Title - 'People, Hell & Angels' (Hendrix Experience)
Artist - Jimi Hendrix
OK, for those not quite up to speed on this "new" release from one of the world's greatest ever guitar slingers, People, Hell & Angels is an album of twelve never-before-released Hendrix studio recordings. Indeed, this incredible album showcases the legendary guitarist working outside of the original Jimi Hendrix Experience trio, for once.
Now, and in truth, any devoted Hendrix fan already knew that there was a hoard of stuff still out there from the great man. And, that said, whether they be unreleased songs or not, the Hendrix Experience have the ability to simply create different mixes, include different takes of certain songs therein. I mean, considering his short life, the work still out there is amazing. Let alone the stuff we may never get to hear!
As for this "new" album, well, the story goes that come 1968 and Hendrix had grown restless, eager to develop new material with old friends and new ensembles. Outside the view of a massive audience that had established the Experience as rockís largest grossing concert act and simultaneously placed two of his albums together in the US Top 10 sales chart, Jimi was busy working behind the scenes to craft his next musical statement.
So, if this was that statement of new intent, well, it is quite a good one. No, I did not say great, because to my mind, my ears it is not. But, the album does manage to sound very fresh. Like it's just Jimi in a room, plugged in live with just a couple of other guys. And that, in itself, is one of the major positive points that this album brings forth.
We kick-off with the demo-sounding 'Earth Blues,' where totally unlike the version first issued as part of Rainbow Bridge in 1971, this December 19th, 1969 master take features just Hendrix, Cox and Miles. A true-sounding, 'Watchtoweresque' song, it has its funk laid down from the very off. That track is followed by 'Somewhere,' first recorded in March 1968, it features Buddy Miles on drums and Stephen Stills on bass. And, not that I'm a massive fan or anything, I actually read this elsewhere, but it seems this evrsion is actually made up of several takes! And is therefore a version entirely different from any previous versions the true fans have heard!
The excellent 'Hear My Train A Cominí is actually taken from Jimiís first ever recording session with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles ó the rhythm section with whom he would later record the groundbreaking album Band Of Gypsys. The second-longest track on the album, regardless of the fact that it has been released nearly a half-dozen times thus far, it is still a guitar masterpiece. Recorded at the same May 1969 session as 'Hear My Train A Coming,' Jimi had a firm understanding of the arrangement and tempo only he could truly envision for 'Bleeding Heart.' Indeed, it may well have originated as an Elmore James work of art, but come the time Jimi and company had altered the original being of the beat, well, it had quickly become his own. Following close behind is the true funk soul of 'Let Me Move You,' a song that you can hear James Brown steppin' out to! In March 1969, Jimi (who doesn't sing on this entire track) reached back to another old friend, saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood and it is his intro that makes this song what it is.
The lead in funk and slide guitar work of Hendrix re: 'Izabella' is a master stroke to behold. Woodstock was done and so Jimi grouped together a new ensemble to back him. That turned out to be Gypsy Sun & Rainbows. Indeed, 'Izabella' had been one of the new songs the guitarist introduced at Woodstock, but Jimi was eager to perfect a studio version. So, the way this version differs is that it now features Larry Lee, Jimiís old friend on rhythm guitar. The longest track on the album is also an instrumental, a guitar-slingin' performance of incredible measure, 'Easy Blues' is actually an edited extract of this free-flowing track. Briefly issued as part of the long out of print, 1981 album Nine To The Universe here it is now nearly twice as long. And the scorching interplay between Jimi, second guitarist Larry Lee, Billy Cox and drummer Mitch Mitchell is simply to be heard to be believed.
The funk of 'Crash Landing' comes next, and perhaps better known as the title song for the controversial 1975 album that featured Hendrix master recordings posthumously overdubbed by session musicians, this April 1969 original recording has Jim joined by Billy Cox and drummer Rocky Isaac of the Cherry People. People have said over the past that this song was Jimi's very own "thinly veiled warning" to his girlfriend Devon Wilson! About quite what, I don't know! Up next is 'Inside Out' where Jimi's rhythm guitar pattern overlays come to the for in fine style. In what would ultimately come to be 'Ezy Ryder,' he is joined on this stunning guitar track by Mitch Mitchell. If you didn't know, Jimi actually recorded all of the bass and guitar parts for this song. And yes, that also included a vibrant lead guitar part amplified through a Leslie organ speaker!
'Hey Gypsy Boy' sprang from the roots of Jimiís majestic 'Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)' and was created back in March 1969. Unlike the posthumously overdubbed version - briefly issued as part of Midnight Lightning in 1975 - this is an original recording that features Jimi joined by Buddy Miles. A silky smooth work of art, he distorts his slide guitar like a rare humming bird. 'Mojo Man' is where Jimi introduces us to the vocal talents of both Albert and Arthur Allen. Vocalists known as the Ghetto Fighters, Jimi had befriended them back in Harlem long before he achieved fame with the Experience. Once recorded Jimi then elevated the recording beyond contemporary R&B by including some voodoo rock, rhythm and blues. And what we get today is a crisp, clean recording of a track that sounds fresh even today.
The smooth guitar playing of 'Villanova Junction Blues' brings us the very last track on the album. A gentle, polite instrumental clocking in at just 1 minute 45 seconds, it's a beautiful way to bring the "new" album to a close. Jimi recorded this studio version with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles at the same May 1969 session which yielded both 'Hear My Train A Cominí and 'Bleeding Heart' - which we've already covered above.