Photo Credit: Mike Berkofsky
The wait for the next new Jimi Hendrix album is almost over. This Friday, March 9, Both Sides of the Sky will finally be available in stores and online. This 13-song, 66-minute collection of previously unreleased compositions, it goes without saying, was one that was well worth the wait, and a fitting finale to the trilogy of albums started eight years ago with 2010’s Valleys of Neptune. It is a record that will easily appeal to Hendrix’s longtime fans while also serving as yet another solid introduction to him and his body of work for those less familiar with said music. That is due in no small part to the songs that make up the record’s body. They will be discussed shortly. The companion booklet that comes with the album’s physical copy also plays an important part in making the album so impressive. It will be discussed later. The album’s production and sequencing collectively round out its most important elements. Each element is important in its own way, as will be pointed out through this review. All things considered, they make it a must have for Hendrix fans of all ages and one of this year’s best new overall albums.
Both Sides of the Sky, the latest Jimi Hendrix compilation record from Experience Hendrix, LLC and Legacy Recordings, is one of this year’s top new overall albums and a must have for Hendrix fans of all ages, hands down. That statement is proven in part through the songs that make up the body of this new compilation. As has been noted already so many times, the songs featured in this record were crafted at the height of Hendrix’s career. Given, not all of the songs featured here are his — the record’s opener is a Muddy Waters cover and ‘The Things I Used To Do’ pays homage to blues legend Guitar Slim. It also features Johnny Winter alongside Hendrix. There is even a take of Joni Mitchell’s hit single ‘Woodstock’ featuring none other than Stephen Stills (of CSNY fame) alongside Hendrix and company — but each of the songs still stands firmly on its own merits. One of the best of the featured songs is the extended take ‘Hear My Train A’ Comin’.’ This bluesy, down-tempo, fuzz-filled composition expertly puts on display Hendrix’s rock chops right alongside his blues talents alongside those of drummer Mitch Mitchell, who just as expertly keeps the song moving forward even with all of his fills, and bassist Noel Redding (the other 2/3 of the original Jimi Hendrix Experience). The overall impact of the trio’s combined talents serves to — as is noted in the album’s liner notes (which again will be discussed later) — push “blues far beyond any parameters its founders had ever imagined.”
‘$20 Fine’ is another of the featured songs that serves to show why the music in this record is so important to its presentation. This laid back arrangement, complete with organ and vocals from Stephen Stills is completely unlike anything else that Hendrix had recorded in his career. That’s because it wasn’t the standard blues-based rock arrangement or even straight up blues arrangement for which he had become known. Rather, it was more along the lines of works from CSNY, The Doobie Brothers and others of that ilk. What’s really impressive here is that even being such a departure for Hendrix, he still pulls off his line with full expertise. When the fuzz of his guitar line couples with Stills’ vocals, the organ and the song’s other elements, the end result is one of the album’s most standout moments.
In the same vein as ‘$20 Fine,’ ‘Woodstock’ is another departure for Hendrix in this collection. Unlike that composition, the organ takes center stage this time, laying the foundation for the arrangement. Buddy Miles’ work on the kit solidly builds on that foundation while Stills’ vocal delivery puts the finishing touch to its presentation. Even more impressive is that while it is more of a roots rock-based arrangement — again like ‘$20 Fine’ — it doesn’t just re-has that song’s arrangement. Instead it boasts its own arrangement that is just as enjoyable as that of the prior song and even the rest of the album’s entries. What’s really interesting here is that considering the time at which this song was crafted, its arrangement leaves one wondering if maybe Hendrix didn’t play at least some influence in the development of Deep Purple’s sound. Yes, this critic just aligned Jimi Hendrix with Deep Purple. Those familiar with their music history will hear the comparison, too. Odds are there likely isnt’ a connection, but one can’t deny the similarity between the latter’s work to the prior, regardless. That in itself shows even more the importance of this song to this record’s whole. When it is joined with the rest of the songs not noted here, the end result there is proof positive of why the album’s songs are key to the album’s presentation. They are not the album’s only collectively important element. The record’s companion booklet is just as important to its whole as its songs.
The companion booklet that comes with Both Sides of the Sky is critical to its overall presentation in that it provides audiences with so much valuable and interesting back story on the songs in question first and foremost. Right off the top, audiences learn through the booklet’s provided information that the recording of ‘Mannish Boy’ marked the very first recording session for the group that would eventually go on to be called Band of Gypsys. Each song’s personnel is listed in the back of the booklet — yet another positive to the booklet, proving again why the physical object is better than the digital — allowing listeners to learn that the group in question consisted of Hendrix, Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums. Another interesting piece of information provided in the album’s companion booklet is the revelation that ‘Lover Man’ featured a tribute to the original 1966 Batman series. It’s a tribute that otherwise might not have even been realized, even with the riff, without this note. The liner notes also reveal that ‘Send My Love to Linda’ was never completed, so the version presented here is an edit of sorts that was done to “complete” it. What’s more listeners also learn in this discussion that just as with ‘Send My Love to Linda,’ much of Hendrix’s creative work was done in studio rather than outside. As if all of this is not enough, listeners are also treated to an in-depth back story on ‘Power of Soul’ that includes note of its creation starting with Hendrix hearing Cox playing a bass line from a song called ‘Mary Ann,’ which was made famous by Ray Charles. The take featured here, the notes state, was just one of a handful of takes recorded for the song. Audiences learn that the masters for an abridged take of the song were lost and have never been found. That shortened version, audiences learn, was included in the rare 1974 Hendrix record Crash Landing. This in-depth back story is just one more example of what makes this album’s companion booklet so critical to the album’s whole. When it is joined with the rest of the stories presented in the booklet, including the revelation that until now ‘Georgia Blues’ — which was part of the soundtrack to PBS’ documentary Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues — has never been commercially available, the whole of the stories makes the booklet its own entertaining presentation. When it is coupled with the songs, that pairing shows even more clearly why this record is so impressive. Even with that in mind, there is still at least one more element to discuss that makes the album so enjoyable. That element is the record’s collective production and sequencing.
The collective production and sequencing presented throughout Both Sides of the Sky are pivotal to its presentation because without the time, thought and effort put into these elements, the booklet and songs themselves would be worthless. Luckily, the team of John McDermott (who also crafted the booklet’s liner notes), Hendrix’s sister and not least of all Hendrix’s longtime producer Eddie Kramer, didn’t allow that to happen. It was thanks to their tireless efforts that each song was expertly re-mastered prior to being presented. Every riff, every word and every note is clearly represented in every single song. At no point does one part overpower the others. In other words, each song is expertly balanced, giving listeners the full experience. Staying on that note the effect of that time and effort is heightened even more through the record’s sequencing. Thanks to the time and thought put into the album’s sequencing, the energy that is exhibited through that expert production never wavers. That is the case even in the slower, full-on blues arrangements. Even as they are slower in tempo, the power in their arrangements still maintains the energy exhibited in the album’s other songs. Keeping this in mind, the whole of the album’s production and sequencing goes a long way in itself toward making this record enjoyable. When it is considered alongside the record’s songs and stories, the whole of those elements shows without doubt why Both Sides of the Sky is a must have for Hendrix fans and true music lovers alike and why it is unquestionably one of this year’s top new overall albums.
Experience Hendrix LLC and Legacy Recording’s latest Jimi Hendrix compilation Both Sides of the Sky is a wonderful must have for Hendrix fans and true music lovers alike. What’s more, it is one of this year’s top new overall albums. These statements are supported in part through the album’s featured songs. They give listeners something familiar and also something not so familiar, showing the reach of Hendrix’s talents. The stories provided by John McDermott — who co-produced the album with Hendrix’s longtime producer Eddie Kramer and Hendrix’s sister Janie — add even more interest and depth to the record. That is because they make the record’s companion booklet its own entertaining element. The collective production and sequencing used here put the finishing touch to the album’s presentation. Each element is important, as has been noted in this review. All things considered, they make Both Sides of the Sky another solid Hendrix offering from Experience Hendrix, LLC and Legacy Recordings, one that is, once more, one of this year’s top new overall albums. more information on Both Sides of the Sky is available online now along with all of the latest Hendrix news at:
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