The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Winterland


Enclosed in a classily designed digi-pak overflowing with kinetic action images that overflow to the graphics of the booklet inside (which also houses an insightful essay by David Fricke), The Jimi Hendrix Experience Winterland single CD, just released by Legacy Recordings through its affiliation with Experience Hendrix, is not the same music as originally put out through RykoDisc in 1987. It is, instead, a distillation of the four CD deluxe package available the same day as this new release, which is, in turn, a condensed representation of recordings made over three nights in October of 1968 at the now defunct San Francisco venue once overseen by the late impresario extraordinaire Bill Graham.

Hendrix’ band of the time, bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell are certainly not lost in the mix by original engineer Eddie Kramer, while the remastering by George Marino maintains their prominence so that it’s easy to become immersed in listening to Winterland on every front. Hendrix’ appeal over the years has cut across all musical demographics and, even hearing the most caricatured cuts included tellingly, at the outset of this compact disc track listing, constitute a reminder why; “Fire” and “Foxey Lady” may be just two of the most notable concessions to the common denominator of commercialism (and his outlandish persona) that Jimi ever allowed, but even here the unbridled power of his playing comes through.

Hendrix’ greatest challenge live was not replicating the dense intricacy of his studio recordings, even though Are You Experienced?,  for one, is remarkably faithful to the original album track. The genius of Hendrix lay in the pleasure he took in playing and the passion he strove to channel through his instrument. The simplicity of the blues as represented by “Hear My Train A Comin’” lent itself to the most elemental expression of Hendrix’ energy, but even the more playful likes of the instrumental version of his homage to power trio peers Cream, “Sunshine of Your Love,” is also indicative of the depth of intensity at Jimi’s command.

His was strength of imagination combined with technical expertise and brazen bravado that other guitarists, including contemporaries such as Eric Clapton and descendants such as self-avowed idolater Stevie Ray Vaughan had to stretch to equal—and then by and large fell short.  Jimi Hendrix did find a kindred spirit in Bob Dylan, whose verbal ingenuity compared favorably to his own on the guitar and, as a result, Hendrix could turn his renditions of The Bard’s songs, such as the one here of “Like A Rolling Stone,” into a personal statements virtually as resounding (or more so) than the author’s; this version is that of an accomplished artist, unlike the one from Monterey Pop, the offering of a supremely ambitious and skilled fledgling.

 As with so many great musicians, though, Jimi Hendrix savored the quiet moments such as those delicate ones that take the form here of “Little Wing.” Say what anyone may about the archiving skill, or lack thereof, from the late icon’s estate and biographer/co-producer John McDermott, but the inclusion of that ballad sequenced into eleven tracks that conclude with the proto-metal riffs of “Voodoo Child” (Slight Return),” then “Purple Haze,” comprise a setlist that, like the one contained on the expanded version of Hendrix In The West (also released simultaneous with Winterland) offers an accurate portrayal of the panoramic splendor of Jimi Hendrix’ talent.

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