The latest release from Experience Hendrix, Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection, is a two-CD set of the master at work.
In his four-year career as a celebrity, Hendrix produced only three studio albums and one live album, and of course there’s a plethora of alternate takes, unfinished tracks, unauthorized recordings, and live recordings.
But for now, forget all that and just remember that Hendrix was a true artist in every sense of the word. He practiced his art with everybody and anybody, and he recorded constantly. He was a blues and R&B innovator with a jazz philosophy – never play a song the same way twice. For example, any version of “Machine Gun” contains an encyclopedia of what you can do with a Strat (have you ever actually thought of creating the sound of wind with your guitar?).
Disc one is an 18-song sonic buffet that shows how Hendrix used the studio as a paint brush. It’s well-paced, and makes an excellent sampler of some of Jimi’s best studio work. It features pristine versions of “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe,” “The Wind Cries Mary,” and “Fire” from Are You Experienced, a detour with “Highway Chile” from the Hendrix box set, then “Burning Of The Midnight Lamp,” “Little Wing,” an alternate take of “All Along The Watchtower,” “Crosstown Traffic,” “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” and an alternate take of “Spanish Castle Magic.”
Moving through Axis Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland, we bear witness to Jimi’s growth as a songwriter and recording artist. Oh yeah – he plays the hell out of a guitar, too, and on “Little Wing” shows us how beautiful it can be.
Next is an alternate take of “Stone Free” from the boxed set, and the disc ends with “Angel,” “Dolly Dagger,” and a loose version of “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)” from First Rays Of The New Rising Sun. The only “new” material is out-of-print versions of “Izabella” and “Stepping Stone” issued in 1970. But again, this is about packaging and convenience.
Now the really cool stuff: disc two is all live! Jimi was the ultimate live performer and entertainer. He learned his craft touring America’s chitlin’ circuit and continued the legacy of the very best of what African-American performers had to offer onstage.
We begin Jimi’s mind-altering explorations with a live stuff from the Winterland shows in San Francisco, October, 1968. “Fire” is full of energetic pick scrapes, elbow slides, and body English. The impromptu musical introduction to “Hey Joe” makes you wonder why Eddie Van Halen never admitted to being a fan of Hendrix.
Throughout the disc, some of the best live recordings ever made of Hendrix reaffirm his status; “I Don’t Live Today” at The L.A. Forum in April, ’69, “Hear My Train A’ Comin'” at Berkeley, May of ’70, and “Foxey Lady” from July of ’70, in Maui. To those who contend Hendrix was sloppy, out of his mind on drugs, and on the way out by the summer of ’70, eat this and forever hold your tongue!
Other notables include The Band Of Gypsys doing “Machine Gun I” where Hendrix works “Taps” into the solo, “Johnny B. Goode,” and one of the all-time best versions of “Red House.”
The disc closes with spectacular versions of “Purple Haze” from May of ’69, the arguably overplayed “Star Spangled Banner” from Woodstock, and “Wild Thing” from Monterey Pop.
In all, it’s a very well-assembled package. Hardcores will whine for the lack of new material, but this package was geared toward the casual fan or the curious inexperienced. Long-time fans should enjoy this compilation out of sheer convenience. And here’s hoping Experience Hendrix won’t forget we’re still waiting for those never-before-heard concerts. For now, though, Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection blows the previous greatest hits style packages out of the water.
Adding to the fun are numerous photos and an insightful essay by Kurt Loder.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jan. ’01 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.