam anyway and see what comes out.
First in line is “Lover Man”, suitable for Jimi’s flights of fancy giving him, the band and Glyn to level up their measures and to warm up the crowd for what’s to come. Jimi then expresses his reasons for the breaks between the songs and the limit of the volume, telling everyone he wants to care for their ears and because, ‘Only cowboys want to say in tune, anyway”. He goes on to introduce ’Stone Free’ in both his best American and clipped English before the band crash through lengthy version of the track. Towards the middle it’s Jimi almost on his own as Noel and Mitch plod around him, in fairness theres not much they can do while Jimi is in flow and so correctly, they stand back and let it go. The song then drops in to that most beloved intermission of the 60’s and 70’s – the drum solo. There are a couple of dropouts apparent through the track which are very noticeable but it all depends on your love of drum solos.
At the reprise Jimi begins with a little spanish flavour guitar before railing back in to hyper speed again, concluding the track with a flourish.
“Hear My Train A Comin’” has all the heads ready for a little downtime, it seems all the sound problems are ironed out by now and it sounds fantastic – whether it’s the slow grind of the track or the fact that Glyn has now got the sound her requires, it sounds crystalline wonderful. A small cut appears before “I Don’t Live Today” distracting a little from Jimi’s Speech but leaving the music intact, another frenzied chafe through the track that plunges in to a multitude of riffs towards the middle, each one faintly recognisable but seemingly made up on the spot.
“Red House” and “Foxy Lady” lead off disk one – “Red House”, a weeping, blues with intermittent strands of fuel pushing it along from time to time, “Foxy Lady”, is dedicated ’To somebody’s girlfriend, we don’t know who yet though ..’ Already one of the showstoppers of Jimi’s sets and one of the experiences best known songs, it pushes the cheers when it’s announced but is somewhat understated when it’s played out with fairly standard (Hendrix standard that is) soloing.
Starting Disk 2 is, “Sunshine Of Your Love”, the track that famously got Jimi in trouble with the BBC after his extended excursion on the Lulu show, it features no preamble and comes as a bit of a shock when starting from the very first chords (Maybe Glyn didn’t get much chance to change reels before Jimi was ready) – there are no lyrics to this version either, Jimi just pulls the music through the way he wants it and ambles through other riffs along the way. The two sides of the track are punctuated by a fairly uninspired bass solo – trying to follow Hendrix’s guitar is certainly some challenge but unfortunately, try as he might, Noel doesn’t quite hit any peeks. Jimi does however make up for the brake as he returns with a rapidly undulating finish before the intended reprise.
“Bleeding Heart”, another slow blues in the “Hear My Train A Comin’” vein is another chance for Jimi to peal things off gently, Hendrix implores that his guitar moan to him while following him, Noel makes his bass notes a little more protracted, a little more spacey. “Fire”, however sees Jimi ratchet up the speed once more and entwined with Noel’s space bass, lets fly with the spell.
“Little Wing” starts at the beginning of a new reel, this only interferes with the crowd noise however, as there is a bit of a snag at the front of the reel. The tracks may be the shortest of the set but still no less potent, as Jimi once again throws things around, his tuning has slipped a little but Jimi still plays it loose and confidently.
Announced as, the last song tonight, “Voodoo Chile” forgets the volume rule and rocks the hall’s dome ferociously, Hendrix sprinting between theme to theme, throwing aside various riffs as soon as he catches them, the track gives way after a while to “Room Full Of Mirrors” as the band are joined by Rocky Dzidzournou on Congas, Dave Mason on Guitar and Chris Wood on Flute. Jimi Jokes that he’s finished playing guitar at this stage but it’s evidently not true and soon enough he catches his wind again and spirits out a little more action. Dave’s guitar supplying a choppy balance under Jimi’s sprawling guitar eccentricities, Chris’ flute playing softening Jimi’s playing and pushing the tracks to become a little more melodious, the track ends with a short bust of the Star Spangled Banner.
After another cut, Jimi asks for a little time to tune up, Charley Weber provides the sweet interlude by walking up to Hendrix and whispering something to him. A moment that brings out a roar from the crowd. “Purple Haze” follows cutting a familiar formula, flowing in to a loosely swaggering,“Wild Thing”. There is a static crackle and a short whistle through the beginning minute as the source frequencies start to lapse but then the sound gets a lot clearer from that, forgiving the crunch of the guitar.
The set ends on a patriotic bent as Jimi plays out the Star Spangled Banner and swings is guitar towards the speakers, building an cataclysmic mess. Instead of the sound fading from here we also have around a minute of encore calling and the sound of the band leaving the stage.
The label have done an excellent job in representing these historic reels. Sometimes chided for their over mastering, the source here is very gently tweaked if it all and sounds just as good as any bootleg should. The Digi-pack packaging is not too busy, nice and respectfully done with period correct photos and snippets of, er, French reviews of the “Experience” sets. Limited to 100 copies only, theres a small sticker on the back denoting the number that you get.
An instantly recommended set to own. It reveals more about the Albert Hall gig than before and is a beautiful sounding recording.