A new decade, a new Hendrix
By the early 1980’s, it was clear that the legacy of Jimi Hendrix was ready for a serious reboot. Alan Douglas, who had been in charge of the Hendrix estate since the mid ‘70s, decided that the time was right to issue yet another compilation designed to appeal to a younger audience. At least that was the theory. Certainly the track selection was eclectic. Rather than taking a more predictable approach, i.e. “Hey Joe,” “Wind Cries Mary,” and “Foxy Lady” etc etc, Kiss The Sky focuses largely on several lesser known compositions, something which older fans and serious collectors would have been dribbling over.
From Hendrix’s 1967 debut, we have “Are You Experienced?,” “Purple Haze,” and the sci-fi inspired “Third Stone From The Sun,” a nod to early ‘60s surf music, and whose main riff was borrowed by drummer Cozy Powell on his popular chart hit “Dance With The Devil.” Jimi’s second LP is represented by “Castles Made Of Sand,” while “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” “Crosstown Traffic” and the classic “All Along The Watchtower,” from Electric Ladyland, also make an appearance.
However what made this album worth owning was the inclusion of “Red House,” that contained a few extra seconds of studio chatter at the beginning, a then previously unreleased version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor,” recorded at The Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967, as well as a spirited live rendition of “I Don’t Live Today” captured at The San Diego Sports Arena on 24th May 1969.
But the real treat for fans was a remixed “Stepping Stone” from the original 1970 Band Of Gypsys single, an underrated gem from the latter period of Hendrix’s career.
Digitally remastered from the original master tapes, and issued on premium 150-gram vinyl, Hendrix had probably never sounded better, by 1984 standards, making it an essential buy for audiophiles of the time.
So, why should anyone wish to own a copy? That depends on how much of a fan you are. The sound quality is indeed superb (Joe Gastwirt mastered the tapes), while the unedited “Red House” and early version of “Stepping Stone” have yet to be re-released, which means that many Hendrix fanatics (sorry, scholars) will likely own a copy, if just to hear those few extra seconds of banter at the beginning of “Red House.”
Kiss The Sky is an oft forgotten assemblage, and a fine attempt by Douglas to revitalise the Hendrix legacy during a period when most people were listening to Simple Minds and The Thompson Twins.
Now usurped by far superior compilations, Kiss The Sky is one for the anoraks, and obviously collectors alike.