Hendrix at 70: New album offers different look
This CD cover image released by Legacy shows "People, Hell and Angels," by Jimi Hendrix. The album is the last of Hendrix's unreleased studio material, ending a four-decade run of posthumous releases by an artist whose legacy remains as vital and vibrant now as it was at the time of his death. (AP Photo/Legacy)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Jimi Hendrix recorded everything. More than 40 years after his death, though, the tape is finally running out.
"People, Hell & Angels," out Tuesday, will be the last album of Hendrix's unreleased studio material, according to Eddie Kramer, the engineer who recorded most of Hendrix's music during his brief but spectacular career. That ends a four-decade run of posthumous releases by an artist whose legacy remains as vital and vibrant now as it was at the time of his death.
"Jimi utilized the studio as a rehearal space," Kramer said. "That's kind of an expensive way of doing things, but thank God he did."
The 12 tracks on "People, Hell & Angels" were recorded in 1968-69 after the Jimi Hendrix Experience disbanded. There's a changeable roster of backing musicians, including Buddy Miles and Billy Cox, who would briefly become Hendrix's Band of Gypsies. Stephen Stills, recently of Buffalo Springfield, even popped up on bass on one track.
It was a difficult period for Hendrix as his business and creative endeavors became entangled, and he retreated to the studio to seek inspiration.
"Jimi used that time in the studio to experiment, to jam, to rehearse, and using this jam-rehearsal style of recording enabled him to try different musicians of different stripes and backgrounds, because they offered a musical challenge to him," Kramer said. "He wanted to hear music expressed with different guys who could lend a different approach to it. And as part of this whole learning curve, what emerged was this band that played at Woodstock in '69, that little concert on the hill there."
Many of the songs have been heard in different versions or forms before, but the music here is funkier than his best known work — at times sinuous, at times raucous. Horns pop up here and there. He's a cosmic philosopher riding an earthbound backbeat on "Somewhere." He's a groovin' bluesman enveloped in a bit of that purple haze on "Hear My Train a Comin'." He challenges a saxophone to a fist fight on "Let Me Move You." Then he channels James Brown on "Mojo Man" and ends the album as if shutting down an empty cinder-block club on a lonely stretch of dark highway with "Villanova Junction Blues."
Hendrix died not long after making the last of these recordings. He'd already disbanded the players and was working with the Experience again in 1970 when he died of asphyxia in September 1970 at 27.