Eric Clapton, Slash, Jeff Beck, Spin Doctors and members of Pearl Jam are some of the artists contributing to a Jimi Hendrix tribute album due out Nov. 9 on Warner Bros. Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix is an ambitious undertaking celebrating the songwriting of one of rock’s most influential guitarists. Over a year in the making, the album finds a diverse group of artists, ranging from Belly to Buddy Guy, covering some of Hendrix’s best songs.
“It’s been kind of a dream come true,” says Warner Senior Vice President Jeff Gold, a fanatical Hendrix fan who is an executive producer of the album, along with Hendrix biographer John McDermott and producer Eddie Kramer (who engineered such classic Hendrix albums as Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland).
Some of the album’s highlights include Clapton doing “Stone Free” backed by Nile Rodgers and his former Chic comrades, Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson; Slash, Paul Rodgers and the reunited Band of Gypsys rhythm section (drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox) performing “I Don’t Live Today”; Chicago blues guitarist Buddy Guy and former Chuck Berry pianoman Johnnie Johnson reinventing “Red House”; and Jeff Beck and Seal rocking through “Manic Depression.”
“It just blows me out that we got two of the Yardbirds‘ guitarists on the album,” says Gold. “You know, Clapton was out tooting Hendrix’s horn before he even had his first single released.”
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Also included on the album are versions of “Spanish Castle Magic” by the Spin Doctors, “Purple Haze” by the Cure, “Crosstown Traffic” by Living Colour, “You Got Me Floatin'” by P.M. Dawn, “Are You Experienced?” by Belly, “Fire” by Nigel Kennedy, “Bold As Love” by the Pretenders, “Third Stone From the Sun” by Pat Metheny, “Hey, Joe” (the only non-Hendrix composition) by Ice-T‘s Body Count and “Hey, Baby” by Cookie, a studio group consisting of Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Mike McCready and Soundgarden singer-guitarist Chris Cornell and drummer Matt Cameron.
All of the musicians who contributed tracks are confirmed Hendrix fans: Slash stayed up all night working on his guitar overdubs for “I Don’t Live Today,” while Beck arranged to work at Olympic Studios, where Hendrix recorded his first two albums.
“I had this weird deja vu feeling,” says Kramer, who produced the Beck-Seal collaboration. “The historical lineage was the reason Jeff wanted to record there. And Seal brought along a lot of friends, girls dressed in ’60s garb. It felt like we’d gone back 20 years.”
Gold says plans are being made for a Hendrix tribute concert, featuring artists who appear on the album. At press time, no artists had been contracted, but Gold has hopes that the concert will be scheduled for the end of November in New York City, Los Angeles or Seattle. “We’re just in the preliminary talking stages,” he cautions. “There’s about a 60-percent chance it will happen.”
Half of the artist royalties from the album will be donated to a variety of charities, including the United Negro College Fund (for scholarships in Hendrix’s name, to be awarded to students attending African-American colleges). “It’s a labor of love,” says Gold. “Yeah, we’ll make money on it, but it’s a bunch of people who really care about this music and are proselytizing about it.”
This story is from the November 11th, 1993 issue of Rolling Stone.