JIMI HENDRIX – Both Sides Of The Sky (2018)
Next week, March 9, will see the light of day “Both Sides Of The Sky“, a dynamic new JIMI HENDRIX album featuring 13 studio recordings made between 1968 and 1970 — 10 of which have never before been released.
Yeah, it’s not more live takes, these are true studio recordings and a must for anyone who loves classic rock, from the man who invented the electric guitar just like we hear it today.
The last two years of Jimi Hendrix’s life were a time of constant change. After releasing a final studio album, 1968’s Electric Ladyland, the Jimi Hendrix Experience broke up, and the guitarist faced litigation over a contract he’d signed before he was famous.
To fulfill the terms of the agreement, he put out the 1970 live outing Band Of Gypsys with a new lineup of musicians. It would be the last LP he’d release before his death later that year, despite having stockpiled stacks of tapes for a new studio album.
Much of the music he tracked has come out on posthumous albums, and now 2018 we have “Both Sides Of The Sky” – which highlights the many changes in Hendrix’s working life as he played with different configurations of musicians between 1968 and 1970.
Beginning with “Mannish Boy,” a bluesy rocker that finds Hendrix singing along with his lead guitar lines, the record shows how much fun he was having at the time. In a rendition of “Lover Man,” a speedy tune he was fooling around with since at least 1967’s Are You Experienced, he interpolates the theme from TV’s Batman.
“Both Sides Of The Sky” culls music from sessions Hendrix began in 1968 as the follow-up to Electric Ladyland – but never completed as a cogent single album. Though its track list includes a tune with original Jimi Hendrix Experience members Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, the bulk of the set features the lineup that became Band of Gypsies – bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles.
Given the high-elevation stratospheres the second great Hendrix trio visited later on, it’s interesting to hear the group attend to rhythm in more foundational ways – check out the way they lock into and maintain the blazing breakneck pace of “Stepping Stone.” The steady backing allows Hendrix to tear into the massive contorted fistfuls of notes that define his solo.
Hendrix was open to all kinds of ideas during this period, and some of the most interesting moments involve studio visitors. Stephen Stills sings and plays on two tracks (his original “$20 Fine” and a new Joni Mitchell tune called “Woodstock,” which features Hendrix on bass).
Johnny Winter appears as a Hendrix jousting partner on “Things I Used To Do,” and a figure from Hendrix’ pre-stardom days, the singer and saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood, steps in for “Georgia Blues.”
All these performances – along with the searching guitar / sitar / drums instrumental “Cherokee Mist” that closes the album – overflow with the single salient trait that made Hendrix unstoppable: his spirit.
No matter what he’s playing, whether it’s a workman’s blues or some high-concept improvisation, he conveys, just through the way he sings and the way he shapes the notes, that what he’s doing matters. And will not be stopped.
There’s always something deep and existential on the line, and it is that emotional intensity – not the songs, not the flashy solo playing – that defines every Hendrix encounter.
This one doesn’t disappoint.
01 – Mannish Boy
02 – Lover Man
03 – Hear My Train a Comin’
04 – Stepping Stone
05 – $20 Fine
06 – Power of Soul
07 – Jungle
08 – Things I Used to Do
09 – Georgia Blues
10 – Sweet Angel
11 – Woodstock
12 – Send My Love to Linda
13 – Cherokee Mist
Jimi Hendrix – vocals, guitars
Noel Redding, Billy Cox – bass
Mitch Mitchell, Buddy Miles – drums