In memory of Alan Douglas 

The Hendrix Albums They Don't Want You To Hear

A note from your host: It's been exactly fifty years today since I first pushed this piece out into the blogosphere. Well, it seems like it. Re-reading it today, there's nothing factually wrong here. Nobody has contacted me with corrections. And I still stand by my opinions (somebody has to). The truth about Alan Douglas seems to be filtering into the armadillo-brain of the internet, but he still gets a good kicking from a whole new generation of independent minds with nothing better to do than not think for themselves.

Just a note to clear things up for the confused newcomer to this treasure-trove of fine writing - the sidebars are mostly (but not all) attempts to "be funny". Editing out the dated stuff (Jack Bauer jokes, anybody?) has occurred to me, but it adds a period charm to an otherwise timeless heritage piece that will stand as a beacon of truth for the seeker of rock n' roll enlightenment. Welcome!

Jimi Hendrix didn't stop composing, playing, and recording after Electric Ladyland, but the forces that swirled around him prevented the next studio album from being released in his lifetime. Our only opportunity to hear these recordings (and there is a wealth of them) is on the post mortem albums, which are all assemblages based on what might have been. No, Hendrix wasn't there to put them together, but that doesn't mean they aren't valid, and valuable, Hendrix albums in their own way.
Buster Hendrix at the Salvation, NY, September 10, 1969

Accepted wisdom has it that the albums covered here, before his music got all "curated" by Experience Hendrix LLC, are best forgotten. But in spite of what that multi-million dollar corporation would have you believe, their own compilations are no closer than anyone else's as to what constitutes a "real" Hendrix album. Accepted wisdom is wrong. The Dead Hendrix albums contain music which not only equals the best of his previous recordings, but demonstrate how much his writing and playing had matured, from swinging sixties psychedelia to a harder, funkier sound that drew deeply from his black roots.

All the albums discussed here - live albums and re-issues are not included - are long out of print (except one), and likely to stay that way, not because of what's in the groove, but because of the business complexities and personalities involved. They're only available - if at all - as expensive imports or collector's items. If you want to hear them without paying rip-off prices, you can illegally download digital copies, right now and for free, from the usual internet evildoers. And, if you live in the free world, go to jail. Or you can wait until the sky turns paisley for the re-issues. For such an extensive discography to remain unavailable is unique for an artist of Hendrix's stature. The best of these albums deserve to be considered as first tier Hendrix releases, and works of art in their own right. In particular, the contentious Douglas studio albums form an absolutely legitimate, albeit hidden, part of the Hendrix discography. Their recognition is long overdue, as is the respect for Douglas’s achievement.

Alan Douglas, Paris 2010. Cooler than you. Cooler than Kramer, too.

The idea for this blog grew from the realisation that I was listening to Hendrix’s post-Ladyland music more than those first three studio albums, and enjoying it more. I rediscovered forgotten albums, dismayed at their relegation to the trash bin of musical history, and with a growing sense of outrage at the senseless vilification of Alan Douglas.
A shrill coterie of Hendrix “fans” has been screeching for Douglas’s public flaying/burning/crucifixion for decades, out-vying each other in their self-righteous hatred - the more they hate Douglas, the more they show their love for Hendrix, and the greater their prestige and credibility among their peer group. A cursory internet search on Douglas reveals a seething mass of bitterness expressing itself in terms better suited to child molesters and genocidal dictators. Creep. Bastard. Butcher. Crucifixion too good for. Loathesome. Travesty. Hendrix turning in grave. Desecration. How did it get to this stage? Why have the Douglas albums - all of them worthwhile - become the pariahs of the record industry?

To get at this, we have to go back to the first Dead Hendrix studio album, and get some idea of the managerial mess his music was in. Given the amount of unpublished song-writing and studio recording Hendrix had done since Electric Ladyland, locking the vault doors forever was never going to be an option. It wasn't just a question of money. Vampires had always been flapping around Hendrix, and they didn't turn into butterflies with his death. So we can rule out the exploito-cash-in argument right here, not because it's untrue, but because it's irrelevant..
Hendrix left very little studio material in a signed-off state, and we'll never know how much work he was going to put into anything to get it finished. So the alternatives are - put out unfinished work, exactly as he left it, or present it as best you know how. Releasing unfinished tapes is arguably more disrespectful to the artist's memory (he certainly wouldn't have released them like that in his lifetime), than putting studio work into them. Also, a series of archive albums of unfinished music would be a commercial disaster (except for the bootleg industry, with its minimal overheads and utter disinterest in producing quality product). No, Hendrix isn't around to make the mix-down, to approve overdubs, album sequencing, or anything else. But it's easy to take all this into consideration when listening to these albums and appreciate them for what they are, not what they might have been.
(Live albums, re-issues of the first three studio albums, and the Experience Hendrix LLC compilations fall outside the scope of this piece.)

>>>> The Cry Of Love


Yeah. It's beautiful. An illustration by Nancy Reiner (a Google waste of time, strangely), in a technique that's baffled me for four decades. Is that real hair in there? Is it an etching? A drawing? This shouldn't work, but does. The decision to leave the title off - even though it's probably the most beautiful title of any rock album - of
anything - was correct. The peaceful, floating mood would have been crushed by typography. It's interesting to compare the mood of this image - gentle, ethereal - with
that of War Heroes, which is saturated with forebodingBlank Frank, from the estimable and-your-bird-can-swing sends me this picture he took at the Hard Rock Cafe in Prague. It's the original drawing for the album cover. It appears to be a pencil crayon drawing, which was then used as the black plate in the four-colour process over an image of a blue sky - a composite. Thanks, Blank!


Hendrix was planning a double album, but Michael Jeffery, his widely unloved manger, opted for a single first posthumous release, determined to milk his Warners cash cow dry as slowly as possible. Eddie Kramer (then chief engineer at Electric Lady studios) and Mitch Mitchell were employed to put it together. They didn't have the complete tape vault to choose from - material from TTG and the Record Plant had yet to surface - and everything they had required overdubs and tweaking and mixing to a greater or lesser extent. They crafted a twelve-track album from the most recent unused material, from which Jeffery, whose maxim was less (for you) is more (for me), hooked out “Dolly Dagger” and “Room Full Of Mirrors” for later release. The album was named - surely the most beautiful of all album titles - after Hendrix's last t
ouring band.

"Freedom” In under fifteen seconds, Hendrix stakes out his post-Ladyland territory, and those expecting the lysergic swirl of the experimental Experience (that is, most of us) found themselves strangers in a strange land. This is tougher, more urgent music - riff and rhythm, and a wild orchestra of guitars that give a whole new meaning to the idea of a solo. And the soul feel, with the Ghetto Fighters on background vox, makes it clear - this is black music. American black music. A long way from the white pop single market of Swinging London.
It's this fundamental cultural shift in his musical approach that causes his post-Electric Ladyland music to be thought of as in some ways inferior to what had gone before, not the varying degrees of incompletion in which he left it. We revere those first three albums but consider the later work as unfinished footnotes to his career, wondering where his talent would have taken him. But this isn't the Experience, and the music is as fantastic as it ever was. Much of Hendrix's contributions (composition, arrangement, performance and production) is nearer completion than is generally acknowledged. In particular, the technique of layering his guitar so he's effectively playing several guitars simultaneously (as opposed to dubbing rhythm, lead, or counterpoint and harmony parts) is highly evolved and technically polished. Finished and good to go.

“Drifting” A gorgeous ballad as only Hendrix knew how, and a quick breather for those taken aback by the ferocity of the side opener. Listen to the different tones of those guitars as they mesh - a beautifully rich and full arrangement, with delicate use of panning and backwards-guitar. There's no soloing as such - the guitars swim and fade in and out, weaving their own space. Astonishing tricks with the beat, too - listen to Billy and Mitch work together. Buzzy Linhart overdubs some very tasty vibes. He says, “There were no charts written out and it was not an easy thing to play, there's this chromatic movement that happens.” It's a beautiful touch, and although we're told that Hendrix planned adding vibes, it's interesting to speculate our reactions if the overdub had been thought of entirely posthumously - it would still be beautiful, right? Hold that thought.

Nashville Cats: Hendrix next to Billy Cox in the King Kasuals, house band at the Del Morocco, Jefferson Street, Nashville. Circa '63.

“Ezy Rider” Nitro-fueled Hendrix, fully evolved from the Experience, with Buddy Miles booting the traps around. After a beautifully building intro, the effects-saturated guitars never let up for a second, and Cox's bass is a joy to hear - you can hear the guy smiling as he plays. Jimi's vocals are down in the mix, and that's Chris Wood and Steve Winwood backing him up. The pattern is set: the vocal melody is just part of the whole - the guitars are doing the real singing. The lack of a memorable tune is a common feature of this period, and was a disappointment to those hoping for more top ten pop hits. Hendrix had moved on, and so should we.

“Night Bird Flying” After a lyrical harmony guitar lead-in, this mid-paced rocker heats up to total melt-down and an insanely thrilling finish. No, you wouldn't hear anyone whistling the tune on the way to work, but the music is like nothing else - because that's Hendrix playing it.

“My Friend” A perplexing inclusion. Left over from the Ladyland sessions, this is a slow Dylan-inspired pastiche with Paul Caruso on harp; the longest and the loosest track on the album, and showing none of the evolved techniques of the later tracks. It's marred by the "Beach Boys Party!"-style fake studio audience, yokking it up and breaking glasses; a cheap trick Hendrix had pulled already on Electric Ladyland. Another rhetorical question - imagine that this effect had been added by someone else after Hendrix died - it would sound like shit, right? Well, it sounds like shit anyway.

“Straight Ahead” The tune here is ... well, it isn't here. A riff-based, medium-paced, formulaic rocker that lacks the complex arrangements of the best tracks on the album. Jimi's solos are the kind of thing he could do in his sleep, and Mitchell doesn't seem to know what to do with it either. Uninspired.

“Astro Man” A fugitive from Hendrix's possibly misguided plans to record a cartoonish story-suite (“Black Gold”), this non-song is saved by some great dual guitar work. A minor achievement, and the third track in a row to fall below par.

“Angel” One of the loveliest songs Hendrix ever wrote, a lyrical cry of love to his mother, with an understated arrangement that reminds us Hendrix could be as soft as summer rain, given the chance.

“In From The Storm” This achieves what “Straight Ahead” was trying to do, which isn't all that much.

“Belly Button Window” The last vocals that Hendrix taped in a studio, over simple strummed guitar and wah fills. Lyrically heartbreaking, Jimi sings from the womb to his mother, asking her to be sure she wants him, because there's till time for an abortion. There's no self-pity, no show-off emotion, and the effect is devastating. It's also a surprisingly pretty blues tune. Genius.
Harlem, '69, Jimi nearly at the end of his performing career, playing for a black audience again.

The contribution of Billy Cox can't be overstated. Noel Redding was a very basic player, content to sit on the beat to keep it still, and you never get the feeling he's moving things along - or even, occasionally, awake. And his dogged retention of the plectrum (he was a guitarist) gives him that characteristically slack sound. Cox drives the beat, very subtly. He's a funky pusher of a player, nimble without getting in a tangle on the fancy end of the fretboard, and he's exactly what the Experience lacked - a bass player. His compositional help is thought to be considerable, too, although uncredited. You could argue - if you wanted to be unpopular - that it was also time to get another drummer. Where Redding plodded, Mitchell splashed. By the time “Freedom” was recorded, Buddy Miles, who is nothing if not another drummer, had been and gone (because he thought it was his band, bless) and Mitchell is back, and although he does well, it's arguable that Hendrix's new approach would have been fresher, and funkier, with another drummer. But not Buddy Miles.

When Cry Of Love was issued, buying it was an act of tribute to his memory, a sad thing to do, and this melancholy has attached itself to the album ever since. Cry Of Love is an important album because of its historic value, and because half of it is as good as Hendrix gets. Its deletion, and lack of subsequent restoration, remain massive, and baffling, corporate errors.

>>>> Rainbow Bridge


A generic exercise by the art department for the "original motion picture soundtrack" that never was. Maybe there's something interesting happening in those overlaid images of Jimi, maybe not.


Late '69 was a bad time for everyone, not least the wretched Mike Jeffery, whose managerial relationship with Hendrix was a cake left out in the rain. Hendrix was working independently with Alan Douglas, using him as a shield to avoid a fight. Jeffery, acutely aware of the fragility of his situation, dreamed up a movie that would overtake Easy Rider, and - finally - get him the respect he was due. And the chicks. And the bread. And the chicks. With wannabe director Chuck Wein (previous credit: My Hustler for Andy Warhol. Later credits: none) he scribbled an outline of Rainbow Bridge on the back of a crack whore (possibly), and got Warners to bankroll the project. Yes, they were strange times, and we shall not see their like again. Wein and Jeffery, natural cinematic geniuses both, were way beyond outmoded Hollywood clichés like story and character, so the project soon started to look like Janine’s astrological tour schedules for Spinal Tap. In a savage act of desperation to save the movie (and his own sorry ass), Jeffery coerced Hendrix into an open-air concert on Maui, footage of which would be crowbarred into the movie, and provide the soundtrack Jeffery needed to leverage a better deal out of Warner's. Hendrix, of course, was disgusted with the whole deal. Kramer and Mitchell were unhappy with the Maui recordings, an inferior performance beset by technical problems, and asked for the remaining multi-tracks in Warner's vaults, from which only “Look Over Yonder” and “Star Spangled Banner” were selected. Jeffery scratched “Stepping Stone” and “Izabella” from their list, because he wanted “Hear My Train A'Comin’” from the movie on the album, so he could call it a soundtrack. This was important, because back in '67, Jeffery, as standard industry practice, had a clause in his contract which stipulated Warners would have first option to buy any soundtrack material, but wouldn't have automatic rights to it. When Warners, antsy for a new Hendrix album, were presented with what was arguably not a real soundtrack at all, they went ballistic, but had to eat shit at Jeffery's table again.

Soon after Hendrix's, uh, unexpected death, the movie premiered to great cries of indifference from the handful of people (mostly projectionists) who saw it. Even hacked from 120 to 75 minutes, the movie was still a generous 75 minutes too long. Jeffrey’s “soundtrack” was finally released in October '71, when a puzzled public embraced the album with less enthusiasm than The Cry Of Love, and it was deleted in the great cultural putsch of '75, when Warners decided to usher in a new era of Dead Hendrix under the benign tutelage of Alan Douglas. We'll get to Douglas. Have patience.

“Dolly Dagger” Juma Sultan's percussive lead-in, then a neat layered descending riff (fuzzed-out bottom end) into one of the great "fourth album" tracks. The pounding simplicity of the beat (uncharacteristic for Mitchell) allows Hendrix to surgically insert a complex riff-based arrangement under his trademark leads, and float in some sweet call-and-response background vocals (Jimi, and Albert Allen). Everything underpinned by Billy Cox's nimble bass that never loses the deep beat.

“Earth Blues” The manic virtuosity of the playing, and the accomplished studio technique, are absolutely typical of the period. That's the Ronettes (and Buddy Miles) providing the background vocals, and Jimi peels off a great stereo-panning solo. Miles’s original drum track was replaced by Mitchell’s overdub.

“Pali Gap” Named posthumously by Jeffery (that's one nice thing he did, anyway), this is an astonishing instrumental that Jimi elevates from a jam into a composition, sheerly by instinct, giving the track a beautiful progression and resolution unlike anything in his (or anyone else's) canon. His modal leads, and the beautifully liquid rhythm guitar, demonstrate the evolution he'd made since the first album, and show he was capable of lyrical, thoughtful work as well as pyrotechnic, crowd-pleasing displays. Just - eternally - gorgeous.

Jimi: "It's just, uh, your hair, man ..." Jeffery: "My hair? What's with my hair? What are you, with my fuckin' hair all the time? I should wear a fuckin' pimp hat? Like you?"

“Room Full Of Mirrors”
The fourth blindingly great track in a row. All the post-Electric Ladyland qualities are here: economic composition, short run time, guitars like a sky full of burning comets, and that primal sense of urgency, here helped by Buddy Miles's only drum track on the album. The way Hendrix layers his leads is unique, and under-appreciated. His virtuosity was effectively enabling him to play several guitars simultaneously, and not merely adding tracks. This was taken to extremes in the side closer

“Star-Spangled Banner” Usually dismissed by Hendrix fans as inferior to the live version, who are (not for the first time) missing the point entirely. To criticise it for lacking "power" or "satiric force" or "emotion" or whatever is the same as criticising the live version for its lack of "studio gloss" or "multilayered harmonics". Yes, the tune is the same, but Hendrix, unlike most of his fans, is able to hear it, and play it, in completely different ways. Technically, what is going on here is jaw-dropping. Each guitar part has its own distinct character, combining to form a choir of superhuman voices. The mood couldn't be more different to the live version - this is uplifting, overwhelmingly positive, a celestial rush. An anthem of hope, not the despair of the live version.

“Look Over Yonder” A blues-inflected reworking of the Axis outtake “Mr Bad Luck”. It's fast, noisy, and a great side-opener

Hippie: "Negroes are cool, man. Want some weed?" Billy: "Security? Can we get security up here?"

“Hear My Train A Comin'” An epic live recording of this slow blues from the Berkeley concerts replaced the inferior version from Maui that Jeffery wanted. Great unison playing/singing from Jimi, and nice shifts in mood that carry you through some stormy waters to a calmer resolution than you might expect.

“Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)” The second-longest track starts with two and a half minutes minutes of relatively simple instrumental overture (no meteor-shower guitar parts) over an almost martial beat from Mitchell. Jimi's rhythm under the vocals morphs into a nice lead break, but it's this track more than any other on the album that sounds unfinished, not so much for what it is, but in the context of the studio polish given to the others. It does provide a nicely paced side-closer.
There's not one weak track, leave alone filler, on the album, which is beautifully sequenced and sonically coherent. It has the integrity and quality of a "Hendrix Lifetime" album and deserves to be considered as a first-tier release. The absurdity of promoting it as a soundtrack album (traditionally considered inferior side-projects in any artist's work) to a disastrous movie crippled it on release and continues to do it no favors. It's one of the great losses in the ongoing Rights Wars. Audiophiles claim that the Robert Ludwig-mastered original release is superior to any subsequent iteration.

>>> War Heroes


In your face. The cover design has always been disturbing, and that baffling title didn't help lift the gloom. It's an unforgettable image of Jimi, and the close cropping intensifies the mood of, well, what? Worry? Defeat? Sadness? Fear? He's not looking into the camera; he doesn't even look as if he's aware of the camera. He's not smiling for you, and he's got something on his mind other than partying. A good comparison is Miles Davis's Tutu album (below), with a directly similar composition. It's inconceivable that Hendrix would have approved this image for any album, but his visual suss was ignored for Axis and Ladyland, so this follows a tradition of sleeves that had nothing to do with him. But consider this: the funereal image confirms War Heroes here refers to the fallen, not the victorious. Those lost in battle. Soldiers do not commit suicide. Hendrix died, not on his own sword, but in conflict. This is his death mask, but his eyes are open. He's looking at his own death here, coming from the shadows ...

"[Hendrix] used to play 6/8 all the time when he was with
them white English guys and that's what made him sound like a hillbilly to me." - an astonishing quote from Miles Davis.


The third posthumous studio album "supervised" by Hendrix's manager Michael Jeffery (a man whose name is spelled inconsistently even on his Wikipedia page); compiled, engineered and mixed by Eddie Kramer with John Jansen. Hendrix, uncredited, produced some of the songs.
Kramer has referred to War Heroes as "scraping the bottom of the barrel" which tells us more about his state of mind at the time than the music. This attitude (understandable, still having to suffer the widely loathed Jeffery) resulted in a shoddy lack of sleeve information, and the distastefully cynical inclusion of the two weakest-ever Hendrix recordings, when superior tracks were readily available. It was Kramer’s obvious kiss-off to Jeffery and the Hendrix legacy. Jeffery died in a plane crash, to hushed golf applause from those who’d worked with him, the year after War Heroes' release in '72.

“Bleeding Heart” A riff-based fast blues, played relatively straight. The Experience had played this live, slower. Here, Jimi's overdub guitar parts snarl and whirl, panning from speaker to speaker, dropping into wah-wah funk fills, and the band (with Juma Sultan on percussion) is firing on all cylinders. Jimi's vocals - nearly always underestimated, not least by himself - are typically gorgeous; lazy slurs that curl around the beat, almost conversational, always natural and unselfconscious. This track exemplifies the direction Hendrix was taking after the widescreen blur of the Ladyland sessions - short, tight, deceptively simple, and funky. Hard to understand why anyone should still think of this period as inferior to what had gone before, but they do.

“Highway Chile” Originally the B-side to “Wind Cries Mary”, it was compiled on Track's Smash Hits, but this was to be its first USA album appearance. Although dating from the lysergic shimmer of '67, this fits perfectly into the context of his later work, a tough rock blast with a great riff and restrained solos. A B-side? Give me a break. For most bands, this would be a career high-point, both as a composition and a performance. The song is autobiographical, about Hendrix paying his dues on the chitlin' circuit. Pig’s guts, since you ask.

Jimi: "You're off the gig, man." Buddy: "Hahhahaha! Say what?"

"Tax Free” Written by Bo "Lord Of The Rings" Hansson, who, with Janne Karlsson, toured with The Experience in Sweden, and recorded a four-hour jam session which Hansson's producer Anders Lind has sewn into his chest cavity. A nifty instrumental, with some rubbery organ chops, this sounds like a great lost TV cop show theme. It really takes off at the end, which is just a tad too late.

“Peter Gunn / Catastrophe” Eddie, are you kidding? This would be filler on a filler compilation. That noise you hear is Kramer scraping the bottom of the wrong barrel. Delete. And tsk.

“Stepping Stone” First released as a rush-withdrawn single (/”Izabella”), with Buddy Miles on drums. Hendrix replaced Miles's track with Mitchell's, which he apparently found as dissatisfying as the original, never signing off on the recording. Whoever smacks the traps, this is an amphetamine rollercoaster of a track, and a synapse-fusing side-closer. Jimi's playing (and needle-nosed tone) was never more fantastically nasty than here.

“Midnight” An instrumental originally recorded by the Experience during sessions for the fourth studio album. A slow-mo sludge-core beat - like a herd of brontosaurus falling into a tar pit - with Jimi's swooping pterodactyl leads coming in for the kill. Indulgent? Sure - that's what makes it great. If Jimi Hendrix couldn't indulge himself, who could?

Three Little Bears” Roadkill from the Electric Ladyland sessions. Jimi's own comments (mixed well down for the ever-prudish US market), tell the story: "Oh, fuck me! Stop that shit! Stop it!" Thanks, Eddie!

“Beginning” Although credited to Mitch Mitchell, it's thought that this instrumental was Hendrix's way of giving his good and loyal friend some royalties. Previously known as “Jam Back At The House” and widely bootlegged in different versions and edits, it's a totally different beast to “Midnight”. Obviously incomplete, it was probably never intended to have a vocal track. Given Hendrix's love of layered guitar parts, it's frustrating not to be able to hear where this would have gone. The frequent time and key changes move it away from Rn'B and blues, and toward fusion. It's easy to imagine John McLaughlin covering it on his Devotion album. Alan Douglas (who produced Devotion) tested this nascent direction for the Midnight Lightning album.

“Izabella” The B-side to “Stepping Stone”, remixed for War Heroes. This is a tire-burning hot-rod of a song, sporting chromed-up riffs and nice background vox upholstery, and Jimi tosses off a few lightning stick-shift changes like they're no big deal. Another A-plus B-side.

Billy: "C'mon, man - give a brother some."

War Heroes is, overall, a fine album. Cut the filler, and slot “Highway Chile” between the two instrumentals on side two. and you’ll play this all the way through, punching the air and getting on down for some furious air guitar. So don't listen while you're driving, or performing gender reassignment surgery. Apart from its over-in-a-flash running time there's nothing really wrong with it. Again, the original Robert (“Bob” to me) Ludwig mastered release sounds better than later digitalised compilations, which are low on dynamics and high on compression. To dismiss War Heroes because the Experience Hendrix LLC's reissue program has made it somehow irrelevant (it hasn't) is to miss the point. The only legitimate studio albums are the three Hendrix was alive for. War Heroes has as much artistic integrity (which is to say, some) as South Saturn Delta and Valleys Of Neptune. Unlike either of those releases, however, it can be listened to and enjoyed as an album, rather than a compilation.

>>>> Loose Ends


The original is horrible, I don't want to look at it. Here's something I lashed together using Moebius artwork.


Michael Jeffery is circling the drain. Everybody hates him, nobody loves him. Kramer and Mitchell have bailed, and he owes Warners an album. He gets John Jansen to shovel half an hour’s worth of old tapes into a bucket. Jansen does the best he can, but feels so bad about the project he refuses a credit on the album (he's “Alex Trevor”). It gets a contract-fulfilling UK/european release, but Mo Ostin can smell a Jeffery turd all the way across the Atlantic, and won't pay for it to be pressed up in the US. Fans are forced to pay import prices, unsurprisingly feel ripped off, and everybody is more miserable than they were before. This album should be unlistenable, right? The bottom of the barrel reached at last? We-ell ...

“Come Down Hard On Me Baby” Drawn from the same blues well as “Bleeding Heart” (War Heroes), this is a tough little piece, a composite from two takes. Cox lays down a cooking groove which Mitchell struggles to match. Hendrix's double-tracked guitar delivers a compact and beautiful solo, and it fades all too quickly. Minor Hendrix is still great music, and it’s no filler.

“Blue Suede Shoes” This is mostly Jimi goofing off (cute reference to "ear goggles") and unsuccessfully coaxing the mulish Buddy Miles into playing what he wants. Again, the fade comes way too soon, breaking the solo that might have lifted this from the filler it is.

"Yeah, room service? Send me up a case of red wine, some downers, a hooker ... and oh - a funnel."

“Jam 292” A dumb-duh-dumb blues jam, marred by mosquito-nuisance piano from Sharon Layne, who just will not shut the fuck up, in spite of the listener’s repeated requests. The track fades in, fades out, and it's hard to care. F for filler.

“Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice” The B-side to the Experience's “Burning Of The Midnight Lamp” 45, with the guitar mixed right up. Primo Swinging London freak-out, but sonically incompatible with the rest of the album. Better, too.

“The Drifter's Escape” It's a mistake to dismiss this because it isn't as inspired as “All Along The Watchtower”. The relentless guitars (seeming to anticipate New York Noise) over uncharacteristic Buddy-blows from Mitchell, give this a crazed momentum, and Hendrix does Dylan so much better than he does Carl Perkins or Chuck Berry. A great side-closer.

“Burning Desire” Side two opens with this looong and live-in-the-studio piece, too structured to be considered a jam, too sketchy to be considered a composition. It slows right down at around the four minute mark, with Buddy floating in some nice background ooohs, which drop out at the seven minute mark, and the track accelerates to the finish line. It's obviously unfinished, but it's still pretty interesting. It moves right into -
“Hoochie Coochie Man” Jimi and Buddy goof off the vocals, but that's okay, they weren't making a record, and his playing is stellar. A jam, sure, but it's good to hear if you're not expecting anything else - which, unfortunately, everybody was.

“Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)” Well, yes, we have. And this track - barely ninety seconds of Hendrix strumming his way through the changes, only makes us want to go back. F for filler.

Whoever called it Loose Ends was at least being honest about it. If this had been released as a bootleg, it'd be a great bootleg and everyone would like it a lot more. If it had come out as part of some hard-core fan program, like the current Dagger releases, or as a bonus disc, nobody would be too disappointed either, but those possibilities didn't exist back then. At the time, the only context for it was "the new Hendrix", and as such it was, of course, a wretched failure. But although there's nothing here of the quality of the first three posthumous releases, it's not entirely worthless, and if you think of it as an early archival release it's enjoyable enough. But this wasn't enough for Mo Ostin. It was time for a fresh start.

"There's been a lot of bad stuff around Jimi's name, not the least of it being people who have been releasing his music. You see, he wouldn't like it without his having quality control, though Douglas is one of the best since Jimi died." John McLaughlin, who had his own issues with Douglas (left) finds something nice to say about him anyway.

In the face of diminishing returns from a series of posthumous Hendrix releases, Mo Ostin, who’d known Alan Douglas long before Hendrix arrived, asked him if he had anything in his library that could constitute a new Hendrix album. Douglas says, “I was in the studio with Jimi in New York for three months, from the beginning of October 1969 until late December 1969.” This statement refutes absolutely the malicious and ridiculous rumor circulating that Hendrix and Douglas were never in the studio together. In all-night sessions with Douglas, Hendrix found refuge from his management - Jeffery was desperate for another hit single and the cash-in-pocket income from touring - and tried to carve out a new direction for himself. Jeffery, as paranoid as the times, felt his grip weakening, and suspected Douglas of trying to steal his source of income. Douglas says, “I never wanted to manage Hendrix. I’m not a manager, I’m a record producer. I can't even manage myself. But I also knew you couldn’t produce Hendrix in the normal sense - he knew what he wanted to do - you could just be there for him, help him.”

When it came to footing the bill for the Record Plant sessions, neither Jeffery nor Warner Brothers wanted to pay, so Douglas paid, and the tapes went into his library, and it was this material - his own tapes - that Douglas now went through. He brought in hotshot engineer Tony Bongiovi to help pull the album together, and Warner Brothers demonstrated their faith by throwing 100,000 bucks on the motel bed - a shitload, by any standards.

A great couple of albums Douglas produced for his own label, by John McLaughlin and Jerry Garcia, showing Douglas's creative direction smarts. Check against the EHLLC "product", and call me back.

As Douglas knew, there were no songs in a state of completed production, so the criteria were: some great guitar, and a good vocal - exactly what Hendrix had always brought to the table. Although there was a lot of material which met these criteria, the fact that there was nothing Jimi had signed off on - the tracks were incomplete - necessitated a re-think as to what constituted a Hendrix album. And there was the unignorable impact of the changing times: in 1975, Hendrix had been dead for five years. These days, that's a quick turnround for a new album from a "major act" (pardon my mirth), but back then, for the music business, it was a generation. The era of back catalog strip-mining enabled by the CD was some way off, and a whole new audience had emerged - more adult, more sophisticated, listening to an entire new generation of acts that had little to do with the cultural values - or the sounds - of the sixties. Acts who were recording with studio facilities that were undreamed of back in Hendrix's day. Some context: Steely Dan and the Eagles were already on their fourth albums, Little Feat their fifth. Springsteen was up to Born To Run. And punk was set to kick everything over the following year, albeit briefly. None of these albums sounded like sixties music, all were extremely polished, and to put out a bunch of old tapes claiming that it was new Hendrix product would not only have been cynical, it would have been commercial suicide, drastically eroding the public’s interest in Hendrix, whose Experience albums were gathering dust in bargain bins across the U.S.A.

Oohhhh ... do want! Anyone out there who has this biscuit - get in touch! Hmmm - see whose name is conspicuous by its absence?

Douglas and Ostin thought alike - let's do it right, and give Hendrix a new lease of life. So Douglas chose to invent the remix album, even though the art had yet to be recognised. Bill Laswell, respected uber-remix producer and longtime friend, has this to say: “What matters is that Douglas knows what Hendrix did and he knows what Hendrix could have been.” As always, the people in the know, know.

Douglas used new musicians (not sampled loops and beats and computers - a band of real live musicians) to create a new Hendrix album, with a contemporary sound. The musicians he chose had to be technically expert enough and professional enough to work with recordings where time-keeping hadn’t been a priority - where they often had to re-record four bars at a time, repeatedly, to accommodate shifts in Hendrix’s beat that had been missed by his accompanying musicians at the time. Douglas knew the limitations of those original musicians, and he knew that to get them back in the studio to correct and improve their own work in this endlessly painstaking way would be asking both too much and for trouble. The musicians he chose were seasoned professionals, and exactly the caliber of musician that Hendrix would be playing with if he’d lived - it's asinine to claim that Hendrix would still be in a power trio of old buddies in the mid-seventies.

Bob Babbitt, Funk Brother: go ahead, tell him you prefer Noel Redding.

The Crash Landing band: without in any way downplaying Mitch Mitchell's inspirational playing and irreplacable role in the original Experience, Allan Schwartzberg is the best drummer you'll hear on a Hendrix record. Called in by acts such as James Brown, Mountain, Kiss, Gloria Gaynor, and Roxy Music, Schwartzberg served a long apprenticeship in NY jazz clubs. Jimmy Maelen has played percussion with just about everybody. Jeff Mironov, a superb in-demand session guitarist, didn't have an individual style or sound that might compete with Hendrix, and as such was the perfect choice. Bob Babbitt played bass in Motown's legendary house band the Funk Brothers, for Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, and many others. It’s to the Hendrix fan’s shame that they have more respect for Noel Redding (a
guitarist, let’s not forget, who was at the right place at the right time and wearing the right clothes) than for one of the greatest bass-players in the world.

Allan Schwartzberg's head, yesterday. You think James Brown hired him because he was white?

It's hard to see how better, or more qualified, musicians could have been chosen. Like Douglas, they deserve praise for their work, not ignorant abuse, but while the financial franchise for the Hendrix brand has been monopolised by EHLLC, the responsibility for "protecting his memory" has been appropriated by a group of people who claim to know exactly (through some supernatural agency closed to the rest of us) what Hendrix would and would not have found acceptable post mortem. Their arrogance far surpasses that of Alan Douglas, who knew and worked with the man.

There’s something else about these productions that can’t be stressed strongly enough, and that is widely missed and unappreciated - Douglas never does anything Hendrix didn’t. He never introduces anything for which Hendrix himself hadn’t set a precedent. Playing with other guitarists. Using back-up vocals. Stripping in new tracks by different musicians. Using overdubs. All these techniques had been employed by Hendrix. If Douglas had added Hollywood strings, or a Mariachi trumpet section, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, or synthesisers and a drum machine, then maybe the charges of disrespect would have had some basis. And if those suggestions sound ridiculous, it’s worth remembering that in March ‘69 Hendrix said, “I’m having a string section and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir” on First Rays. But Douglas’s approach was rigidly purist, almost minimalist. A band of real musicians, playing live in the studio, Hendrix coming through the ear goggles. Standard recording procedure for a real record.

The original raw tapes of most of this material are now more freely available than the Douglas-produced versions. There's room in the world for all of this, and the albums stand or fall on their own merits, not on preconceived prejudice

>>>> Crash Landing

It's a beautiful image of Hendrix, and the layout and typography is tasteful, but that bird seems to have flown in from a Hallmark greetings card ... still and all, a nice cover.


“Message To Love” Jimi's signature solo is seamlessly floated in from a different take, and Jimmy Maelen's percussion overdubs are tasteful and vital additions. Great high backing vox from Buddy and Billy, and a fine upbeat side-opener.

“Somewhere (Over The Rainbow)” The spare and obviously unfinished original is here transformed by the Crash Landing band into an ominously brooding heavy rock number. A crunching rhythm section underpins lyrical and production echoes of the Electric Ladyland sessions, and the psychedelic moves are perfectly played. Like the remainder of the album, this is a spectacular piece of Hendrix music.

“Crash Landing” Again, an unfinished run-through gets a full arrangement. The new back-up vocals have been disparaged as a "female choir" or "women's voices" or even "girlie voices" - descriptions which tell us more about the sexist attitudes of the "fans" than the music. Hendrix regularly added back-up vocal tracks in the studio, and the sex of the singers can't have been an issue for him, having used the Ronettes in exactly this capacity. Here, the back-up vox are impeccably arranged, and beautifully performed by Linda November, Vivian Cherry and Barbara Massey, in an absolutely appropriate call-and-response style that adds greatly to the track. The composition is complete as Hendrix wrote, sang, and played it, but only here does it gets the attention and studio time it deserves. The lyrics are among the bleakest and most explicit Hendrix ever wrote - he's telling his girlfriend to get off smack so he can fuck her straight for once. Not a theme appropriate to the EHLLC airbrushing mindset. Hendrix should have had greater consideration for his half-sister's future licensing franchise and recorded more songs about core family values.

“Come Down Hard On Me” A remix of the Loose Ends highpoint. The guitars are brighter and sharper, beefed by the extra rhythm. There's been baffling "fan" whining about an added "disco" beat - they either haven't listened to any disco music, or haven't compared it with the original cut: Schwartzberg gets his feel directly from Mitchell. They're both good versions - but this one sounds finished, and has more thought put into it - a lot more. Is Hendrix turning in his grave? Or grooving along nicely? Without a special weekend pass to the afterlife, we just don't know, but Hendrix was a musician first and last, and there's nothing unmusical or unprofessional or even uninspired here, so those acting as self-appointed spokesmen for Hendrix's memory would do well to shut the fuck up and listen for once. The fourth track and already the side closer for an album whose only fault is its brevity.

“Peace In Mississippi”
A storming instrumental side opener. Let's make a list of what's wrong with this: 1) Nothing. Maybe Babbit's bass sometimes loses the bottom end, but I have far greater concerns with Redding's mouthing-the-notes playing on the Experience albums - problems that Hendrix himself was aware of, replacing the intractable Redding's contributions with his own or Jack Cassady's. This is a speaker-blowing tsunami of a track, and you have to be pretty perverse to try to find reasons not to enjoy it for what it is - which is, fantastic.

“With The Power” To see the difference Douglas makes, you can compare one of the original versions (it was a work in progress) on South Saturn Delta with this full-sounding and complete version. The upside of this situation is you don't have to choose between one and the other. The downside is that, thanks to EHLLC, you don't have the choice. A great testifying soul song it's easy to imagine with a horn arrangement live at the Apollo. Let's check that Filler-O-Meter - nope, the needle hasn't even flickered.

“Stone Free Again”
Noel Redding does what he's best at - nearly inaudible backing vocals - and we get the in-the-pocket bass (from Babbit) the track always needed. Mironov adds unobtrusive yet essential guitar parts, Hendrix's beautifully slurred vocals get a little psychedelic edge, and the track is an infectiously funky version of the original. Again, listeners with no knowledge of the anti-Douglas campaign will be scratching their heads at negative criticism of this music. The formula for this number is the same for the rest of the album: Great song + great arrangement + great performances + great production = great record. It really is that simple.

“Captain Coconut” Three discrete jam sessions edited and vari-speeded together by John Jansen in 1971, with drums and percussion from the Crash Landing band. This is an amazing achievement - a very psychedelic instrumental in three coherent movements that wouldn't have been out of place on Electric Ladyland yet sounds as contemporary as the rest of Crash Landing. Only the title (one of the characters from Hendrix's never-completed "cartoon" suite) seems inappropriate - something more cosmic is required. Note: "MLK", by which this track, and elements of it, are otherwise known, was an irrelevant tape-op marking on the tape box, and not Hendrix's title, nor a reference to Martin Luther King. One know-all rock critic website chastises the Douglas operation for being "too white" to recognise the significance of these markings - another handful of misinformation thrown on the mud wall of prejudice and ignorance hiding this music from you.
The album was, deservedly, a major success, charting higher than any Hendrix release since Cry Of Love on both sides of the atlantic. Warners, purring like kittens, deleted all the posthumous releases (except Cry Of Love) and stated their intentions for a program that would continue the Douglas pattern. Yet not everybody was happy, and some fans clung to each other whimpering "sacrilege" and “desecration” at the way Douglas had used (ugh!) session musicians.

There was another problem. Douglas was claiming co-writing credit for five of the songs on the album. Uh-oh. He says, "I took composing credits because that was a business situation - Jimi's publishing was owned by Mike Jeffery - Jimi thought he owned it but he didn't. Jeffery had made a deal with an attorney in New York, and in my opinion they were basically ripping Jimi off. Now both Jimi and Mike Jeffery were dead, so I was asked if I could put my name down as a writer, so we wouldn't lose the publishing to this attorney in New York. If I was thinking straight at the time I would not have done it, knowing what kind of repercussions I'd get. And so I did it, I got the repercussions, and I never did it again. I was trying to do someone a business favour, and if it's any consolation I never got paid, I got zero royalties. Everybody was screaming at me, and I have to say that they're right, they're justified ..."

At the time, though, Douglas's reaction to criticism was, you don't like it? Tough. I got the gig, I get to make the calls. When he needed to appear humble and respectful, he came off as an obnoxious blowhard. But we mustn't allow this to affect our appreciation of the album. If we took the character of the producer into account, we'd never listen to another Phil Spector record again.

In the absence of a list of no-no's compiled by Hendrix regarding posthumous treatment of his unfinished work, we can only go by his own precedent to determine what is respectful of his intent. There's nothing on Crash Landing for which he hadn't already set a precedent, and, above all, it sounds gorgeous from start to finish - given the unfinished nature of the original recordings, this is an impressive achievement.

If you're of the mind to fondly imagine your Jimi in Heaven (hey! perhaps jamming with Jim and Brian and Jerry and Mozart and them other dead guys!) you could make yourself a lot happier by imagining him looking down from his cloud and digging this album - you guys did a great job! thanks! Alternatively, you could stay a miserable whining know-all, pretending to shudder at Douglas's name and refusing to admit his productions into your My Little Jimi world. It's your loss. We can enjoy the raw, unfinished originals, and we can, if we have have fresh ears instead of stale attitude, enjoy this remix too. They are not mutually exclusive, and it's all Hendrix music.

>>>> Midnight Lightning


Another high-quality piece of design and artwork. Check out the countless Lonnie Youngblood and Little Richard "Hendrix" albums for truly exploitative, cheap, and insulting packaging. The commissioning of award-winning illustrator Jerry Pinkney shows the intent: do the man and his music justice. There's a version that uses the type style of Crash Landing; this all-calligraphic variant is better, and possibly later. For the record: all the musicians are credited on the back sleeve, right there in front of you.


Midnight Lightning was released in November 1975, a scant eight months after Crash Landing, and uses the same band, leaving only Mitchell's drums on a single cut. Douglas, smarting from his error of judgement on Crash Landing, grabs no song-writing credits this time around, but there's still plenty to get the Guardians Of Jimi flapping their pale hands in horror.

“Trashman” Hendrix revisits the prehistoric swamps of Midnight (“War Heroes”), and turns in some of his most furious studio playing between stating the heroic theme. Those of you still in a state of shock from reading that Allan Schwartzberg is the best drummer you'll hear on a Hendrix album should crank up the volume for his devastating intro, and note the way he powers the beat while listening for Hendrix's every move. It's a bravura performance, helped by Jeff Mironov's glistening guitar textures and Babbitt's urgent bass.

A favored one-word dismissal of Douglas's production technique is Frankenstein; as in, taking different parts and stitching them together to make a monster. This argument chooses to ignore that this is standard recording process, and stitching together different parts in the studio is what multi-track studio recording is all about. And here, the result is an absolute monster of a track, played by virtuoso musicians reacting organically to each other to back up another superb Hendrix performance. A-plus, 10/10, five stars and two thumbs up, and a natural inclusion in any Best Of collection in a saner world.

“Midnight Lightning” A strongly blues-inflected rocker with the full band treatment, including great call-and-response backing vocals. If you look at the sleeve credits, you may be suspicious at the addition of two guitarists - who would have the temerity to compete against Hendrix on his chosen instrument? Why are any more guitars than Hendrix played necessary? The answer is, again, in the groove. You'll have a hard time singling out the additional parts because they're there to make a better track. Once more for the world: Hendrix both overdubbed his guitar parts and worked with other guitarists post-Electric Ladyland, and it's certain he would have continued this direction.

Here's a useful exercise: imagine it was Hendrix alive in the studio overdubbing his guitar onto a complete backing track, played by these musicians after they all perished in a flaming dirigible. You'd think it was fantastic, and a moving tribute to their memory. Here's another way of imagining it: all the musicians are simply coming into the studio at different times, like most albums are made. Like this one.

“Hear My Train A-Comin'” Mitchell's drum track is left intact for this slow, loose grind with a blues feel if not form. Mironov's second guitar, again, adds to the fullness of the sound without detracting or distracting from Hendrix's intense performance.

“Gypsy Boy” A variant or sketch of “New Rising Sun”, this is a studio fragment alchemised into one of Hendrix's most beautiful songs, and not only an album high-point but a landmark in his recorded work. The back-up vocals help transform an almost throw-away run-through into a full song, and the way the voices combine on the chorus - barely more than an afterthought on the original fragment - is inspired, yearningly spiritual, and sticks in the head and heart long after hearing it. Listen to Babbit's delicate descending bass figure leading into the song, and Schwartzberg's simple use of his kit. Lance Quinn's sparkling semi-accoustic guitar provides the backdrop to Jimi's restrained playing and wistful, dreamlike singing. It's one of Hendrix's great ballads, and in itself vindicates Douglas's methodology. It closes out a faultless album side.

“Blue Suede Shoes” The Loose Ends filler is here stripped of the studio goofing, beefed up by the band, and the third verse (unique to this version) is restored. It's got a crunching riff and powerhouse drumming, but ... it's still Blue Suede Shoes. Whatever we might conjure up for Hendrix in the alternative universe 1975, it's doubtful another fond nod to his chitlin' circuit days would have been on his agenda, but the track is so well done that it deserves its place as the album’s only up-tempo rock n’ roll number.

“Machine Gun” A spark-spitting electrical storm from Hendrix for this impassioned anti-war song. Lance Quinn adds distant, chiming rhythm touches, but it's Hendrix's guitars you're listening to, and his overlaid leads are merciless, ripping and snarling like dogs of war. It's the longest track on the album, with lyric connections to “Izabella” (War Heroes). Hendrix is so in-your-face on this you tend not to hear just how great Schwartzberg and Babbitt are, so play it again, and give the rhythm section some.

“Once I Had A Woman” A gorgeous sloooow blues, helped by those organic background vocals, Quinn's sparkling rhythm, and some nice blues harp flurries from Buddy Lucas (a veteran early rock n' roller with an interesting history). Hendrix takes his time, his traditional playing and singing here on a par with the masters of the genre, until a minute from the end when he takes off in a stereo-panning coda that finishes in a hallucinatory squall. And once again, a complete, full-sounding track is built from a studio run-through, and it's hard to see how the Shade of Jimi could be anything but delighted with the result.

“Beginnings (Jam Back At The House)” A strangely unsatisfying reworking of the War Heroes number which adds nothing of value to the original track, and bafflingly cuts over a minute of running time. The sound is definitely seventies fusion, but it closes out a short side with a sense of opportunity lost, and that quick fade is worse than frustrating. Me, I'd like to hear John McLaughlin and Larry Young sitting in, taking this as far as it could go.

Objectively, Midnight Lightning sits very well with Crash Landing - it uses the same musicians and original material from the same period. The two best tracks are superior to anything on Crash Landing, and if the two albums had been released as a double, no inconsistency would have been apparent. Midnight Lightning reached the US Top Fifty, a disappointment after Crash Landing, but no disgrace when you consider the competition from Dylan's Blood On The Tracks, Springsteen's Born To Run, Fleetwood Mac's eponymous genre-definer, and the astonishing Horses from Patti Smith, presaging the punk revolution a few short months away. That a Hendrix album charted at all in those times is almost miraculous. But interest had waned, the impact was muted, and the sense of repeating a formula with diminishing returns was inevitable.

Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning are remarkable successes on every level. They give us a whole new insight into where Hendrix was at and where he was going in his last months, and they sound like mid-seventies Hendrix. The discography is richer for them, and yet they are shunned like lepers for reasons that become more bizarre with each passing year, and less forgivable with each listen.

Douglas would change his approach for the third album, and the band which had contributed so much would move on (it’s not like they were short of work), shrugging off the criticism they got for turning in superbly professional and frequently inspired performances for a project beset with technical difficulties that lesser musicians would have found insurmountable.

>>>> Nine To The Universe

One of the most beautiful sleeves in the Hendrix canon, Jimi's face like a cloud of distant galaxies in the night sky. Perfect typography, too. Compare and contrast with the Experience Hendrix LLC New Age wallpaper covers.


Douglas’s change of approach was the result of the nature of the material. Conceived to showcase Hendrix's jazz leanings, the basic tracks are all live-in-the-studio jams, and as such, are complete as they stand. The tracks are all seamlessly edited from longer takes - Douglas's role here can be likened to Teo Macero's for Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew sessions, but whereas Macero rightly gets praised, Douglas, typically and tiresomely, is accused of "tinkering" and "tampering".

Even though the Experience was still a unit at the time these tracks were recorded, the first track is by the Band Of Gypsys, and Noel Redding's absence throughout is a welcome bonus for fans of bass guitar.

“Message From Nine To The Universe” The opening theme moves into some sweet jamming and surprisingly subtle drumming from Miles, before Hendrix sings a verse, and the band does a grandstand finish. A full ten minutes were edited out of the original take, and know what? You're not going to miss them.

“Jimi-Jimmy Jam” Jim McCarty on second guitar (Ted Nugent: "Remember the name Jimmy McCarty. He is as important as Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry and Les Paul...a god on guitar"), Roland Robinson on bass (ex-Stax), and Mitch Mitchell on drums. There's a brief opening statement and some naaaasty Hendrix tone before McCarty comes in and builds a solo over Hendrix's riffing. Robinson flies by the seat of his pants and Mitchell drops out after about five minutes to let Hendrix take the lead over a simple bass figure, before he and McCarty come back in, the two guitarists playing off each other and hitting harmony leads. Then Hendrix gets hold of it, wrestles it to the ground, and it shudders to a ragged finish. Eight minutes of noodling surgically excised from the original.

“Young/Hendrix Jam” Cox, Mitchell, and Larry Young on organ. Douglas introduced Larry Young to Hendrix, as he'd introduced Miles Davis and Gil Evans to him. All of these promising contacts through Douglas were never to be exploited. Young was playing with Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, and Miles Davis, and was used to playing on the avant-garde edge; here, in the relaxed context of a "getting to know you" jam, he's content to vamp and groove in an r n' b mode. It's a fascinating but frustrating glimpse of where Hendrix could have gone. A nice fade to the finish, and four minutes cut from the original.

“Easy Blues” Cox, Mitchell, and Larry Lee on rhythm guitar. Lee deserves a deeper appreciation than there's space for here: an old army buddy of Hendrix and Cox, he was just back from Vietnam when he got the call for the Gypsy Sun and Rainbows band, and a week later (!) he was playing at Woodstock. At 4:30, Easy Blues fades too soon.

“Drone Blues” Rocky Isaac on drums (involved through a casual meeting at the Scene club). Cox gets to do that pummeling bottom end, and Hendrix just rips it up over a relentless, almost tribal beat. Hendrix was to discover Isaac's limitations during thirty one aborted takes of “Room Full Of Mirrors”. The version on the Dagger release Hear My Music is two minutes longer, and is the better for it, although it suffers from a very noticeably duller, flatter sound than the Douglas vinyl.

Released in 1980, Nine To The Universe could never have hoped to reverse the decline in interest established by Midnight Lightning five years previously. If you like to hear the man play guitar, it's a treat, and surprisingly listenable despite the absence of strong themes and chordal development. Perhaps it's not jazz, but it is thoughtful improvisation, and shows Hendrix seeking a new direction that was never to be explored. His musical relationships, with Douglas's help, were expanding from the pop and rock format which he felt he had exhausted, and had exhausted him. He needed a couple of years time out, with no pressure from management or record labels. Time to become human again, meet new musicians, develop new ideas. But he was stuck in a downward spiral, and nobody knew to pull him out.

The Attorney’s Song What is known as “the music business” is just the legal business with some tunes playing in the next room, and with both Hendrix and Jeffery dead, the paperfight for Hendrix became noisier than his music. The transition from Warner Brothers, through Ryko, to MCA and ultimately Experience Hendrix LLC, has a surprisingly strong connecting thread; Alan Douglas.
The Douglas-produced albums for Warners were contracted (for reasons you can guess at) to a Panamanian company through Leo Branton, a hot-shot civil-rights attorney who also represented Angela Davis. Douglas was under contract to the Panamanian company, not Warners.

“We were not obligated to give Warner Brothers any more records,” Douglas says, “but we liked Warners, we had a good relationship with them. But they kept Jimi's records at such a low price, they were like economy records, and when you went into a record store and you saw the economy records, you didn't think they were as good as the reguar-priced records, and I kept on telling them look, Jimi Hendrix fans will pay an extra couple of dollars, you should put the records back up to where they should be. I went to Mo Ostin five times, and he didn't do anything. So I asked somebody in my office if they knew a little record company somewhere, someone who would pay their bills, and they said, there's this company called Ryko Disc, they do some nice things. So I met Don Rose, the owner, and I said how would you like a Jimi Hendrix record, and he said I'd love it, but 25,000 dollars is the most I can pay. So I said okay, that's cool, and we did the Winterland album, which was a big success, sold about 800,000 records. And I went back to Mo Ostin, and of course he got angry with me, but I said, are you going to do it now, stop treating Hendrix as an economy act? He still didn't do it, so I gave Ryko another record, the BBC Radio One record, and that was a big success too. So after that the situation with Warner Brothers kind of deteriorated because they just wouldn't do anything.”

“Meanwhile, Leo Branton and Al Hendrix started to have arguments because Al could see he wasn't getting his money. I didn't know or care anything about it, it's not my business, so I told Branton the best thing was to sell the company, because I figured if we sold the company I could put it into the hands of people who would co-operate with me, we'd have no more problems, there would be a business thing for myself, I could get a piece of it, and I'd never had a piece of anything. I always had to ask for my money, to make records. So I got the attorneys to put it up for sale. We got a lot of fantastic bids. MCA bid 75 million dollars, everybody was shocked at the price, but we were selling much more then than when Jimi was alive, from a point of view of back catalog. In the middle of the transition, which everybody had agreed to, the litigation began.”

“I respect Janey Hendrix, because she was smarter than I was. I really didn't care what was going on in the background, as long as I got my money to pay my production, to pay my people, to make records, that's my game. Janey convinced her father not to sell - if you sold Jimi's music you were selling Jimi's soul. So there was a litigation between Leo Branton and Al Hendrix, and I became a defendant, because I was on the other side of the fence, so I was involved. I'm not going to justify my position, I am who I am, I was making the records, I was in front of the whole thing. Janey was behind Al, pushing, and she was absolutely right, there's no question about it. During the litigation, MCA decided to turn it into a two-year royalty lease situation rather than a sale, and that became part of the settlement.”

Those years saw a major re-issue programme of the first three Hendrix albums, superbly remastered by Joe Gastwirt, which remain the best digital versions available (they're out of print, but not hard to find), a series of thoughtfully assembled and beautifully packaged live releases and compilations and a couple of fantastic albums that deserve a permanent place in the Hendrix discography, Blues and Voodoo Soup.

>>>> Blues

Another iconic image from the Douglas years. The message is right there; Jimi has his place as one of the giants of the genre, and he's influenced by them, couldn't be what he is without them behind him. The use of colour in such a context is a surprise - multicoloured blues.


Blues is the exception to the Dead Hendrix canon in that it’s still in print, and available from EHLLC, who retained it from the MCA deal, and as such doesn’t need a track-by-track analysis here. As a concept it’s a no-brainer, and it’s a little surprising that a Hendrix compilation spotlighting his bluesier material hadn’t been done before. That Hendrix’s own compositions - seven out of the total eleven - flow comfortably with the traditional material he covers is a testament to his deep-rooted instincts for the musical tradition. Douglas’s painstaking and creative production, aided by Bruce Gary, is augmented by the best team in the business; engineering by Mark Linett and mastering by Joe Gastwirt. The result is simply a tour de force - Hendrix made no claim to be a great blues artist, but this stunning album makes an irrefutable case for his place among the masters of the form. Although not apparent to the listener, the Douglas approach of floating in the best material from different sources is all over the album, but again, the praise he was due largely eluded him. As with all Douglas releases, the programming is deft, with plenty of dynamics, the production sound superb, and the packaging high-quality. Blues was a massive critical and commercial success, going platinum, and it paved the way for what is perhaps the jewel in the Douglas’s sadly tarnished crown a year later.

>>>> Voodoo Soup

The superb French artist Moebius did better studies of Hendrix than this - such as his cover for the bootleg Capricorn Tapes. The narrow crop is unsatisfactory (the image is a detail of an already-used gatefold cover) and it's hard to imagine anyone but a Frenchman finding the image of Hendrix eating soup of interest.


Having kept a relatively low profile - willingly or not - since Midnight Lightning, Douglas stirred things up again with his interpretation of Hendrix’s missing fourth studio album. Hendrix was considering First Rays Of The New Rising Sun as a title, and while this is a little unwieldy, it still seems preferable to the mildly puzzling Voodoo Soup. But there’s an unappreciated humility in the choice of title - right up-front, Douglas is saying, “this isn’t First Rays - that’s something only Hendrix knew about.” Under any name, the album’s still a monster, and the most successful of all the post-mortem attempts to give the “First Rays” material a coherent structure and flow.

Douglas: “I decided to use Voodoo Soup to make peace, bring everybody together, make everybody happy. I called Eddie Kramer, I called Mitch Mitchell, bring them in, and let’s all produce this thing of Jimi’s together. Because from my point of view this feels like the last one, I’d completed most of what I set out to do. Eddie Kramer came to see me, I said, you choose your songs, I’ll choose mine, the ones we agree on, those are what we’ll do. The lists were pretty close ...” Douglas dries at this point. “I can’t get into too much detail, because it’s going to sound nasty, but I called my engineer to ready the tapes we agreed on, and Eddie Kramer went over to listen to them. My engineer called me next day, told me Kramer had turned up with his friend, John McDermott, and they didn’t want to listen to the tapes I told him to play for them, and what’s going on? So I called Mr. Kramer, and he said, no, no, that’s not true, I’m going back tonight, it’ll be okay. But the same thing happened again, they didn’t listen to what was on our list, they had some agenda of their own, and Kramer went back to New York. So I wrote him a letter, politely telling him I didn’t think we’d be able to work together, thank you for coming, etcetera, and he wrote me back - and if I’d kept this letter I’d have saved myself a lot of problems - asking to come back to the gig. Now, McDermott - I know this guy. he used to be a collector in Boston, I used to give him stuff - he wrote his book, Setting The Record Straight, without talking to me, without asking me anything. I mean, why not? I was there, I was part of it, and I could have given him a lot of first-hand information. But he didn’t call me. So I can see a lot of mistakes, a lot of hearsay in that book.”

It’s all a long time ago now, and Douglas’s frustration is dulled by acceptance that the record, far from being straight, is warped, and that’s the album people like to listen to.

“So anyway, Mitch Mitchell and I were good friends, we’d been hanging out together three, four nights a week when Jimi was alive, so I call him up, tell him I’m trying to get the whole family together again, and he comes over from Amsterdam or wherever it was he was living. And we’re in the studio, I put “Stepping Stone” up on the machine, with Buddy Miles’s drum track, the one Jimi stripped in but still wasn’t happy with. I said, the drums are all set up in the next room, you ready to do this? And he said ... No. I don’t think I can.”
At that time, Mitchell had a well-known drink problem that clearly distresses Douglas to talk about (he refers to it as a "health issue"), but it's central to understanding why Mitchell didn’t participate in the new mixes. For far too long Douglas has been lambasted for keeping Mitchell away from the project, when the reverse is the truth. I'm going against Douglas's wishes here by being specific about the "health issue", but it's out here on the internet alredy - Mitchell's alcoholism isn't exactly a family secret. What is a secret is Douglas's positive approach and his discretion.

We know that Hendrix wasn’t happy with either of the drum tracks for “Stepping Stone”. We know now that Douglas brought Mitchell in to play new parts on the album, but Mitch didn’t feel he was up to it. And we know that Bruce Gary is a fine drummer, whose playing is right on the money. This is the definitive version of “Stepping Stone”, and the screeches of outrage from the Hendrix obsessives (who can’t stand that Gary played with The Knack, for some reason) are beginning to sound very thin indeed. Gary co-produced the album with Douglas, and was there when Mitchell ducked out, and he nails it in one take. And gets a shitload of abuse for it. That’s “fans” for you.

As Blues had opened unexpectedly with an acoustic number,

  “The New Rising Sun” makes for a hypnotic instrumental overture, and the feeling is immediate, and thrilling - this is the new Hendrix album. Hendrix plays drums - with a simple touch that neither Mitchell or Miles had - and gets that epic outer-space under-water guitar feel with Uni-Vibe/Leslie effects. Total Hendrix, tripped-out and blissful, and this version is unavailable elsewhere. It shimmers and blurs into

“Belly-Button Window”
Again, Douglas pulls off an audacious programming stunt by cross-fading the cosmically out there opener into the most intimately in here song Hendrix ever recorded. The genesis of the new rising sun leads to a very human, and uncertain, birth. This is a small touch of genius, and to follow it up with the punch of

“Stepping Stone”
shows Hendrix couldn’t have a better hand on the controls. Already, we know this is an album, not a bunch of tapes thrown into a hat.

The album doesn’t have room for some obvious contenders (“Izabella” and “Dolly Dagger” amongst others), but as Steven Wright says, “you can’t have everything - where would you put it?”. The running order of tracks chosen for the album (following “Stepping Stone” with “Freedom/Angel/Room Full Of Mirrors/Midnight/Night Bird Flying/Drifting/Ezy Rider/Pali Gap/Message To Love/Peace In Mississippi/In From The Storm”) is an object lesson in pacing and dynamics. There’s not a weak moment in the entire album, and, thanks to the deft production, engineering, and mastering, the songs seem brand new (no tapes were used as they came out of the box), and sound as if they were all recorded during the same sessions. Nothing drags, and the album ends as strongly as it started. It sounds exactly like a whole new Hendrix album.

In spite of the predictable panic incontinence from the obsessives (who still believed they’d been denied the “real album”), Voodoo Soup was a sales and critical success. The sheer quality of the album was undeniable. Charles Shaar Murray wrote that it “more than earns its place in the pantheon of great Hendrix albums” and that it “brought the Hendrix studio quartet -finally!- to a satisfactory conclusion.”

There’s a staring Voodoo Soup-shaped hole in the current catalog that EHLLC would rather we not examine too closely, for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with the music. Or perhaps everything. The engineer, the book writer, and the half-sister know that a re-issue would be an admittance that they can’t produce anything as good. And they haven’t. If this album, exactly as is, had been released during Hendrix’s short lifetime, criticism would be unthinkable, and it would be loved and praised as the culmination of his studio output, entirely the equal of the first three. All subsequent attempts to produce a Hendrix album (or “record” as Douglas touchingly puts it) are dull, curiously lifeless things in comparison, and sometimes, unforgivably, boring to sit through. And although the emphasis in this article may appear to be on Douglas, it’s not him we’re listening to. Voodoo Soup is one hundred per cent concentrated James Marshall Hendrix; funky, alive, and as beautiful as the new rising sun.

Today, Douglas remains frustrated by the missed opportunities, but resigned to the fact that someone else has got the gig and gets to make the calls. “I could walk into the library today, and take out the two records that could have followed after Voodoo Soup. They’re so easy to do, I know where they are, and they’ll sell, they’ll reach a new audience. And I’m tempted to tell them, but it’s so difficult to have a communication, I’m not going to bother, I’m not going to put myself in that position, and it’s unfortunate for Jimi. So nothing’s going to happen. Janey should own all the music, there’s nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is that she, and these two guys sitting around with her, have so little idea about what there is, and what to do with it. There’s still a lot of treasure there. A lot.” Including a revelatory full-length movie and book, tied up in red tape from EHLLC.

After Douglas handed over the keys to Experience Hendrix (slogan: “Originality Electrified”) the imagination and audacity that he brought to the material was lost - no longer the informed vision of one man, the Hendrix release program became the product of corporate decisions. Although EHLLC's compilations may treat the material with respect (if not in terms of audio quality, then comprehensiveness) that makes them comforting to have on the shelf, they're curiously un-engaging to listen to, reducing all his post-Ladyland recordings to archival status, footnotes to his recording career. Curated right into a glass museum case. You buy them so you can complete your library, but it's unlikely that their version of First Rays is your first choice when it comes to listening to some Hendrix music. The experience of listening to a record, present in even the weakest Dead Hendrix disc, is completely absent with EHLLC product. And then there's the problem of audio quality: EHLLC's compilations follow the current trend for loudness, and are brick-walled (compressed), whereas the Dead Hendrix albums leave the volume decision up to you, rightfully assuming you have the knob for the job on your amp. While the audiophile pleasure of listening to an original vinyl Rainbow Bridge is always going to be a rare privilege, there's no reason why all these albums shouldn't receive a better digital mastering than the current catalog and be reissued as they are, vinyl running times and artwork intact.

Unfortunately, EHLLC's franchise stranglehold, complicated by the personal agendas that will forever haunt Hendrix’s legacy, means that the groundbreaking and extraordinary Douglas albums stand almost no chance of being given the exposure and credit they deserve. It's music's loss.

Douglas has always been an outsider, a true maverick in a corporate herd, and in a world where the term "survivor" means anyone over thirty who's lost some money on the internet, he's the real deal. And you don’t get to survive in the music business by sprinkling rosewater in the lobby. At a sprightly seventy-nine years old, the producer of Duke Ellington, Eric Dolphy, The Last Poets, John McLaughlin, Jerry Garcia, and Jimi Hendrix, he's the last of the hipster Mohicans. Part beat poet, part street hustler, Douglas is the last surviving example of a species driven to extinction by corporate clones with MBAs and “skill sets” instead of gut feeling and a passion for music. The world is a flatter place as a result, with a dumbed-down soundtrack to match.

Ultimately, you have to ask yourself whether Hendrix would have been happier with this beat-up bohemian and his all-night sessions, or the BUY NOW! business corporation that sold the earth from his grave (25 bucks a stone, packaged in purple and gold and described in the official literature as "cool"), and marketed airfresheners and golf-balls bearing his name. Unlike Alan Douglas, I never knew Jimi, but I know the answer to that one.

In 1988, thirteen years after the release of Crash Landing, producer Lennie Niehaus stripped off all the original backing tracks to the soundtrack to Clint Eastwood’s Charlie Parker bio-pic Bird, leaving only Parker’s solos, and overdubbed new parts played by contemporary musicians, recorded in stereo. The album was lauded for being a “technological miracle that sublimated Bird’s performances without any sacrifice of his original sound. If Bird was with us today, this is unquestionably the way he’d want to sound.” The sleevenotes to the critically-acclaimed and Cannes award-winning soundtrack album boast that it “has no parallel in recording history.”

A note about the layout: it's a mess. The Blogger template has changed since the initial design, and created havoc with the formatting. I'm trying to clean it up, but it's driving me nuts.

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