Sadly, given such auspicious circumstances, he arrived jet-lagged, studio-lagged,...
Rob Fawcett 2002-11-20
Hendrix's legacy has not been well represented by his live releases. Hitherto, the most widely available sets, Woodstock and Band of Gypsies, were both recorded with flawed one-off line-ups cobbled together for individual events.
Jimi's August 1970 Isle of Wight show was an eagerly anticipated return to the UK with a well-honed trio offering long-awaited new material to an audience of 600,000 people. Sadly, given such auspicious circumstances, he arrived jet-lagged, studio-lagged, deeply troubled and about as grouchy as any usually-charming-genius can become.
The fact that Hendrix would die within weeks of this festival could be claimed to add to its significance, but adds only poignancy to a performance which is very uneven, lacking the passion and spontaneity which were his trademark. Previously released recordings of this show, in 1971 and 1991, failed through dismal editing and re-sequencing to showcase the best of the material. This new attempt, under the auspices of the Hendrix estate, could hardly fail to improve on its predecessors but equally cannot be expected to turn lead into gold.
On offer are two formats: a limited edition double CD comprising all 120 meandering minutes, and a single CD which omits most of the second half of the set. The highlight of both is the oft-compiled finale ''In From The Storm'' - the only new song which captures the Experience's original intensity. Other 'new' compositions struggle without the glorious polyrhythmic overdubs the studio offered to ''Dolly Dagger'', ''Freedom'' and ''Ezy Ryder''. Unfortunately Hendrix by now felt jaded towards his earlier material - after an unfocussed ''Foxy Lady'' he complains to the audience about the demand for him to play such oldies.
There are still joys here for afficionados (who will buy the double), and the single CD is the most flattering release of the show yet achieved - but if you crave a live 'greatest hits' then wait in hope of a release for the stunning but mysteriously unavailable Berkeley shows from May 1970, or try the Feb 24 1969 Albert Hall show on the 3 CD The Last Experience set recently released by Charly/Snapper.