Nearly twenty years after his death, Jimi Hendrix's music continues to be relevant to rock fans young and old alike. Keenly aware of this, Warner Bros. Records – in response to pressure from the Hendrix estate – has begun using newly remastered tapes for the compact discs of Are You Experienced? and Axis: Bold As Love. "There's ten to twelve more dbs [decibels] of hiss on the old ones," says digital engineer Joe Gastwirt, who upgraded the discs using 1989 technology. The new CDs are already hitting store shelves, with no tip-off on the packaging for consumers, but the mark RE-I in the disc's small inner circle gives away the new ones. Electric Ladyland is the next to be upgraded, with the entire two-LP set contained on one CD, unlike all previous issues.
The Jimi Hendrix Reference Library is an unusual new series "specifically created for musicians and would-be musicians," says Alan Douglas, overseer of the Hendrix estate. The series, on CD and cassette only, will sample both familiar and unreleased Hendrix material for up-and-coming Eddie Van Halens to study. One of the first titles due, Variations on a Theme: Red House, features six previously unreleased versions of Hendrix's performance of the song "Red House" – each played a different way – plus a new traditional-blues version by the great blues artist John Lee Hooker for perspective. Fuzz, Feedback and Wah-wah and Whammy Bar and Finger Grease are the other two titles due in September, containing snippets ranging in length from ten seconds to two minutes. A full dozen titles are projected for the series. The Jimi Hendrix Reference Library is being marketed by Hal Leonard Publishing of Milwaukee, and it will more likely be found in musical-instrument stores than in record shops.
Finally, the British Strange Fruit label has achieved quite a coup in securing the rights to Jimi Hendrix: Live and Unreleased, an official release of Westwood One's six-hour syndicated radio special aired last year. The three-CD set – for which no American label has yet been selected – will largely be a grab bag of previously unreleased goodies. "It was basically inspired by The Lost Lennon Tapes radio series," says former Knack drummer Bruce Gary, who produced the project, which is due in September as a limited-edition collector's set.
This story is from the September 21st, 1989 issue of Rolling Stone.