After the voracious onslaught of The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s debut, Are You Experienced, Hendrix throttled back a little. For the band’s second album, Axis: Bold As Love, the sound was lither and more fluid, indicating that there was more to him than the faintly racist caricature of the sex-hungry, gimmick-happy Wild Man Of Rock. Rough glimpses of his burgeoning versatility and easy self-confidence are in evidence on this two-disc collection?though such is the quality of these outtakes that the emphasis is generally on rough. Some of these tracks sound like they were recorded on the phone.
There’s an interesting version of “Spanish Castle Magic” featuring a pounding piano, but versions of “Little Miss Lover” and “Bold As Love” sound like crude drafts?it’s doubtful Hendrix would have particularly wanted them to see the light of day. More diverting, if not devastating, is “Cat Talkin’To Me”, a scuffed psychedelic outing featuring Mitch Mitchell on vocals coming on like Adam Ant’s Dandy Highwayman.
The second disc contains more unreleased tracks, including vocal efforts by Mitchell and Redding, as well as two takes of “Little Wing”, which may or may not feature Brian Jones on sitar. “Jazz Jimi Jazz” is a rumbling 12-minute improvisation which travels hopefully without arriving anywhere. A stormy, echo-drenched version of “Somewhere” (first available on the Alan Douglas-produced Crash Landing) is a high point, as is a fragment of the never-quite-realised “Cherokee Mist”, an exotic, flamenco-tinged piece which morphs into “God Save The Queen”. “Three Little Bears”, a previous version of which appeared on War Heroes, frugs and chops for several broody minutes without climaxing. Not essential, but even lesser Hendrix out-golds the rest.