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http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/jhredho-1358193488.jpeg Variations On A Theme: Red House

Jimi Hendrix

Variations On A Theme: Red House

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May 3, 1990

Jimi Hendrix was many things – monster rock sex god, guitar genius, acid spiritualist, master improviser. But he was first and foremost a bluesman, obsessed with inner space yet consumed by the here-and-now hellfire of Robert Johnson, Son House and Muddy Waters. Hendrix's own classic blues "Red House" was the perfect springboard for his imagination; he never played it the same way twice, testing his skill and baring his soul in long, dramatic guitar excursions.

This unusual cassette and CD release (part of a highly recommended guitar-study series composed of annotated excerpts from the Hendrix oeuvre) features no less than six full-length, previously unissued renditions of "Red House," and it is anything but boring. Each performance vividly documents Hendrix's state of mind, musically and otherwise, at the time: the extraordinary psychedelic firestorm with the original Experience at London's Royal Albert Hall in early '69; the jazzy post-Electric Ladyland lyricism of the L.A. Forum take from April 1969; a playful, chaotic studio jam featuring Lee Michaels and Buddy Miles; a more pensive, traditional version recorded in Berkeley, California, only a few months before Hendrix's untimely death.

Ironically, the richness of spirit and technique displayed in each "Red House" does not flatter the cover version by John Lee Hooker, recorded last year with Hendrix acolyte Randy California, that is included here. It's nice to hear one of his forebears acknowledge Hendrix's heartfelt tribute, but Hooker won't tell you anything about Hendrix's blues roots that Hendrix didn't say himself night after night in "Red House," in brilliant sonic technicolor.

Other releases in the Hendrix Reference Library include Fuzz, Feedback and Wah-wah; Whammy Bar and Finger Grease; Octavia and Univibe; and Rhythm. For information, write Hal Leonard Publishing, P.O. Box 13819, Milwaukee, WI 53213.

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