People, Hell and Angels
Release Date: March 5th 2013
People, Hell and Angels is a new album that consists of previously unreleased recordings by Jimi Hendrix that were intended for the album follow-up of Electric Ladyland. According to Eddie Kramer, Hendrix’s recording engineer, this will be the last Hendrix album featuring unreleased studio material.
For those who don’t know, Jimi Hendrix was a guitarist during the sixties and seventies, who, despite only having four years between his discovery and death, managed to earn the title of the “Greatest Guitarist of All Time”. With his pioneering use of fuzz, feedback, and distortion, used alongside his guitar-playing skill, Hendrix expanded and redefined the range of the electric guitar and became a legendary icon for peace, love and music.
After his tragic death on September 18th 1970, Hendrix had a number of different unreleased recordings, and record companies began warring over the possession of Hendrix’s musical remains. They were at a value of solid gold for those who knew how to exploit the death of an icon. Record producer Alan Douglas produced numerous albums by taking Hendrix’s leftovers and replacing the original rhythm tracks with overdubs by session musicians. Many fans were disgusted: while the albums were polished and professional, they seemed to lack Hendrix authenticity. In 1995, Experience Hendrix L.L.C. gained ownership and took a completely different approach, much to the relief of the fans; they decided to release the recordings the way the musicians intended them to be heard. No overdubs, just Billy Cox and Buddy Miles. Thanks to this, the recordings sound raw and—most importantly—real.
The opening song, “Earth Blues”, is a great fusion of rock, blues, and soul—the classic Hendrix mixture. Its catchiness is obviously the reason it was chosen to represent the album on classic rock stations everywhere. However, the second track, “Somewhere”, is so good that it’s hard to believe it went unreleased for so long. The tempo is a perfect groove for Hendrix’s playing, compensating for his strumming and soloing style. The wah pedal is used to such an effect that even the improvised solos sound fantastic. The rest of the album consists of a mixture of brilliance and mediocre material. Songs such as “Hear My Train A Comin’”, “Izabella”, and “Bleeding Heart”, while still being great songs, have been presented in superior forms. “Crash Landing” is brilliant; it has very personal messages associated with it, something that is rare in a Hendrix album. He sings to his girlfriend, Devon Wilson, begging her to kick her drug addiction: “And look at you, all lovey-dovey/When you mess around with that needle”.
People, Hell and Angels is not Hendrix’s best album, but then again, considering it is made of unfinished bits and pieces, it never was going to be. The tracks share a consistent groove that’s never urgent or lazy and fit together cohesively. There are a handful of tracks that are classic Hendrix and musical gold but these are outweighed by the indifferent songs that we have heard played better before. People, Hell and Angels must still be given credit for its respect for the artists and its authenticity, even if its quality suffers as a consequence. This is still one of the most successful posthumous Hendrix albums released yet.
Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PeopleHellAngels.jpg