Jimi Hendrix
Live at Woodstock



by FriendofTheDevil70 USER (14 Reviews)
November 26th, 2007 | 9 replies

Release Date: 1999 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Jimi Hendrix solidifies his name into Rock royalty forever.

My father had described The Woodstock Music and Arts Festival as “The most self liberating experience possible, and the greatest three days of my life.” That statement, to a nine year old such as myself at that time, didn’t mean much, and to be honest, I was really ignorant to his words, and way to focused on my Playstation game at that moment to really take to really comprehend what he was trying to tell me. About half a decade later, when music had seriously entered my life, I was much more conscious about the fact that my father had been one of the several hundered thousand, who hopped the fence (after all, why pay?), to see many artists such as Santana, The Who, and Jefferson Airplane perform, at what still stands today as the greatest music festival of all time. But perhaps no one turned in as much a career defining performance during the Woodstock Festival, than James Marshall Hendrix did, on the morning of August 17th, 1969.

Jimi Hendrix arrived at Woodstock with a new band, a new attitude, and with a new motivation to play music. Bassist Noel Redding had promptly quit the band on June 30, 1969, after a gig at Devonshire Downs, in which the live audience grew so restless, that they started charging the stage and a riot followed. Evidently, after nearly three years in the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Redding decided he was tired with dealing with these types of unruly actions and simply resigned. Hendrix essentially thought nothing of Redding’s departure and enlisted the Bass playing services of an old army friend, Billy Cox. In addition to Cox, wanting to break away from his former “power trio” type sound, Hendrix also acquired rhythm guitarist Larry Lee, and a duo of percussionists, Juma Sultan, and Jerry Valvez. It was obvious, with this new band in place for Woodstock, that Jimi was ready for new sonic possibilities. The question was, could he pull it off?

And at this point we arrive at Hendrix’s actual performance at Woodstock. After several delays, and the band’s time slot being pushed back to Monday morning (rather than Sunday night), the band was eager to get onstage and see just where this new sound can take them. When the band takes the stage, Hendrix, further wanting to shed the image of his past, announces that his new band may be called Gypsy Sun and Rainbows. And with that, we skyrocket into one of the most career defining performances for an artist ever.

“Message To Love” opens the set, and seems to ignite the crowd with new energy. This song, which Jimi had been toying with for several years, was the perfect choice for an opener. A riff that I consider one of Jimi’s most recognizable opens, and what follows is some stellar lead work, and tight work from the rhythm section. At one point Jimi plays a series of notes alone and matches his voice pitch with them, which sounds simply stunning, though very simple. “Hear My Train A Comin’” is next, and is a tune that Jimi was always keen on jamming on. This is merely an average rendition of the song, and carries on several minutes too long, but is still enjoyable nonetheless with Jimi’s univibe guitar tone, and stripped down verses.

A pair of Hendrix live staples follow in “Red House”, and “Spanish Castle Magic”. Red House, being the only twelve bar blues Jimi ever wrote, is in top fashion here. Hendrix, seemingly effortlessly improvising with creativity within’ a standard blues, that few Rock musicians can claim, pours his heart on his sleeve with this one. A definite highlight. “Spanish Castle Magic” which some say is Jimi’s hardest rocking song fairs well, but not as well as the former. Jimi extends the song a bit which doesn’t seem to work with a hard rocking song like that one.

But things pick up nicely with the quick fingered guitar riff of “Lover Man”. This song has always been a live favorite of mine, if nothing else because Hendrix is always able to sing with such precision during the verses, despite the rather difficult quick, staccato like rhythms. Drummer Mitch Mitchell, and Billy Cox do an exceptional job on the song, which is nor too short or long, and features some great improvisation from Jimi. This version of “Foxey Lady” is not the best I’ve ever heard, but is still in solid form. The rhythm section seems tighter than usual and Jimi’s solo seems more restrained than usual (for Jimi of course), which is a nice change of pace. “Jam Back At The House” a recently inspired jam from the new band, is surprisingly well done, and does not seem to lengthen to the point where it becomes boring. All the instruments get their due time in this mid tempoed number, with some funky R & B type flavors being thrown about at times.

Well, we are through about half the show, and even though I hailed this as a career defining performance for Hendrix, you may be wondering exactly why. The music does have faults; it isn’t perfect by any means. But the simple fact of the matter is that anyone who has seen/listened to this show has repeatedly said that Jimi seems to be, well, trying harder he than per usual. It is clear that the addition of some new musicians to perform with has given Jimi a new edge of unpredictability. So far, we are hearing a perfect example of how it isn’t always the actual music that makes a great show. After all, none of the songs played so far with the exception of “Message To Love” to me, can be ranked as Jimi’s all time best versions, but they all have a certain energy, that flows through them and makes this performance so easy to listen to. With that said, we’re going to find the reason why everyone loves this show, the second half.

“Izabella” and “Fire” open up the second half of the show normally enough. Both are more than competent versions of the songs. As always “Izabella” begins with another distinctive guitar riff. Hendrix solos for just the right amount of time, and the new rhythm section seems to breathe new life into the song. One of my favorite versions. “Fire” typically passes quickly, and this is no exception. But again, this show has a certain vibe that makes everything sound worthwhile. In that respect, this version of “Fire” is the best I’ve ever heard, with Mitchell’s drum work and the guitar solo being the highlights.

But now we come to the most famous songs on the entire show. I am speaking of “Voodoo Child”, “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Purple Haze”. “Voodoo Child” opens with the famous wah guitar riff, which every guitarist on the planet has tried to emulate, but still can’t make it sound anything like the original. Put simply, this track is of all things the epic on this show. Clocking in at nearly 14 minutes, Hendrix unleashes a fierce frenzy of guitar freak-out, taking time to introduce his band in between. Honestly, describing this version of the song is useless; you have to hear it for yourself as its nothing like the original after 4 minutes or so. Still, it may just be my favorite version of the song, a great example of when Jimi’s improvisation takes him to places unknown. “The Star Spangled Banner” is of course the most famous moment on the show. Hendrix unleashes a flurry of divebombs and screeching feedback on America’s national anthem, giving it a flavor new to all. This really doesn’t need any description, except this is how our national anthem should always be heard-raw, and in chaos. An average version of “Purple Haze” is next. Nothing special about this version, you’ve all heard the song, and this basically sticks to the studio version. A couple jams later, and we’re at “Hey Joe” the album’s closer. A stellar version of a true rock classic is the perfect, and only way to truly end the show.

Well, there it is. The most career defining performance at Woodstock, and one of the most important of all time. Some may ask though, why only a 4? You see, while the energy from this show is unbelievably beautiful and atmospheric, a decent amount of the music suffers from being too long or unnecessary. There are only a few definitive individual songs on this, but as a whole it’s a show that must be heard by everyone at least once. You get almost a euphoric feeling of appreciation afterwards. Some may say that the true spirit of Rock and Roll was born after this day, and in that respect, maybe my father’s words were correct about this show.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
November 27th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

One of my favorite live releases ever. Not the best Hendrix show, but by far the most important.

Comments are welcome.

November 27th 2007


Jimi seems to be, well, trying harder he than per usual.

Another mistake

Anyway, good review nonetheless

November 27th 2007


THE greatest live performance ever, period.

south_of_heaven 11
November 27th 2007


Ugh, all I had to do was spell Jimi Hendrix's name right for extra credit today and I forgot how to

November 27th 2007


Amazing album, damn fine review too.

November 27th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for the comments. I'm going to attempt a shorter review next time, and on a less famous album than my last two reviews.

I think this was my best yet, but I still feel i could be more consistent. I should also proofread my writing before I submit a few more times, but its all good I guess.

November 27th 2007


Album Rating: 3.5

You breezed over the improv into Villanova Junction! No, but pretty good review here, I would have probably said the same but with such a monumental performance I have a hard time dropping it down to a 4. Thumbs up though.

November 27th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

Haha, I didn't mean to ignore it, its just the last two improv pieces don't really stand out in comparison to the rest of the album, because there's so much of it. Your right though, individually they are amazing.

Anyone have any ideas on how to better my reviews?

November 27th 2007


Great review, really a good read. I need to own this.

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