Welcome to the third album in a trilogy of releases that began with Valleys Of Neptune (2010), followed by People, Hell, and Angels (2013). These 13 tracks are pristine restorations overseen by Eddie Kramer, John McDermott, and Janie Hendrix. Ten of these tracks have never been officially released.
This historical document contains late-period Hendrix – 1969 and 1970. This is Jimi in the studio, and you listen when the greatest electric rock guitarist of his generation says, “Let’s record!”
Hendrix here straddles R&B, rock, and blues on tracks that bear witness to his rhythmic mastery as the foundation to a diverse blues vocabulary that was assimilated from coast to coast – then reimagined.
“Mannish Boy” brings together bassist Billy Cox and Buddy Miles on drums to create gutbucket magic. Later, they play a fiery version of “Lover Man” that contains wicked single-note soloing and idiosyncratic double-stops galore. This contrasts with “Hear My Train A Comin’” with Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding. Jimi’s otherworldly solo coupled with the group’s divine chemistry will put a tear in your eye. No three people will ever sound like this again.
In September ’69, Stephen Stills joined Hendrix to sing on “$20 Fine.” It’s a noteworthy track with Stills in awesome form on vocals and organ backed by Mitchell, Duane Hitchings on piano, and Hendrix adding guitar overdubs. Later in the set, Stills returns with Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” with Hendrix on bass, Buddy Miles killin’ on drums, and stellar organ playing by Stills.
Johnny Winter duels with Hendrix unleashing genius slide playing on “Things I Used To Do.”
Hendrix was a musical linguist who could mess up your mind with his guitar, then bring you back to safety with traditional blues. Case in point is “Georgia Blues” reuniting him with old club circuit buddy Lonnie Youngblood. Youngblood sings the hell out of this tune, then unbridles a soul-drenched sax solo. Hendrix spreads the mojo with bluesy whammy bar dips and soulful Buddy Guy approved over bends. It’s an inspired track.
Also included are unreleased versions of “Stepping Stone,” “Jungle,” “Sweet Angel,” and “Cherokee Mist.”
Both Sides Of The Sky is not for the casual fan. Hardcore collectors may own some of this material, but not with Kramer’s beautifully rich production skill and artistry. Critics may disparage Jimi’s posthumous releases, but they’re not in charge of maintaining the integrity of America’s greatest electric rock guitarist.
This article originally appeared in VG May 2018 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.