A drunken middle-aged woman once said to me, "Do you show, or do you grow?"
Feeling uncomfortable revealing the details of my penis's two states of fluctuation, I declined to give this woman an answer. Apparently Jimi Hendrix did both. Why the Good Lord felt Hendrix had to have two incredible blessings is beyond me. I've always comforted my delicate ego by believing that a man can only possess one great human characteristic in his lifetime. But the mere assumption that Mr. Hendrix's male anatomy supposedly resembled a baby's arm holding an apple, and the fact that Jimi was one of the most talented rock guitarists of all time, pretty much takes a giant shit on my theory. If this isn't divine injustice, I'm afraid I don't know what is.
Purple Haze Records' third Jimi Hendrix release comes in the form of the now famous '69 Stockholm concert recordings. The double disc is separated into the both sets that the band performed on that day. The early show, on the first disc, begins with Hendrix exercising his frontman rock banter skills.
"We haven't played together in about six weeks, so we're just gonna jam, see what happens tonight...," Hendrix tells the crowd about his band, the Experience. A strange remark, considering the band had been touring and played two shows the previous evening.
Regardless, the Jimi Hendrix Experience gets off to a rough start with opener "Killing Floor," struggling through a sloppy, bastardized rendition of the studio version. I get lost in a visual image of Hendrix being fucked up beyond belief as the rest of his band tries to keep up with his improvised self indulgence.
But just as I was about to classify this recording as balls, Jimi and the Experience begin to wail with a genuine intensity. The band begins slamming into "Spanish Castle Music." Finally, they're in tune with each other, and it's as if they could do no wrong. Not even halfway through the song, Hendrix's fingers seem to explode with power as he rips into an improvised guitar solo.
I was sucked into a trance, a trance that was broken when the next song, "Fire," came on. The track was rushed and lacked every bit of energy that the song in its original form possesses. Unfortunately the rest of the first CD continues with a "let's get this over with so we can get high" feeling. Powerful rock songs like "Hey Joe," and "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" are unfortunately performed half assed.
The second disc features the band's later -- and overwhelmingly regarded as better -- performance that evening. Hendrix converses with the crowd enthusiastically and proceeds to lead the Experience through each song with an animalistic force that can only be summed up as "completely natural."
The set list from the second show is a bit different than the first. Hendrix and the band rip through a powerful version of "Purple Haze," do a much better version of "Fire," and Hendrix strings through his famous rendition of the "The Star Spangled Banner." This one is cooler, though, simply since it was recorded before Woodstock.
It's tough for a live recording to translate the same energy that a live show can. But this kind of musical intensity is found only at times on this double-show recording. The majority of the Jimi Hendrix Experiences' magic is captured on the second disc only.
Now, a confession. I neither show, nor do I grow. Not only does this confession confirm the pathetic size of my own genitalia, it has left me to ponder what my talent/blessing actually is. And I've come to the conclusion that If excessive back hair is considered a blessing, than I guess I'm winning.