Jimi Hendrix Continues To Inspire

If Jimi Hendrix was as alive and vital as his music remains, he'd be 70 this year.

Ultimate Guitar

If Jimi Hendrix was as alive and vital as his music remains, he'd be 70 this year. The heights to which he would have taken his artistry can only be imagined, but there are clues throughout his legacy, like the expansive sonics in his visionary "Axis: Bold As Love" and "Electric Ladyland" albums, and in live performances like "Machine Gun" at the Fillmore East, on the historic "Bandy Of Gypsys" disc, where he transforms rock-based improvisation into a tangible language.

Any opportunity to hear or watch Hendrix perform live is always inspiring, especially for electric guitarists. Even in practical terms. As he proves in the Isle of Wight concert film Message to Love and on the Live At Woburn CD, his hard-core experience as a performer on the chitlin circuit allowed him to overcome the adversity of technical issues without sapping an ounce of the power of his delivery, for example. And when the occasional bad note slipped out, he always had a quip as well as a torrent of consistently staggering playing at ready for the occasion.

Fortunately, Hendrix's playing is showcased in his live 1970 concert at Berkeley. The "Jimi Hendrix: Live At Berkeley" CD, just released and the film of that show, Jimi Plays Berkeley, now on DVD, is witness to the man's musical genius.

Jimi Plays Berkeley captures Hendrix on stage at the Community Theater in Berkeley, California, on Memorial Day 1970. This new and improved package adds a fantastic bonus, a second set recorded on the same night with a slew of different titles including "Purple Haze", "Straight Ahead", "Stone Free", "Hey Joe" and "Foxey Lady". The second set is an audio-only bonus on the DVD and it is mastered, like the DVD itself, in Dolby 5.1. It's also available as an audio only release from Experience Hendrix, the legacy organization led by Jimi's sister Janie.

The film starts, as in its original 1971 release, with scenes before the show - Hendrix and his small posse in a limo en route, footage from the streets of the liberal collegiate community - that visually capture the milieu of the times. The concert does the same aurally, thanks to Hendrix's sheer ability to speak with his instrument. The newly restored and remastered film on Blue Ray shows Hendrix afire, spinning out dizzying licks in a ferocious jam on "I Don't Live Today," where he tosses his guitar behind his head and keeps chugging without any apparent loss in facility. And there's a version of the "Star Spangled Banner" that features his whammy bar manipulation at its most playful. Like Ike Turner before him, Hendrix often pushed the device to its maximum, and his glee in making his guitar whinny is palpable.

Most important, there are newly discovered performances of "Machine Gun" and "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" that were not part of the original film. It's obvious why. The new performance footage is grainy and appears to have been poorly shot, but scenes of protests and rioting that have been added to compensate lend a hair-raising highly effective visual component to the song's message. Regardless of how Hendrix looks, the sound is great and he is obviously pouring his soul into the performance, standing stock still behind the microphone rather than working the stage as he does for the majority of the concert. He also improvises lyrics specifically addressing the Vietnam War. And his take on "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" is rabidly up-tempo, bringing out the R&B roots of the tune and pushing the groove into the kind of rave-ups he propelled during his stints with the Isley Brothers, Curtis Knight and a host of others while cutting his teeth in the chitlin circuit.

The 67-minute "Second Set" recording is all rock n' roll ferocity, a great performance that captures Hendrix loose and unleashed. Second sets are historically the spot where bands hit their stride, warmed up after the night's opening volley. The group's rendition of "Straight Ahead" is all blood and guts, and Hendrix's solo on "Stone Free" transforms his guitar into a wild stampeding beast, tamed only by a whammy bar finale that segues into "Hey Joe".

The revitalized Jimi Plays Berkeley has one more surprise: an interview with his live sound engineer Abe Jacobs. It's packed with fascinating tidbits about Hendrix's on-stage approach. Jacobs explains Hendrix's goal was to create an experience for his listeners that was akin to him playing for them in his living room and that Jacobs never used more then eight microphone on stage with the band, who traveled with all their gear in a single 19-foot truck.

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Thanks for the report to Ted Drozdowski, Gibson

40 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Hey, Beethoven still inspires, I wouldn't be surprised if 100 years from now, Hendrix is still relevant.
    Nobody should be surprised if in the year 2112 (lol, coincedence) Jimi Hendrix is still a vital name in music. His music wil indeed continue to inspire and inform. As long as there is still guitar and guitar players, Jimi Hendrix will still be around.
    King Zeppelin I
    Another stolen article. Linking to it at the end is still stealing, because you're getting ad revenue for someone else's work. Please stop, UG.
    Not to mention, they steal most of our tabs that we upload and make them into Tab Pros. Thats taking our hard work and not giving us a share of the revenue our tabs make with their pay to use service.
    Hendrix continues to inspire... In other news, water continues to be wet.
    People consider him the best guitarist ever and he was only around for a few years! He couldn't even read music and he wrote songs like Purple Haze, Voodoo Child and Little Wing. Of course he'll continue to inspire...
    I personally think Jimi would have gone into jazz fusion as he matured.
    Or maybe progressive rock, I heard that he was suppossed to be part of Emerson, Lake and Palmer but he suddendly died making it impossible
    i dont understand this article. i feel like some UG writer got stoned yesterday and listened to Hendrix and it blew his mind so he ejaculated a brief summary of his performances.
    Battery Chicken
    I think it's supposed to be a review of the Jimi plays Berkley DVD, what it's doing in the news section is anyones guess. Also wasn't this DVD released a while ago?
    Whose the "Bandy of Gypsys"? (first paragraph)
    It's cool to think that Hendrix made all of that amazing music in the span of just a few years... imagine what he might've done if he lived longer and kept playing and recording for another few years or 10 or more...
    You dont say? Next you're gonna tell us something crazy... like the sky is blue or something.
    Blasphemous video! LOL Death to Gibson, federales should confiscate all their wood! Fender uber alles!
    I swear that bassist in the back reminds me of Geddy Lee just by the looks.
    Most of the greats couldn't read music,as far as I remember Paul Mccartney and John Lennon couldn't either! The more you listen and imitate the more you use your right side creative brain, and the more you read you use your left logical brain, so I guess it goes well with creativity to not be able to read the sheet stuff