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Hendrix Remastered on BBC Sessions

“BBC Sessions” brings you Hendrix as you’ve never heard him before

“And that’s just to prove you can never predict what’s going to
happen on the BBC World Service,” declaims a proper-sounding Alexis
Korner, host of the “Rhythm and Blues Show,” between Jimi Hendrix’s
grooving cover of Bob Dylan’s “Can You Please Crawl Out Your
Window” and his throttling take on Muddy Waters’ “(I’m Your)
Hoochie Coochie Man.”

The popular host’s comments, now ready for mass-distribution
thanks to a new double-disc collection of Hendrix’s BBC Sessions,
may not have known how spot on he was back in October 1967. Those
broadcasts and others from that era have just been re-released on
an impressive new album that provides a snapshot of the legend
before he was accorded legendary status. BBC Sessions‘s
thirty tracks (thirteen of which are unreleased) were remastered by
original engineer Eddie Kramer from source studio reels, and the
result is as sonically startling as it is historically significant.
The Seattle-born twenty-five-year-old captured on tape was out for
blood — albeit with a sharp sense of humor. Although “Hey Joe” and
“Purple Haze” had hit British charts, Hendrix still wasn’t a
guaranteed draw, and the ripples from the Experience’s debut album,
Are You Experienced, had yet to turn into tidal waves. By
his choice of covers alone (Dylan, the Beatles and Cream, among
blues songs widely covered by other Brit bands of the era), Hendrix
seemed hell bent on weighing in on the musical discourse of the
era.

While the material from the BBC sessions has been in bootleg
circulation for years (in addition, seventeen of the songs were
also released ten years ago as Radio One (on Rykodisc),
this reissue benefits from improved sound quality and a noteworthy
attention to detail — Kramer’s participation in the process, for
example, was much heralded. For the Hendrix family, who finally won
rights to Jimi’s material from a former producer and his estate
lawyer in 1995, the release of this material is another small
victory.

Among legions of fans worldwide, Jimi’s father, Al, might be the
biggest of all. (He only listens to radio stations with his son’s
music in good rotation, and he’s currently spinning
Sessions in his car.) The elder Hendrix, now in his late
seventies, gave Jimi his first guitar, exposed him to the likes of
Howlin’ Wolf and B.B. King, and encouraged his son to follow his
muse and “be original.” Though his son’s albums have made millions,
until recently, Al and the rest of the Hendrix family had been cut
out of the loop. He spent his sixties working as a gardener in
Seattle.

“Some of that stuff that was put out before the other parties,”
Al says in a near whisper of a voice, “well, I didn’t go for it.
But now I say, ‘well, that’s about the best people can do, and the
best people doing it.’ I’m glad that they went and got Kramer to do
it.”

According to Jimi’s half-sister Janie, who along with Al runs
Experience Hendrix, the label responsible for putting out
Sessions and re-releasing Hendrix’s catalog (distributed
by MCA), this latest record is the by-product of years of hard
work. She was steeped in the project start to finish — from
securing rights issues to finding photos for the album art.

“Basically, [Hendrix historian] John McDermott and I went to
London and negotiated with the BBC, so I was very much involved in
the whole process. Apparently, when the BBC worked on the Led
Zeppelin album and the Beatles album they actually unearthed some
tapes that had never been released before. So that was a real
blessing to us,” Janie says.

Once business matters were squared away, Janie and McDermott
returned with the tapes to New York and hit the studio with Kramer.
A week of eighteen-hour days later, they had what they wanted. It
was a speedy process that Jimi himself might have appreciated.

“It was a symbiotic thing,” Kramer says of the recording
relationship between him and Hendrix. “He would do something and I
would react to it and create something different from that sound,
improve upon it and enhance it, and he would into the studio and
go, ‘oh, that’s cool.'”

Listening to the unchecked invention and genuine passion on
these recordings, the sound of a legend in the making, it’s not too
hard to imagine Hendrix nodding his head from his above and echoing
the same approval.

In This Article: Jimi Hendrix

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