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Music Review: The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Live At Berkeley

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Jimi Hendrix kept an odd schedule during the first part of 1970. He would spend weekdays in the recording studio and his weekends in concert with the Experience, which at the time consisted of bassist Billy Cox and drummer Mitch Mitchell. The only problem with this approach was the income stream had dried up a bit, and so it was decided to record a documentary film.

It was decided to record his two concerts at the Berkeley Community Theatre, Saturday, May 30, 1970, as the basis for the film. Experience Hendrix L.L. C. and Legacy Recordings are releasing a restored and expanded version of Jimi Plays Berkeley on both Blu-ray and DVD, July 10.

The company has gone the second mile with the resurrection of the concert. The entire second show, and the subject of this review, is being rereleased on CD. This concert by Hendrix is presented in its entirety and original sequencing. Since it is one complete concert, it gives an excellent picture into the live experience of Hendrix near the end of his life. There is a lot of Hendrix concert material out there, but this release moves to the forefront of what has been available and should please any fan.

The CD really communicates a concert experience. The show began with what Hendrix called an instrumental jam to make sure everything was in tune. “Pass It One” was a seven minute introduction to the evening’s music. This was a song in its early stages and would eventually evolve into “Straight Ahead.”

The material is a little different than the usual Hendrix concert fare as the famous was combined with some deeper catalogue songs. A laid back “Stone Free” and a slow and bluesy rendition of “Hey Joe” found Hendrix on familiar ground. The show piece was “Foxey Lady,” where played his guitar with his teeth and ground the strings against the microphone. By this time “The Star Spangled Banner” had become a regular part of his live show, which was always a showcase for his guitar virtuosity. A rollicking version of “Purple Haze” set up the concert closing “Voodoo Child,” which at over ten minutes was a virtual microcosm of Hendrix on stage.

“I Don’t Live Today” was a good example of Cox’s influence upon Hendrix and his music. He was a steady bassist and that fact allowed Hendrix to take off on his improvisations without worrying about a lack of foundational sound. “Machine Gun” contained one of those guitar solos that just need to be savored. “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)”” and “Lover Man” are both welcome additions to the live Hendrix experience and helped to bridge the gaps between the oft played material.

Had he lived, he would have turned 70 this year. While his material will no doubt continue to emerge and be rereleased, the Live At Berkeley CD is a fine addition the Hendrix legacy and is a worthwhile purchase for any Hendrix aficionado.

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