Album review

A Mixed Experience

THE RAINBOW BRIDGE CONCERT

PURPLE HAZE

BLUE WILD ANGEL: LIVE AT THE ISLE OF WIGHT

The idea that every note Hendrix played is worth hearing is fully explored, and disproved, in these exhaustive releases. The Last Experience is the definitive version of Experience, the soundtrack to the movie of what proved to be Hendrix's last British gig with Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, at the Albert Hall in February 1969. It's torpid from the start, as Hendrix leads a string of uninspired jams, before asking, "Does anyone else wanna play guitar? 'Cos I'm finished." The Experience and its music were dead weight to him now. A thuggish "Wild Thing"and the climactic amp-smashing are rare highlights on a three-CD box where half the tracks are from the soundcheck—the kind of abuse completists savour.

The Rainbow Bridge Concert (two short CDs) takes us on to Hawaii in July 1970, when Hendrix was in the full flow of some half-realised new directions. Unheard till now (apart from brief snatches in the Rainbow Bridge film), it's also badly recorded, introverted, exploratory and unsuccessful, like a muffled bootleg of a jazz musician starting down paths he's too stoned to finish.

August 1970, just two weeks before Hendrix's death, at the Isle of Wight Festival, at 3am on a rainy, misty English early-morning, in front of a crowd more interested in sleep than future generations'envy that they're watching the guitarist's final British show, and at last you can hear Hendrix, fearing failure, suddenly in focus. Covering "God Save The Queen" and "Sgt Pepper", he loses himself in a 21-minute "Machine Gun" and a still-mutating "New Rising Sun", returns to high-ringing blues and the bull-elephant roar of "Voodoo Chile", then banters between songs with easy, flaky charm. Here, finally, you get the full ebb and flow of the man and the long gone night. History, for once, worth repeating.

Rating: 2 / 10


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