In spite of what the title might suggest, this is not some ‘lost masterpiece’ left hidden on the shelf like an obscure bottle of legendary wine which no-one thought was there much less even existed. Instead, Morning Symphony Ideas is nothing more than a collection of jam sessions captured at a time when Hendrix was working on his next album, and yet had no concept of what that next album was going to be. The majority of this CD’s contents were recorded with The Band of Gypsys at The Record Plant in New York in late 1969, with Buddy Miles (drums) and Billy Cox (bass), where we hear Hendrix laying down every thought and riff he could think of, in a way not too dissimilar to Constable’s cloud sketches. One thing’s for sure, when I first heard this it literally blew my mind. Yes jams they may be, but what jams they are.
Anyone out there who has any doubt as to Hendrix’s ability and imagination only need listen to “Keep On Groovin’”, the first track. At 28 minutes it’s a marathon I must admit (even I find it hard going), but worth it all the same. Throughout Jimi plays some of the most incredible riffs I’ve ever heard. It’s almost as if he’s giving us the next 20 years of the guitar, to the extent that there are at least half a dozen songs any modern guitarist could write based on what he’s performing here alone.
“Jungle” is little more than a draft, and a wondrous one at that. The beginning is absolutely breathtaking in its beauty, before Hendrix shifts gears and launches into an upbeat version of “Villanova Junction”, then changes gears again, breaking out into a loose assortment of ideas, many of which would find their way onto future songs. “Room Full of Mirrors”, recorded on September 25th 1969, is a rough though inspired run through of one his more underrated compositions. Once again, there are enough moments to make many an aspiring or even accomplished guitarist drool with envy.
“Strato Strut”, recorded with Buddy Miles and Billy Cox, simply oozes cool. And while it’s the sort of thing these chaps could have performed in their sleep, it’s entertaining nonetheless. The Chitlin Circuit might have broken many a man’s balls, but at least it taught them how to play.
“Scorpio Woman” is a home tape, recorded in August 1970, and given by Hendrix to a Melinda Merryweather during his stay on the island of Maui, Hawaii. Why he gave it to her who can say, however it’s an interesting recording nonetheless, as primitive sounding as it is, and one which offers the listener a personal insight into Jimi’s creative mind. But it’s an insight nevertheless, and not the be all and end all of musical experiences. Which means that one listen is probably about as far as anyone will get (unless you write for the wonderful Jimpress).
“Acoustic Demo” is another home recording, this time with Hendrix on acoustic guitar, and at 1.08 it’s hardly the sort of thing one would ascribe the word genius to, although it is nice to hear all the same, since Jimi didn’t play or record on the acoustic all that often.
Morning Symphony Ideas is ultimately a personal and intimate listen, and for any Hendrix freak, a vital document to own and cherish. Because Hendrix fanatics are not unlike Egyptologists, always searching for and obsessing over every piece or relic that might help them to create a more complete picture. Well I’m glad to say that this is yet another important piece in that all illusive puzzle which no doubt many Hendrix scholars will continue to pore over for generations to come. If only Jimi himself had known, I’m sure he would have practised just that little bit more.