More like the cry of loss
Just five months after his death, most of the material Hendrix had been working on before he died was painfully compiled by Eddie Kramer and Mitch Mitchell, who went through the emotional process of having to decide on how to present what would have been Hendrix’s next album. The Cry Of Love was the result, and while Kramer wanted it to be a double album, as per Hendrix’s wishes, due to contractual obligations, the project was pared down to just a single LP, meaning that the majority of Jimi’s vision was seriously compromised, which explains why key songs such as “Dolly Dagger,” “Stepping Stone,” “Room Full Of Mirrors” and “Hey Baby” were held over for future releases.
Which isn’t to say that The Cry Of Love is in any way a bad album, in fact it’s rather excellent, and one that highlights the guitarist’s evolution as a creative genius, for this is not the same Hendrix who recorded “Hey Joe” in London in late 1966.
The LP kicks off with the complex funk of “Freedom,” whose lyrics contain references to his girlfriend Devon Wilson, a woman who was clearly breaking his balls: “You don’t have to say you love me/If you don’t mean it you better believe/If you don’t need me/Or you just want to bleed me/Better stick your dagger in someone else/So I can leave/Set me free!”
“Drifting” remains one of Jimi’s most beautiful of ballads, with trippy backwards guitar and more atmosphere than the Orion Nebula. Hendrix funks it up on the rocking “Ezy Ryder,” before getting all cosmic-country-rock on “Night Bird Flying.” Hendrix reveals his love of Dylan on the bluesy “My Friend,” a track which dates back to March 1968, followed by the wah wah freak out of “Straight Ahead,” a song which bears more than a slight resemblance to “Freedom.”
It’s no secret that Jimi enjoyed reading DC comics, and “Astro Man” is Hendrix’s own cartoon celebration of those stories he read as a child. More like African-American Superman, who can trip out faster than a speeding bullet. It also contains some intense guitar playing, in spite of the goofy lyrics.
The majestic “Angel” dates back to 1967 (an early primitive demo was featured on South Saturn Delta), although Hendrix’s 1970 version has to be the most definitive and moving. He expresses his single-minded brilliance throughout “In From The Storm,” a song built around a tempestuous riff and an atmospheric mix. “Belly Button Window,” the final track, makes for a sober and sombre ending, and a composition that might never have been released on The First Rays Of The New Rising Sun.
Once again Bernie Grundman has done a stellar job in the mastering department, as he also did on the 2014 re-release of Rainbow Bridge, allowing the music to breathe in ways not heard since the original Reprise pressings. And while The Cry Of Love may not have been entirely what Hendrix had in mind, it remains a worthy one at that.