New mu­sic from Jimi

Both Sides of the Sky: Un­re­leased record­ings.

USA TODAY US Edition - - LIFE - Pa­trick Ryan

Get ready to hear an­other side of Jimi Hen­drix.

The leg­endary gui­tarist is be­ing memo­ri­al­ized on Both Sides of the Sky (out March 9), which fea­tures 13 stu­dio record­ings he made be­tween 1968 and 1970 — 10 of which have never be­fore re­leased. A free­wheel­ing ren­di­tion of Hear My Train A Comin’, recorded in New York in April 1969, is pre­mier­ing ex­clu­sively on US­ATO­

First recorded in 1967 in Lon­don, Hear My Train was an orig­i­nal blues com­po­si­tion in­spired in part by Hen­drix’s child­hood hero, Muddy Wa­ters. It was also a con­cert sta­ple for him and his band, the Ex­pe­ri­ence, with bassist Noel Red­ding and drum­mer Mitch Mitchell.

But what makes this ver­sion of Hear My Train unique is that it’s one of the last songs the Ex­pe­ri­ence recorded to­gether amid sim­mer­ing ten­sions be­tween Red­ding and Hen­drix.

“There was an un­der­cur­rent of Noel want­ing to be a solo artist and be rec­og­nized on his own,” says John Mc­Der­mott, a Hen­drix his­to­rian who co-pro­duced the al­bum. “But when they put their fo­cus to­gether on a song or a con­cert, they had a tremen­dous chem­istry.”

“What I love about this is you got Noel pretty much driv­ing the band, be­cause I think he’s aware that he’s out,” says Ed­die Kramer, a record­ing en­gi­neer who worked on all of Hen­drix’s records un­til the artist’s death in 1970 at age 27. “You’ve got three mu­si­cians in the stu­dio, a lit­tle bit of angst and the bass player push­ing up against Jimi — it yielded a mag­nif­i­cent take.”

But not ev­ery track on Both Sides was done in such tem­pes­tu­ous con­di­tions. A pre­vi­ously un­re­leased take on Lover Man, for in­stance, was recorded in De­cem­ber 1969 with Hen­drix’s new group, Band of Gyp­sys. His band­mates were spent after nearly two dozen takes, so Hen­drix de­cided to lighten the mood by in­ter­po­lat­ing TV themes into the song.

“The guys in the band just cracked up,” Kramer says. “He made it very loose and very cool, just to get ev­ery­body to re­lax.”

Adds Janie Hen­drix, the rocker’s sis­ter: “Peo­ple have of­ten asked the ques­tion ‘ What was Jimi re­ally like?’ Jimi had a great sense of hu­mor. In Lover Man, he used a lit­tle bit of Bat­man and a lit­tle bit of Peter Gunn, which is one of the first songs he ever learned to play. Also, on Step­ping Stone, he does this sort of ‘neener neener neener,’ which is what kids will do when they’re play­ing tag and hav­ing fun. You hear the ver­sa­til­ity of his play­ing and very blues-ori­ented songs, but songs that are done in a light­hearted way as well. They’re just jam­ming and hav­ing fun.”

Other note­wor­thy cre­ations on Both Sides in­clude Wood­stock, which finds Hen­drix on bass op­po­site Stephen Stills (of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young); Chero­kee Mist, in which he plays elec­tric gui­tar and si­tar; and Things I Used to Do, which can be heard in full for the first time.

The al­bum is the third in a tril­ogy of re­leases re­mas­tered by Kramer, Mc­Der­mott and Hen­drix’s sis­ter. Next, they’re dig­ging into the archives for a doc­u­men­tary based around Hen­drix’s ap­pear­ance in out-there 1971 film Rain­bow Bridge.

“It’s an honor to be able to con­tinue his mis­sion in life, which was for peo­ple to be able to hear his mu­sic,” Janie says. “When I was 6 — and Jimi is 18 years older than me — we both made a prom­ise to al­ways take care of each other. I, at 6 years old, thought he would still be here.

“My dream was al­ways to be a part of his mu­sic his­tory and legacy, and to be able to do that is the best gig to have. Peo­ple con­tinue to hear his mu­sic fresh and ver­sions they hadn’t heard be­fore. It’s about ed­u­cat­ing the pub­lic: not just the gen­er­a­tions that may have ex­pe­ri­enced his mu­sic in a con­cert form, but also young kids com­ing up and learn­ing real mu­sic.”

“Peo­ple have of­ten asked the ques­tion, ‘What was Jimi re­ally like?’ Jimi had a great sense of hu­mor.” Janie Hen­drix



Jimi Hen­drix in Oc­to­ber 1968. Two years of pre­vi­ously un­re­leased record­ings are fea­tured on “Both Sides of the Sky.”

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