This two-disc collection draws on four monumental sets that Jimi Hendrix performed with the Band of Gypsys (bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles) at New York’s Fillmore East on December 31st, 1969, and January 1st, 1970. Gripped by drug abuse, beset by contractual problems, leading a new, post-Experience trio, burying the Sixties, ushering in a new decade and a year that he would not survive, Hendrix channeled all his turmoil into these jaw-dropping performances.
Five songs on Live appear in different versions on Band of Gypsys (1970). But with Hendrix, who reinvented his playing at every moment, more is always better. In the case of a mere human, for example, two renditions of “Machine Gun” — running a total of more than twenty-five minutes — might be excessive. Such a critique here, however, would be like complaining about having to travel to Saturn twice. Fevered, introspective, instinctively ambitious and emotionally devastating, this is Hendrix onstage and on fire — which is to say, it’s improvisational music as great as any that rock & roll has ever produced.