The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live In Cologne is the twelfth release in the line of official bootlegs issued by the collectors focused Dagger Records label, and by all accounts, it will probably be the last. The first pressing was in vinyl format only, followed by a CD release a year or so later. Captured on 13th January, 1969 at Germany’s Sporthalle, this is taken from a first generation tape made by an audience member, which means that the sound quality is hardly going to excite anyone other than Hendrix diehards. Although as far as audience recordings go, this one’s not too bad, despite some fluctuations here and there. Which is a shame, because Hendrix was on fire (no pun intended, I promise) this night, so a soundboard would have been most welcome. But, considering the era, it’s fortunate anything was preserved at all.
The Experience blast off with a spirited cover of Earl King’s “Come On (Let The Good Times Roll)”, which can also be heard on the Electric Ladyland LP. Hendrix rarely performed this song so it’s a real treat to hear it here. A lively “Foxy Lady” quickly follows, before a superb “Red House”, including some outstanding guitar by “yours truly on public saxophone”.
We have a brawny “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”, a song which many in the audience might not have been all that yet familiar with, as it was never issued as a single during Jimi’s lifetime. Hendrix launches into old (well not that old) crowd pleaser “Fire” and then a storming “Spanish Castle Magic”. Having been on almost constant tour together for the past two years or so, meant that The Experience had by now developed the gift of ESP. Fortunately Hendrix hadn’t quite yet become totally bored with his first 45 “Hey Joe”, successfully knocking off a somewhat faster than usual version, on which both Mitch Mitchell (drums) and Noel Redding (bass) are in full flight behind him. The crowd call out with excitement during an instrumental take of Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love”, a song which by then Hendrix had adopted as a regular feature of his stage show, something which wouldn’t be complete without his wild interpretation of the “Star Spangled Banner” (remember this was January ‘69, not August of that year), before finishing with a rousing “Purple Haze”.
John McDermott’s liner notes are brief but informative, noting that “this special ‘official bootleg’ stands as a captivating document of this important chapter in Jimi’s legacy”. Which is true, yes, but one could well say this with concern to every Hendrix chapter, be it 1966, through to 1970.
So, to buy or not to buy? That is the question. Well the answer to that will depend on how much of a fan you are. Ask yourself, how many Hendrix albums do I own, both official and otherwise? If it’s in the hundreds, then chances are you’ll want to purchase this release (if you haven’t already). As previously noted, the sound isn’t exactly top notch (like most monophonic audience recordings of the time), but as a Jimiphile at least you can go to the grave happy in the knowledge that you were once the proud owner of this “special official bootleg”, and hand down to your grandchildren, even if they’ll probably never get around to listening to it.