Sound — 8
After the Gypsy Sun and Rainbows band got together for Woodstock in the summer of 1969, Jimi Hendrix wanted to experiment with a new sound. His Experience drummer, Mitch Mitchell, was in England and Jimi wanted to get a drummer to accompany Billy Cox's funky stylings on bass. He contacted Buddy Miles, and the all-black Band of Gypsies was formed. Jimi had the ability to play any kind of music with anyone at any time, so of course this worked out perfectly. Their styles seemed to just gel. They made some very innovative music that some seem to overlook because it's not "The Jimi Hendrix Experience" that's labeled. But that shouldn't happen. The Band of Gypsies may have been more talented musically than the Experience, so these assessments are unfair. This band sounds fantastic, on an even plain with anything the Experience did.
Content — 9
There is a documentary that comes in this. Included in the documentary are interviews with Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell, Billy Cox, Buddy Miles, Noel Redding, Eddie Kramer, Lenny Kravitz, and many others. Also featured in the documentary are performances from the concert itself, including "Foxey Lady", "Izabella", and "Fire". But the main attraction, for me anyway, was the stellar concert footage. This was the only footage shot from the New Year's concert at the Fillmore East in 1969/1970. This film is from the First Show on New Year's Day in 1970 (They had four shows over those two days). The set list goes like this: "Who Knows", "Changes", "Machine Gun", "Stepping Stone", "Stop", and "Earth Blues". The Buddy Miles-written "Changes" is an early highlight, as it provides an unspoken look into the compatibility of these performers. Jimi himself smiles early on in delight. But this is quickly overshadowed by arguably the greatest single live performance Jimi ever gave, "Machine Gun". It was a powerful statement at the time. This is overshadowed by some because it was not officially recorded in a studio, but don't take that fact to heart. It wouldn't have been the same in-studio because there wouldn't be as many improvisations, and this 12-minute masterpiece may have been cut down to 6 or 7 minutes. "Machine Gun", for me, may rival the "Star-Spangled Banner" from Woodstock. The only reason more people don't think the same is that this performance was not as readily distributed in 1970 as "Woodstock" was. Anyway, great stuff all-around.
Production Quality — 7
The sound quality is fantastic, but the video quality leaves some room for improvement. It was shot on a portable open-reel video camera, much like the "Second Look" performance for those of you who own "Jimi Hendrix: Live at Woodstock". Portable cameras were still in their infancy at the time of this recording, so you have to take that in consideration when watching it. But it is worth watching in the first place.
Overall Impression — 9
The "Machine Gun" performance is, like I said, comparable to the "Star-Spangled Banner" Woodstock performance, as well as the Led Zeppelin "The Song Remains the Same" concert footage of "Stairway to Heaven". The most impressive thing is most definitely "Machine Gun". That's almost half the reason someone buys it. The documentary is well worth watching to gain insight into how and why the Band of Gypsies really got together, and their unfortunate demise. I love the documentary and most of the concert footage. But the video quality is unfortunately subpar, especially for a monumental Jimi Hendrix performance like this. If this were stolen or lost, I would most definitely buy it again, if only for "Machine Gun" and the documentary.