Jimi Hendrix - People, Hell & Angels

by Nathan Fidler Rating:8 Release Date:2013-03-12

Shortly after the release of Electric Ladyland in 1968, Jimi Hendrix began to explore new musical horizons without his trusted Experience gang, the results of which have now been collected into his 12th posthumous release, People, Hell & Angels. The first surprising thing about the sound on these tracks is how much more focused the guitar seems. There are less trippy effects and overdubs here. 'Easy Blues' is an instrumental jam of almost six minutes length and, despite the solid work of old friends Larry Lee, Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell, it is the lead guitar which mesmerises.

The second surprise is how raw the tracks sound, with limited dubbing and an obvious lack of embellishment for songs not necessarily intended for release. We get an insight into the way the great guitar virtuoso worked when creating his songs and his own style. 'Inside Out' features guitars played through and organ amplifier, while 'Hear My Train A-Comin' takes a much steadier pace, focusing on the basic rhythm.

Not to say that there aren't the same quirky Hendrix elements all over these tracks. There are the chuckled asides in the lyrics about his "baby" and UFOs; the strangled but intricate solo of 'Crash Landing', and the hazed breakdowns which are all staples of his music. What we should hold most dear, though, is the opportunity to hear something completely different, such as on fertile songs like 'Hey Gypsy Boy' and 'Villanova Junction Blues', which are more understated versions of tracks already released.

These songs make you wonder if the Hendrix estate is holding out on us. Surely there are more wayward tracks which don't fit into the established catalogue? Jams which wouldn't usually see the light of day? It is only this nagging thought when listening to People, Hell & Angels which takes away from an energetic and intriguing posthumous release.

Quite why these tracks have now been let loose is unclear but of the many posthumous Hendrix compilations, this should be the most cherished for an insight into a talent which burned so intensely for such a short period. With a biopic set to come soon (with OutKast's Andre 3000 as Hendrix), his stock is surely set to rise once again.

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