In addition to the September 13th release of the four-CD, deluxe box set of Jimi Hendrix Experience: Winterland, Experience Hendrix LLC and Legacy Recordings will also be releasing Hendrix in the West Expanded. Unavailable in the States since 1974, the album originally issued by Polydor and Reprise in 1972 was a posthumous collection of live performances at the Royal Albert Hall (February 24, 1969), the San Diego Sports Arena (May 24, 1969), Berkeley Community Theate (May 30, 1970) and the Isle of Wight Festival (August 30, 1970). The expanded album will also be available as a double 12-inch vinyl set.
Although it has been announced that the album will contain “five additional previously unavailable performances,” only three songs have actually been added to the album’s original eight tracks. Two of those original eight, “Little Wing” and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” seem to have been replaced by performances recorded from other shows. While this may turn off the purist, less particular Hendrix fans will no doubt welcome the opportunity to get their hands on a classic album that offers some of the guitarist’s most celebrated work.
As publicity for the album indicates critic Robert Christgau has called the performances of “Johnny B. Goode” and “Red House,” the latter with some caveat about “a lazy unaccompanied passage,” definitive. Unfortunately, he also called the ’72 album’s replaced version of “Little Wing” definitive as well, and didn’t much care for the inclusion of “The Queen” and “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” both of which amount to little more than an “it’s great to be here in the British Isles” shout-out to the local concert audience.
On the other hand the additional material on the CD is a plus. There is a 10-minute jam on “Spanish Castle Magic” that includes a lengthy drum solo and then morphs into “Sunshine of Your Love” for a few bars near the end. The cover of Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes” is characteristically original, and “Fire” offers some nice guitar percussion interaction. The longer version of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” is both powerful and dynamic. All in all then, it is really hard to complain about the changes: the ’72 album was a classic; its 2011 reincarnation, excuse my heresy, may well be even better.