Hendrix in the West
Winterland (single disc version)
By David Chiu
A double dose of live Hendrix has recently come in the form of two recently released sets that deliver the same result: the guitar hero and his band as mesmerizing performers who leave the audience satisfied by the sheer force of the music.
First out in 1974, Hendrix in the West is a compilation of performances from the West Coast (and even a few from the Isle of Wight, which kind of betrays the name of the set) fr0m 1968 to 1970. This new reissue tacks on five additional songs that were not in the initial release. With original Experience members Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, and then later with Mitchell and Billy Cox, Hendrix delivers some awe-inspiring performances whether it’s the avant-garde, almost jazzy rocker of “Spanish Castle Magic,” which throws in Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”; the driving “I Don’t Live Today”; and the explosive “Lover Man.” Aside from Hendrix’s own compositions, the highlights on Hendrix in the West are his stirring rendition of “The Queen” (a.k.a. “God Save the Queen”) and a groove-inspired cover of Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shows.” It’s all brought to a climactic head with the blistering finale of “Voodoo Child.”
In 1968, the Experience performed a string of shows at San Francisco’s Winterland
Ballroom in October 1968, which forms the basis of this new single-disc collection. (A more comprehensive 4-CD set of the Winterland shows is available for those who want the whole enchilada). Some of the songs that appeared on Hendrix in the West is also on Winterland such as “Voodoo Child” and the manic “Fire”; other familiar Hendrix staples like “Are You Experienced,” the bluesy “Here My Train a Comin’” and the reflective “Little Wing” are both dazzling and electrifying. Some of the standouts, however, from this particular set are the ones that Hendrix covers such as a lovely contemplative version of Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” and an instrumental take of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love.” A casual fan would be hard pressed to find fault with or imperfections in the performances from both sets because they’re overwhelmingly passionate — a testament to Hendrix’s talent as the ultimate consummate performer.