Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock in August 1969.

Henry Diltz, Corbis

The Hendrix tapes might finally be tapped out

  • Article by: JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
  • New York Times
  • March 10, 2013 - 11:14 PM

When Jimi Hendrix died in September 1970, he left hundreds of session tapes behind. Over the last three decades producers have mined that trove of recordings, putting out a dozen posthumous studio albums, selling millions of copies.

But that rich vein might finally be tapped out with the release on Tuesday of “People, Hell and Angels,” a disappointing prospect to legions of Hendrix obsessives. The collection is likely to be the last album of unreleased studio tracks from the tapes in the Hendrix estate’s possession, said its two producers, Ed Kramer and John McDermott, who along with Janie Hendrix, Jimi’s sister, have had control over the archive since 1995.

“We strongly felt this would be the last of the studio albums, and we are not going to do any more studio albums after this,” Kramer said. “There is plenty of material left, and what we do have is a wonderful selection of live shows.”

“People, Hell and Angels” (Experience Hendrix/Legacy Recordings) is a follow-up to 2010’s “Valleys of Neptune,” a set of unreleased tracks recorded with the Jimi Hendrix Experience in early 1969, just before bassist Noel Redding left the group.

The new album consists of a dozen blues-rock songs that Hendrix recorded with other musicians during the same period, between March 1968 and August 1970. Most of the songs were laid down during sessions in 1969 at the Record Plant in New York, after the original Experience, a trio that included Mitch Mitchell on drums, had disbanded, and Hendrix had parted ways with manager and producer Chas Chandler.

Free to pursue his own vision, Hendrix experimented with different lineups and in some cases expanded his arrangements beyond a power trio. His playing dips at times into a jazz idiom but more often returns to his R&B roots, as he reunited with musicians he had known from his days as a sideman on the chitlin’ circuit.

Four songs on the album — “Earth Blues,” “Hear My Train a Comin’,” “Bleeding Heart” and “Villanova Junction Blues” — come from two sessions with bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles. This was the trio, known as the Band of Gypsys, with which Hendrix toured in early 1970.

Two other tracks — “Izabella” and “Easy Blues” — feature the same band Hendrix assembled for the Woodstock Festival in August 1969, with Mitchell back on drums, Larry Lee on rhythm guitar and two percussionists, Jerry Velez and Juma Sultan.

There is also “Let Me Move You,” a stomping R&B groove featuring saxophonist and singer Lonnie Youngblood, whom Hendrix had backed up as a young studio guitarist. The album also has two 1968 recordings without Noel Redding’s bass: “Somewhere,” a ballad on which Stephen Stills plays bass, and “Inside Out,” a hard-rock instrumental jam on which Hendrix himself overdubbed the bass lines.

McDermott said that the collection gives indications that Hendrix, who was in the process of building his own studio, Electric Ladyland, was stepping out on his own as a producer. In 1969 he was “creatively very, very unencumbered,” since he no longer had Chandler or label A&R executives looking over his shoulder.

“It’s really a tragedy when you realize, God, we lost this guy on the cusp of something amazing,” McDermott said.

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