Jimi Hendrix – Loose Ends

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At least they got the title right. After 1972’s War Heroes album, Jimi Hendrix’s friend and engineer Eddie Kramer had finally chosen to call it a day, deciding that he could no longer preside over the deceased guitarist’s legacy. Not so Michael Jeffrey, Hendrix’s manager, who had no scruples when it came to making money from his recently departed client. Hence 1973’s Loose Ends, an album which was rejected by Warner Brothers outright, and for good reason, which explains its limited release in England and Europe. Although part of the reason for this was that Jeffrey’s contract with Warners had expired, meaning that he was left with little option than to release whatever product he could through Polydor. As producer John Jansen remembered, “Previously, I had been giving Kramer and Jeffrey tapes simultaneously whenever I came across something that seemed promising. Now, with just Jeffrey to answer to, anything that remotely sounded like music was worth going to Polydor and getting money for an album.” At the time Jansen was so discomfited that he chose the pseudonym of Alex Trevor to appear on the credits. Though what of its contents? Well let’s spin the old Thorens turntable and find out.

Opener “Come down Hard on Me Baby” is one of those intriguing works in progress Hendrix was exploring in 1970 for his next album. Revamped by Alan Douglas a couple of years later on Crash Landing, here it remains little more than a proto funk-rock composition of the sort either a Prince or Lenny Kravitz might have turned into a hit single. Less appealing is “Blue Suede Shoes”, which finds Hendrix and his Band of Gypsys goofing it up in the studio, while obviously smoking a lot of pot in the process. It’s fun, and rather than fade out as it does, the listener feels a little robbed just as things seemed to be warming up.

“Jam 292” (named by Jeffrey after what was written on the tape box) is a loose almost free-form performance and one which finds Hendrix exploring his inner jazz-fusion side (with Stephen Stills accompanying him), however insecure he might have been when it came to playing jazz in general. “The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam’s Dice” is a stereo mix and the only authorised track, and one I’m sure Prince must had have heard and thought “I could build an entire career out of this.”

One of the tracks Hendrix had been working on for his projected fourth album was a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Drifter’s Escape”. Whether it would have made it on the final cut, or found its way on the cutting room floor is anyone’s guess. Still Jimi managed to transform it with his dramatic apocalyptic guitar. It’s no “All Along the Watchtower”, but impressive nonetheless.

Next are a couple of Band of Gypsys tracks recorded while they were rehearsing ahead of their performances at the Fillmore in December 1969. Here Hendrix is just plain enjoying himself and revelling in the freedom to simply play his guitar away from all the pressures and realities of everyday life. Both “Burning Desire” and “Born a Hootchie Kootchie Man” (erroneously spelled on the back cover) were re-released on The Baggy’s Rehearsal Sessions, which is perhaps why you may not need to track this album down.

The curtain closes with Jimi’s solo demo of “Electric Lady Land”, which is brief but no less gorgeous in its execution, and perhaps a perfect way to end what is ultimately an imperfect album.

As any Hendrix nut will tell you, there are two reasons to own this album, “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Jam 292”, which to this day remain unavailable – hence this LP’s existence in my collection. A Japanese pressing, whether vinyl or CD, is guaranteed to set you back, so you’re going to have to be a pretty serious fanatic if you want to lay your hands on this one. Yet like any ancient manuscript, such things are always worth preserving, no matter how flawed, or fragile. To preserve the past is a precious thing indeed – while to hold onto it is everything.