Jimi Hendrix’s legend remains undiminished in the four decades since his death at 27. A pioneer in the history of music, his incendiary style forged a unique new hybrid of rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm and blues, while his brilliant technique demonstrated how feedback, reverb and other sonic experimentation could expand his music’s palette into full, mind-blowing technicolor.
But in 2013, does “People, Hell And Angels” reveal anything Hendrix fans haven’t already heard across various collections in all the years since? Yes — because this album of previously unreleased studio recordings from 1968-70 illuminates sides of Hendrix’s music as it was influenced by his growth as a songwriter, musician and producer, as well as the new players he jammed with.
As he moved on from the blockbuster success he found with his band the Experience, Hendrix found kindred spirits in drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox, who formed his new core group. Session men sometimes included Buffalo Springfield’s Stephen Stills, Mitch Mitchell, Lonnie Youngblood and others.
More significantly, on these dozen tracks it’s possible to hear Hendrix searching for new ways, with these new players, to reinvent his sound. Over half the songs here have been presented in radically different forms previously, which of course makes this a treasure-trove for diehard fans. But even the less-dedicated will appreciate these different interpretations thanks to the essential liner notes that describe why the songs sound the way they do.
So the early version of “Hear My Train A Comin’” packs a powerful electric punch compared to the better-known acoustic release. Conversely, “Earth Blues” and “Somewhere” are here stripped down to just the tight playing of Jimi, Buddy and Billy — no overdubs and more forceful because of it. “Izabella,” first debuted at Woodstock and later released as a single in very different form, now benefits from an expanded lineup that includes percussionists plus rhythm guitarist Larry Lee. But perhaps the most revelatory moments on the album are two of the never-before-heard numbers, “Let Me Move You” and “Mojo Man,” soul-funk jams that have one foot stomping in the psychedelic era and the other ready to step into Jimi’s next move.
Some tracks are presented as-found, while others have been seamlessly overdubbed by Hendrix’s longtime studio cohort Eddie Kramer who co-produced, engineered and mixed these gems, which are mastered to perfection and available as an MP3, CD or Double-Vinyl album.