Side two opens with "Look Over Yonder," the oldest track included here. Cut in October 1968, it features the original Experience backing of Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding – it's almost in the mode of the first album in feeling and execution. Hendrix lays down some squeaky chunks of solid rhythm before the ending growls to a swirling close.
The next track is the only live one, cut at the Memorial Day concert in Berkeley. It's "Hear My Train A Comin'," a number Hendrix frequently used in his last series of concerts. The chordal structure is like old blues, but Hendrix is a true Voodoo Chile, and his demons are more electric and schizophrenic than those of Robert Johnson, the great delta bluesman who in many ways can be considered Hendrix's spiritual father. Hendrix has gained most notoriety as a complex and spaced stylist, but you shouldn't lose sight of the fact that he was a motherfucker bluesman as well. (I remember a Midwest concert where he totally tranced out a non-blues audience with a long ballsy version of "Red House" – Hendrix plays Delta blues for sure – only the Delta may have been on Mars.)
"Hey Baby" is the final track. It's a riff that Hendrix explored a lot in concert – simple but evocative – and filled with a pure lonesome yearning and introspection that often got squeezed out in favor of things with more flash. Hendrix plays a few choruses, then asks, "Is the microphone on?" Getting an affirmative reply, he improvises some lyrics about a love-spreading chick crossing Jupiter's sands. It's a benediction and a hoping at once – and proves that though Hendrix deserves every bit of acclaim he got as a tripping companion, he was also a mood spinning, afternoon back porch sitter of the mind as well. And there, almost too soon, the album ends.
In many ways this is one of Hendrix's best albums – it's diverse, but not a goulash. His last official album, Cry Of Love, seemed somehow hollow, populated with skeletons of ideas – structures not quite fleshed out, in two dimensions only, wavering in and out of focus in the third plane. Here they are full, and full of spirit. Though there are technical drawbacks that might have precluded their release if Hendrix lived (ragged endings, out of tune choruses, etc.), they certainly don't detract from the essence. Hendrix was a stone perfectionist, and it's been rumored that there are enough tracks for at least several more albums in the can – but they will probably not be released, as Hendrix wasn't satisfied with them. There is an element of greed in all of us, and sure, I'd like to hear more – but I'd rather respect his wishes and take what he considered done enough to let go. This album falls into that category, I believe, and is a strong addition to his legacy – not like the various "Early Hendrix" ripoffs going around, where everybody who ever taped a jam session is issuing LPs.
This is also, by the way, a fine earphone album. Some records need rooms to reverberate in, this one (as are most of his) seems to be aimed directly at the inner ear – and earphones clarify and separate the levels of the structures into the component parts.
There may be a few more concert albums yet to come, but this is probably the last of Hendrix in a studio.
And it's late and raining, and the wine has wound its way down now – I just want to say Jimi that it's gotten pretty gray down here since you split . . . and there's a lot of Foxy Ladys lying lonely tonight. Drop in again sometime man, we all need all the help we can get.
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