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Jimi Hendrix Jimi Plays Berkeley Review

Live. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

This is the strongest newly-released Hendrix material in a long time.

Rob Fawcett 2002

Jimi Hendrix played two shows at Berkeley on 30 May 1970, which have long been both legendary and unreleased. Some legendary recordings maintain their fascination only by being unavailable. In this case the recordings have been oft-heard in remarkable quality on bootlegs, and the few officially released individual tracks (including ''Johnny B Goode'', and the Rainbow Bridge LP version of ''Hear My Train a Comin''') have been magnificent.

The weakest point in the set, as so often with gigs from the era, is the start. First tracks were often presented as a warm up lap rather than the pyrotechnic rabble-rouser we expect today. This opener, an early incarnation of ''Straight Ahead'', is too obviously half-built to achieve much momentum. After that, however, there's very little to complain about. ''Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)'' is a strong candidate for the best recorded version, studio included (though it's a shocking change of pace when Jimi reverses it at full tilt into the In The West classic ''Lover Man''). With Billy Cox on bass, songs like ''Stone Free'' and ''Hey Joe'' are short punchy performances, unlike the epic versions the 68-69 Experience would offer. Breathing space is instead given to fresher classics such as ''Machine Gun'' and ''Voodoo Child (Slight Return)''.

The pace of the show is great, with every song is presented complete and in sequence (many live Hendrix releases, particularly before Experience Hendrix took over his estate, have suffered bizarre editing and re-ordering). The sound quality is as good as any live Hendrix, certainly putting the likes of Woodstock and existing Berkeley bootlegs to shame. The DVD release of the (shamefully poor) film of this show comes with a bonus 5.1 surround-sound mix of the whole CD album and is a treat if you have the equipment.

The only disappointment of this release is that only one of the two Berkeley shows has been released. The first set is arguably as strong, and was the source for the prior releases of ''Hear My Train'' and ''Johnny B Goode''. None the less, this is the strongest newly-released Hendrix material in a long time.

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