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Music Review: The Jimi Hendrix Experience-Winterland

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Long time fans of the Jimi Hendrix Experience have a real gift coming in a couple of weeks. On September 13, Experience Hendrix LLC and Legacy Recordings is releasing a four disc box set of live performances recorded during six shows, two each night, at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom from October 10-12, 1968. The concerts, also available in a Vinyl Audiophile LP Deluxe Box Set and a single Highlights CD, originally celebrated the two year anniversary of the Experience. The set features live versions of previously unreleased classics as well as a backstage interview with Hendrix recorded at the Boston Garden shortly after the Winterland concerts. It will also include a 36 page booklet with an essay by Rolling Stone’s David Fricke and previously unreleased photos. All told it adds up to a Hendrix cornucopia bound to light up the eyes of all Jimi aficionados.

Not only are there opportunities to compare tracks like the 15 minute “Tax Free” jam on the CD of the October 10th concert and the ten minute version on the October 11th CD.  But the box set also includes three versions of “Lover Man,” “Red House,” “Hey Joe” and “Foxey Lady”;  a couple of takes of Hendrix’s version of “The Star-Spangled Banner”; and no fewer than four performances of his signature “Purple Haze.” The biggest problem is trying to decide which ones you like best. There are a couple of stellar interpretations of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” one of which has already been released as a single, to say nothing of appealing performances of songs like “Are You Experienced,” “Manic Depression,” “Spanish Castle Magic,” and “Little Wing.” Then you’ve got Hendrix putting his own spin on “Killing Floor” and “Sunshine of Your Love.” There are literally hours of old memories rekindled and new ones in the making.

These Winterland concerts long thought to include some of the guitarist’s finest playing don’t disappoint. Although Hendrix mentions technical problems a couple of times and apologizes for them, they are hardly noticeable. He plays with passion, power and wit, and the Experience jams with the best of them. Everything that made the band and Hendrix himself a dynamic voice of his generation is there on that stage, and it is there in spades. Luckily for us, it’s there on these discs as well.

Not to be left out of the party, the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco, as reported on Hollywood Today, has issued a proclamation designating September 13th, the date of the set’s release, as “Jimi Hendrix Winterland Day” in recognition of the role Hendrix and the band played in the cultural history of the city. No doubt that while there may be other significant artists equally associated with the famed Summer of Love, few had a more iconic role. Indeed Hendrix and his music are not only a part of the cultural history of a city–they are a part of the cultural history of the nation.

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