Sony Legacy’s new record You Can’t Use My Name is one of this year’s best new records. It is also one of the most important pieces of music history to be released in a long time. The record is a compilation of songs on which legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix lended his talents during his short stint with Curtis Knight and the Squires from 1965 – 1966. The songs culled for this record have never been released in any form. That is,as is noted in the album’s companion booklet, a result of legal issues that were only hammered out by the people at Experience Hendrix, LLC. Speaking of the booklet, it is just one part of what makes this record so important regardless of one’s level of knowledge in regards to Hendrix and his body of work. Confused? It’ll all be explained shortly. First and foremost though, the songs are central to the overall enjoyment of the record. They, along with the record’s companion booklet, make perfectly clear why any music lover overall will want to hear this record. Last but not least of all worth noting is the production values of the songs presented across the record. Considering that they have apparently sat in limbo for decades, they sound especially impressive in this presentation. Each element by itself makes You Can’t Use My Name enjoyable for any Jimi Hendrix fan. All three elements taken collectively into account they prove this record to be an equally important piece of music history. That collective importance and enjoyment makes You Can’t Use My Name one of this year’s best new album’s overall and a piece that both Hendrix fans and music lovers overall should add to his or her collection.
There is a lot to be said of Sony Legacy’s new compilation You Can’t Use My Name. The fourteen-track record is a compilation of songs that were recorded by legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix between 1965 and 1966 when he served as a backup member of Curtis Knight’s group Curtis Knight & The Squires. Its release on Tuesday, March 24th marks the first time ever that these songs have seen the light of day. They have hung in limbo for so long because of legal issues that Experience Hendrix, LLC only recently finally got settled. The issues in question had to do with ownership and distribution rights for the songs. The efforts to get the rights to the songs were well worth it as listeners will agree in hearing these songs. As listeners will note on this record, Hendrix’s guitar playing in each one of the compilation’s songs displays the roots of his talents. His guitar solo on ‘Gotta Have a New Dress’ and his work on the near seven-minute-long ‘Knock Yourself Out (Flying on Instruments) both display those roots. Though, the latter of the two shows more hints of the timeless tunes that he would churn out in the years to come with Mitch Mitchell, Noel Redding, and Billy Cox. For all of the breadth of talent displayed by both Hendrix and the members of The Squires on this record, listeners get to hear a glimpse of the consequences of those talents in the uncut take of ‘Gloomy Monday.’ Listeners hear Hendrix talking to Curtis Squires and to producer Ed Chalpin, head of PPX in regards to his name being used in the song’s credits. His reasoning for keeping his name off of the recording is fully justified, as audiences will read in the album’s companion booklet. Speaking of that story and the booklet in whole, the companion booklet that comes with You Can’t Use My Name both that story and the larger story presented in the booklet proves to be another reason that music lovers and Hendrix fans alike will enjoy and appreciate You Can’t Use My Name.
So many consumers today have turned away from purchasing physical albums and turned more towards directly downloading specific songs from given acts’ albums. Ever since the creation of iTunes so many years ago, people have increasingly turned their backs on the physical object. The main argument given for this turn is that there are so few full albums worth purchasing anymore. To a certain point, that argument does hold water. In the case of You Can’t Use My Name, it is an argument that is one giant hole. In this case, the hole is so large not only because of the amount of impressive songs included for the compilation’s body but for the inclusion of its companion booklet. The booklet included with You Can’t Use My Name gives an in-depth background on Hendrix’s early days and his rise to stardom as the mouthpiece of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. While many audiences know plenty about Hendrix’s time with The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Band of Gypsys, it’s likely that far fewer audiences know about the legal issues that he faced during his rise to stardom. The booklet included with You Can’t Use My Name outlines in detail the legal issues in question courtesy of writer John McDermott. Those legal issues even boil over onto the album itself as can be heard in the rough cut of ‘Gloomy Monday.’ McDermott goes so far as to clearly transcribe the conversation heard between Hendrix, Knight, and PPX head Ed Chalpin before the recording begins. It clearly displays Hendrix as being very untrusting of Chalpin but trying to play off his discomfort at the situation in which he had found himself. That’s just part of the whole story that makes this record a must have for any music lover, historian or Hendrix fan. McDermott goes on to detail how perhaps Hendrix’s own interpretation of his contract with PPX versus Chalpin’s view obviously led to the ongoing dispute and the rift formed between Hendrix and Chalpin. McDermott notes in his history that these disputes followed Hendrix into his career with The Jimi Hendrix Experience. It would explain why in Sony Legacy’s Hendrix documentaries Jimi Plays Berkeley (2012), The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Hear My Train A’ Comin’ (2013), and Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix Live at the Isle of Wight, Hendrix is seen as being somewhat closed off from others while not on stage. He even shows a little of that side on-stage, too. It is visible and audible in his stage presence. Despite his powerhouse performances, he himself comes across as being a little reserved for lack of better wording. The impact of these legal issues would seem to explain at least to some extent that reserved nature. Regardless of whether or not the legal issues outlined in You Can’t Use My Name’s companion booklet played a role in who Jimi Hendrix became over time, one can’t help but wonder. The very revelation of those issues–which may or may not have played a role in his personal life–thanks to John McDermott and the potential discussions that they could lead to as noted here, prove without a doubt why the booklet included with You Can’t Use My Name is just as important to the whole as the music itself. It still is not all worth noting of what makes the record work, either. The record’s production values are well worth noting, too.
The music chosen for You Can’t Use My Name and the record’s companion booklet are both of equal importance to the record’s enjoyment and success. That has been noted above. The music presents Hendrix before he was a star. And not only that, but it also presents a clear picture of his musical roots. The in-depth history of the legal issues challenging Hendrix as his star rose is just as key to the record’s enjoyment and success. It is more ammo in the argument in favor of owning the physical object and against the digital. Those that buy the album in its physical form will get the full experience, including that history and music. Those that only download the music won’t get the full background on the music and why the songs on this record are so important in the overall history of popular music and of Jimi Hendrix’s career. Now, having noted all of this, the music and the history lesson behind the music would be useless without quality production values. From the socio-politically charged protest piece that is ‘How Would You Feel’ to the uptempo, blues-infused instrumental that is Knock Yourself Out (Flying on Instruments) to the album’s controversial closer ‘Gloomy Monday,’ each song collected for the album sounds equally impressive. And that is thanks to those charged with resurrecting them and re-mastering them. If not for their painstaking efforts, none of the elements noted above would mean anything and this record would otherwise end up collecting dust on store shelves. But thankfully that is not the case. Because it isn’t the case, every song on the record is equally worth the listen. In hearing the quality sound of each song and taking in the important history behind the songs, listeners that are open-minded enough will agree that You Can’t Use My Name is not only one of this year’s best new albums but one of the most important pieces of 20th Century music history to come along in a very long time.
You Can’t Use My Name proves in the end to be an aptly titled new collection of songs from Experience Hendrix, LLC and Sony Legacy. The history provided behind the songs courtesy of John McDermott illustrates this clearly and concisely. This leads the songs themselves to prove all the more valuable both because of Hendrix’s performance on each one and simply for the fact that they were held in music limbo for so long. And thanks to the hard work of those charged with restoring the songs, the songs are clear and completely enjoyable. The end result of all of these elements is an album that once again proves to be one of the year’s best overall new records and one of the best pieces of 20th Century music history to come along in a very long time. You Can’t Use My Name will be available Tuesday, March 24th in stores and online. Though, the purchase of the physical item in the case is highly recommended. More information on this and other titles from Experience Hendrix, LLC and Sony Legacy is available online now at:
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