The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Live In Ottawa

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In 2001, Dagger Records released this little gem, an almost complete performance of the JHE recorded at The Capitol Theatre in Ottawa, Ontario on 19th March 1968. Although not officially taped, this rough, two-track mixing console recording was obviously made by someone who knew what they were doing, because it certainly wasn’t made by an audience member.

Shortly after the release of Jimi’s second album Axis: Bold As Love, the Experience embarked on a lengthy American tour, criss-crossing all over the continent performing at a variety of clubs and medium sized venues, much of the travelling done in a rented station wagon (“We know you’re popular Miss Ga Ga, but this is all we can afford”). The band would ultimately go on to play an incredible sixty shows in sixty days, and that was only the first leg of the tour! Not only that, but there probably wasn’t even any catering, apart from all the free dope.

After a brief introduction by Nelson Davis of CKOY radio, Hendrix opens the concert with a highly energetic rendition of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor”, before launching into a lengthy and heavily improvised “Tax Free”, managing to flex some serious instrumental muscle in the process (and that includes both Noel and Mitch). The band blast their way through crowd favourite “Fire”, then proceed to slow things down with an extended nine minute reading of “Red House”, a definite highlight of this performance, as well as any other show I’ve heard.

He puts in an enjoyable though perfunctory performance of “Foxy Lady”, followed by a spirited “Hey Joe” (complete with an extended introduction, similar to those he played later that year at Winterland), along with a feisty and exhilarating “Spanish Castle Magic”, which lasts for nearly eight minutes, during which he proves that he was not only adept at holding down the rhythm, but a master craftsman of invention as well. Hendrix caps things off with a lively “Purple Haze”, no doubt exciting the audience in the process, although unfortunately the tape runs out mid way through a rousing “Wild Thing”, meaning that the listener misses out on that all important climax. But no matter. If you’ve heard one version you’ve likely heard them all. Therefore we shan’t be putting a death warrant on the tape operator in other words.

Clearly Hendrix must have tired of performing the same songs each night, or at least in the same way, which meant that few concerts were ever quite the same. Nowadays most bands tend to record all their shows and post them online for fans to download. No such luck in the 1960’s. Therefore recordings such as this are pretty rare, so it’s wonderful that the Hendrix estate are doing everything they can to preserve these historic shows. Interestingly, this CD was apparently nominated for a Grammy Award for best archive release (I don’t know if it won). The booklet, written by John McDermott, is as always informative, and also includes a full itinerary of the tour (obviously one for the trainspotters). Not much in the way of photos, however that’s OK, since it’s really the music one has bought the CD for anyway.

Live In Ottawa is another essential purchase for Hendrix devotees, both young and old, especially for those who were there, for whom this release must bring back plenty of amazing memories.