JIMI HENDRIX DIED WITHOUT a will, causing years of legal turmoil over management of his estate. Now, four decades after his death, much of the rare, exciting music still sitting in the vaults is finally seeing an official release.
Among the tracks unearthed: the Band of Gypsys song "Burning Desire," a whirlwind nine minutes that starts with Hendrix's sassy, clucking guitar over a rolling bass line, then swerves into a hard-funk charge. Hendrix, Billy Cox and Buddy Miles bolt into punklike double time and drop down to a churning blues, with Hendrix massaging his chords with glistening tremolo-bar flourishes.
"Burning Desire," recorded at the Record Plant in New York on January 16th, 1970, has never been issued. That also goes for a killer instrumental take of "Castles Made of Sand," a 1967 run-through with just Hendrix and Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell, and an alternate master of the Are You Experienced ballad "May This Be Love," with different vocals and lead guitar, that Hendrix nearly picked for the final album.
All three tracks will finally be released in the next year by Experience Hendrix, through its new deal with Sony Music, in a multidisc anthology of rare and unheard music from the guitarist's early sideman recordings to some of his very last sessions.
Like the mid-Nineties Beatles Anthology CDs, the Hendrix set "will feature unreleased or commercially unavailable music, pulling it together in a cohesive way," says Hendrix biographer John McDermott, who is the director of catalog development for Experience Hendrix. "You get to hear 'My Diary' [a 1964 single made with Rosa Lee Brooks] to 'Black Gold' and some of the demos Jimi was working on before his death." Experience Hendrix is also preparing a "definitive documentary," directed by Bob Smeaton, who did the Beatles' Anthology video history.
Unlike many artists at the time, Hendrix always owned his song publishing and master recordings. "The music informs the decisions," says McDermott of the rarities and live sets he co-produces with Eddie Kramer and Janie Hendrix. "We ask, 'What's there? Is it up to the quality people expect?' Because Jimi was such an improvisational guy, a live recording from Winterland is different from Woodstock and Isle of Wight. They all have value."
Future releases in the works include the February 1969 shows filmed and recorded at London's Royal Albert Hall, and a May 1968 set at the Miami Pop Festival. "I found the Miami material by going through all of these old correspondences," says McDermott. "I found the widow of the guy who had all the stuff. And it's brilliant." He would also like to do a "proper presentation" of the Experience's February 1968 stand at Winterland in San Francisco.
There are tapes that still elude McDermott, recordings "presented to Warner Bros, after Jimi's death but that they didn't know what to do with." He cites a video recording of a June 5th, 1970, show in Dallas. "Jimi was always inspired when he played in Texas. The video was offered to Warner Bros., but they passed. It's out there somewhere, people." And if you know where, "please call Experience Hendrix."