There’s been no shortage of posthumous Jimi Hendrix releases since the groundbreaking electric guitarist, singer and songwriter died at age 27 in 1970: Only three Hendrix albums charted during his lifetime, while more than three dozen released after his death have made it to the Billboard 200 Albums chart.
Still, the appearance this week of three Hendrix albums constitutes something noteworthy.
First up is “People, Hell and Angels,” a collection of a dozen previously unreleased studio tracks recorded in 1968 and 1969, sessions culled under the direction of the guitarist’s sister, Janie Hendrix, who administers his estate, and producer-engineer Eddie Kramer, who worked closely with Hendrix in those final years of his life.
The idea behind the album was to show new directions Hendrix was exploring, even as the Jimi Hendrix Experience was hitting its commercial peak with its first No. 1 album, “Electric Ladyland,” which spent two weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard chart in October 1968.
The tracks on “People, Hell and Angels” display a tighter, more intimate sound than the characteristic explosiveness of his signature work with the Jimi Hendrix Experience or the band he formed after that group broke up, Band of Gypsys.
In fact, one of the unreleased tracks included on the new collection, “Hear My Train A-Comin’,” was his first studio session with bassist Billy Cox and Buddy Miles on the road to recording the “Band of Gypsys” album with them. His version of Elmore James’ “Bleeding Heart” was recorded with Cox and Miles on the same day, May 21, 1969.
The album’s lead-off cut, “Somewhere,” features another '60s rock guitar hero -- Stephen Stills, who Hendrix invited in not for a lead guitar battle but to add bass to tracks that he and dummer Miles had already put down early in 1968. When “Somewhere” was released recently as the first single from the new album, it went to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Singles Sales Chart, demonstrating the public’s continuing appetite for significant new Hendrix material from the archives.
Among the other tracks Janie Hendrix and Kramer chose to release are “Crash Landing,” a number that prefigures his song “Freedom”; "Inside Out," a rock instrumental with a groove similar to “Purple Haze” featuring JHE drummer Mitch Mitchell and Hendrix on both guitar and bass after he’d fallen out with Experience bassist Noel Redding; the funk-rooted “Let Me Move You,” spotlighting saxophonist and singer Lonnie Youngblood; and the jazz-swing instrumental “Easy Blues” with Cox, Mitchell, rhythm guitarist Larry Lee and percussionists Jerry Velez and Juma Sultan.
“People, Hell and Angels” is the second release of new studio material under a contract Experience Hendrix LLC entered three years ago with Sony Legacy, the first being 2010’s “Valleys of Neptune,” consisting of his final recordings with the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
In addition to “People, Hell and Angels,” Hendrix’s first two albums, “Are You Experienced” and “Axis: Bold as Love,” are being reissued in audiophile mono vinyl editions this week.
Last fall, “Jimi Hendrix: The Ultimate Lyric Book” was published to focus attention on his lyrics apart from his innovative guitar work. Here’s a link to a short video of Janie Hendrix talking about her brother and the book.
Finally the Fender Musical Instrument Co.’s Visitor Center in Corona, Calif., has just opened its first artist exhibit highlighting Hendrix’s close association with Fender through his music, personal items including the guitar strap he wore at Woodstock, clothing and photographs that Kramer took during many of their studio sessions together. It is scheduled to run through May 31 at the Fender Visitor Center, 301 Cessna Circle, Corona.
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