Album Reviews

Jimi Hendrix – People, Hell and Angels

on March 07, 2013, 12:03am
PeopleHellAngels C-
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When Jimi Hendrix died, he became a god. This is an undisputed fact. It’s all been said before, regurgitated by rock writers for decades: Hendrix revolutionized the art of guitar playing. He viewed the instrument as a sonic anomaly, his playing an ongoing experiment conducted during every jam session and live show. Scales, chords, progressions — all that stuff had already been discovered. Hendrix was fascinated by what hadn’t been done with a guitar– like playing it through wah-wah pedals and massive gain, or picking its strings with his teeth, or dousing it with lighter fluid and igniting it. His godliness is directly correlated to his larger-than-life fretwork.

So when he died, he ascended to the rock ‘n’ roll heavens, where his divine amplifier feedback can be heard for all of eternity. Us mortals were left with loose ends: demos, outtakes, unfinished recordings, archived live audio, and stray handwritten lyrics. They were scraps to some, $$$ to all the music industry execs who knew how to exploit the death of an icon.

The first three posthumous LPs — The Cry of Love, Rainbow Bridge, and War Heroes — were produced and compiled by Mitch Mitchell, Eddie Kramer, and John Jansen with the earnest intent of finishing what Hendrix couldn’t (most of these songs would be collected on 1997’s First Rays of the New Rising Sun in an attempt to recreate the album Hendrix was working on before he died). Admirable enough. But with the vaults open and labels placing bids on Hendrix’s unreleased material, the money grubbing ensued. The villain: record producer Alan Douglas. Starting with 1975’s Crash Landing, Douglas produced numerous albums by taking Hendrix’s leftovers and replacing the original rhythm tracks with overdubs by session musicians. After mastering, the recordings sounded more polished and professional, but less authentic. This pissed off a lot of Hendrix fans. Douglas compiled every posthumous studio album until the Hendrix estate (which operates under the name ‘Experience Hendrix L.L.C.’) gained ownership of the recordings in 1995.

Not that that’s seen a decrease in releases. Legacy Recordings and Experience Hendrix have already collaborated for some box sets and LPs, People, Hell and Angels being the latest. However, the presentation of the music differs. This partnership has taken an archivist approach to preserving and releasing posthumous material — the opposite of what Douglas did. No overdubs. You’re hearing Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums (the Band of Gypsys!). Stephen Stills shows up. The recordings sound raw– and real.

Opener “Earth Blues” is a tight rock-and-soul fusion and easily the catchiest tune on People, Hell and Angels. Hendrix sings his conversational jive-talk as Miles and Cox follow with a harmonized chorus reminiscent of vintage Motown. Originally featured on 1971’s Rainbow Bridge, the song is presented here in a looser form.  The same goes for “Somewhere”, which sees Stills on bass. The takes are obviously candid, as if somebody just hit the record button while Hendrix and his band jammed in the studio (which is probably what happened). And the guitar solos… they’re on every song, multiple minutes in length. It’s to be expected, but it gets tiresome with repeated plays. Better are the solos that sound written rather than improvised. “Sometimes” touts one of the former, a silky romance of a solo that segues into Hendrix all down n’ out: “Back at the saloon, tears mix with mildew in my dreams.” No surprise that the two aforementioned tracks were selected as the singles for People, Hell and Angels (and they’re bound to chart, courtesy of classic rock stations everywhere).

The rest of the album is a mixed bag of brilliance and indifference. Some songs we simply don’t need another version of in our music libraries. “Hear My Train A Comin’” and “Bleeding Heart” were presented in superior form on 1994’s Blues; “Izabella” sounds good here, but better on First Rays and Woodstock. Other songs are so rough that they were probably better off unreleased (the cloying solo in the middle of “Easy Blues” is arguably Hendrix’s worst; “Mojo Man” is a Ghetto Fighters track with guitar awkwardly overdubbed into it).

Then there’s “Crash Landing”, which is so good that it’s hard to believe it went unreleased for so long (Douglas’ version doesn’t count). Hendrix sings to then-girlfriend Devon Wilson, pleading that she kick her drug addiction: “And look at you, all lovey-dovey when you mess around with that needle / Well, I wonder, how would your loving be otherwise?” His lyrics are rarely this personal and transparent. This is the kind of stuff that makes a posthumous release worthwhile.

People, Hell and Angel isn’t perfect — or godly — but it does contain some canon tracks that every Hendrix fan should hear. And for a posthumous anthology, it’s surprisingly cohesive as a singular unit. These tracks share a consistent groove that’s never urgent or lazy, but just right. Perhaps it’s the organic, jam-session sound quality. Or the Miles-Cox rhythm section. Whatever the dynamic, the Douglas-produced albums didn’t have it. People, Hell and Angels does, and no matter how flawed it might be, you can’t dispute its authenticity.

Essential Tracks: “Earth Blues”, “Crash Landing”

8 comments

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Chris Elliott
March 19, 2013 at 1:08 pm

I was a bit more critical that you in my review of this album because of how much duplication there was on this “new album.” I did a track by track breakdown Experience Hendrix didn’t like much on my blog…

http://www.ibechris.com/music/jimi-hendrix-people-hell-and-angels-review-for-completists-only/

James Sedgwick
March 7, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Very POOR loose jams on this CD, that is INTENTIONAL. The hype on this release all across the internet is ARTIFICIAL. The handful of moguls who orchestrated this are
INTENT on drawing attention to POOR Hendrix jam music to CAUSE the public to conclude Jimi is “OVERRATED” – the point is to dwindle and diminish the influence of Hendrix. Why are they doing this?

This is ALL ABOUT rockprophecy com – the Hendrix asteroid prediction which is now manifesting. NOTE: The day they released the single song from this CD is the day Russia was hit by asteroid, VALENTINE’S DAY. Also it’s when Asteroid DA14 passed – on VALENTINES DAY because Jimi named the asteroid storm coming at us “ELECTRIC LOVE” – so the asteroids appeared on Valentines Day = LOVE. The BRIGHTEST COMET ever seen will arrive CLOSEST to Earth on JIMI’S BIRTHDAY this year – Comet Ison.

The details of Jimi’s prediction are at rockprophecy com. THAT story is WHY the moguls are DESTROYING interest in Jimi with this hideously bad CD for PEOPLE from HELL – the ANGELS will punish us all with ROCKS Jimi predicted – that’s why he was the FIRST to be called “ROCK STAR” as in ASTEROID COMET. It was subliminal recognition by our species of Hendrix as mutation sensing remote view of objects in deep space.

As he sang: “Electric Love penetrates the sky, the Mountain falls in the sea, the Sun refuses to shine…” Jimi

See today’s news – on March 4 ANOTHER asteroid the size of the one that hit Russia came closer than the moon and THREE new comets are on the way…. Prophet Jimi…rockprophecy com

Bumr50
March 10, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Wow.

Starsk
March 10, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Quite.

Guest
March 11, 2013 at 3:12 pm

since we are hypothetically talking, maybe instead of an Asteroid coming back and hitting Earth maybe Jimi Hendrix will manifest himself into some lucky guitar player on Earth. Maybe because these releases will influence the new generation because as I look around I see my generation searching for different types of music.

Virgil Starkwell
March 14, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Look, I love Hendrix and his music. But all the talk and visions of outer space and galaxies and planets came from taking an interest in seeking beyond our known existence and amplifying and distorting it with massive amounts of LSD. When you’re on LSD, you see things like galaxies and comets and planets rotating. And it seems real because you’re sensing it for real. And when LSD use becomes abuse, the lines between actual reality and sensual reality can become blurred. Jimi did way too much LSD. He was a great person and a musical phenom–he changed music forever. But he was no freaking god, prophet, other-worldly being, etc. Please don’t pollute his legacy by trying to make him into some such thing.

Brandt Hardin
March 7, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Everything Rock knows about the guitar after 1970 came from his psychedelic twisting of what the instrument could do. I paid homage to Hendrix with a portrait called Purple Haze on the anniversary of his passing recently. You can see it at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/09/purple-haze-jimi-hendrix.html and tell me how the voodoo child’s music has influenced you!

shaun
March 7, 2013 at 1:54 pm

this jon doesn’t know what he’s talking about