Jimi Hendrix Live At Fillmore East

Band Of Gypsys, a lawsuit-settling record and the last album Jimi Hendrix released while he was still alive, contained six tracks taken from four shows recorded Dec 31, 1969 and Jan 1, 1970, at the San Francisco’s Fillmore East. Another 16 tracks from that quartet of shows make up Live At Fillmore East. Thirteen of them have never been released before and another two are on CD for the first time. Five are alternate versions of songs, from different shows, that were on the original Band Of Gypsys. The Gypsys, Hendrix, Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums, were a much jammier bunch than the Experience, highlighting the funky and jazzy sides of Jimi’s music. A version of “Machine Gun” anchors both discs in the set, much the way it did on the original BOG. Both are exhilarating and terrifying. “Hear My Train A Comin’” is tougher than usual, morphing into more than the expected, yet stellar, blues-based showcase that it normally was. The set is rife with seldom-played numbers like, “Izabella,” “Stepping Stone,” “Power Of Soul,” and “Earth Blues,” all of them strong and challenging. The first disc is noticeably superior, at least until Miles’ closing number, a way too long audience participation version of “We Gotta Live Together.” The set closes with a loose and sloppy “Wild Thing.” (But, how else are ya gonna play it?) Throughout, the rhythm section maintains a fat and funky groove, just loose and sloppy enough to let the music breathe. Jimi is his customary incomprehensibly amazing self. His guitar playing is never less than riveting. He was to the guitar what John Coltrane was to the saxophone, playing with a wit, soul, and adventurousness that mere mortals couldn’t have imagined. Unsurprisingly, the vocals are the set’s weak link. Jimi’s are his familiar workman-like mumblings, but we’d have all been better off if Buddy Miles had elected to keep his mouth shut for the two days. His three lead vocals are way over the top, and his harmonies are not much better. There’s noticeable tape hiss and the occasional odd pan pops up from time to time. Doesn’t matter though, ‘cause Jimi’s playing guitar. (Experience Hendrix)