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Artist of the Month: Jimi Hendrix

March 1, 2020

As we mark the 50th anniversary of ‘Band of Gypsys’ the mighty Jimi Hendrix is our Artist of the Month.

When Band Of Gypsys were introduced by MC Keeva Kristal as “old friends with a new name” as they took the stage at the celebrated Fillmore East venue in downtown New York for the first of two sets on New Year’s Day 1970, it’s fair to say that audience expectation was running high.

And with good reason. Having sold out the Big Apple’s Madison Square Garden just nine months previously, defining the Woodstock Festival with his idiosyncratic reading of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ and splitting The Jimi Hendrix Experience, the celebrated guitarist was sailing into uncharted waters. Hooking up with bassist and former 101st airborne comrade Billy Cox and erstwhile Electric Flag drummer Buddy Miles, changes were most definitely afoot.

As evidenced by the recorded document ‘Band Of Gypsys’, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month, Jimi Hendrix’s never ceasing musical curiosity and exploratory nature was producing an entirely new sound, thanks in part to his new rhythm section.

Whereas the Experience’s Noel Redding was essentially a guitarist playing the bass and drummer Mitch Mitchell rooted in jazz, Billy Cox and Buddy Miles came from an R’n’B tradition. Providing a more groove-based foundation, the trio created a seamless blend of funk, soul, psychedelic rock and cosmic exploration. And in doing so, Jimi Hendrix was responsible for altering the course of rock music for a second time.

What becomes immediately apparent when listening to ‘Band Of Gypsys’ is the degree to which Cox and Miles give the music a solid, funky foundation, which in turn allows Jimi Hendrix to stretch out. And with Miles and Cox contributing on vocals too, this is more than simply “old friends with a new name” but a whole new entity.

Opener ‘Who Knows’ sounds like unlike anything that had preceded it. The pace is measured with the rhythm section aiming squarely at the hips, while Jimi Hendrix’s wah-wah’d guitar goes for the head to stare at the third eye. ‘Machine Gun’ captures the terror and madness of war thanks to some stunning virtuosity by the band, with Hendrix both denouncing violence and supporting the troops drafted to fight in Vietnam.

Fans of ‘Band Of Gypsys’ and Hendrix scholars have long known that the original album was taken from the two shows that made up second of a two-night stand at the Fillmore East. Indeed, the first show of the two sets performed on New Year’s Eve has been previously released, but it’s here with ‘Songs For Groovy Children: The Fillmore East Concerts’ that all four of these historic concerts are brought together.

In addition the shows and their setlists being presented in sequence, this 5-CD/8-LP box set also includes Band Of Gypsys’ versions of ‘Purple Haze’.’Foxey Lady’ and ‘Stone Free’ as well as incredible cover versions of Howard Tate’s ‘Stop’, ‘Steal Away’, by Jimmy Hughes and Elmore James’ ‘Bleeding Heart’.

‘Songs For Groovy Children: The Fillmore East Concerts’ is a stunning document that blends the band’s past and present, and the future they helped create.

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Foxey Lady (Miami Pop)

Jimi Hendrix