Unofficial collection of curios by the late great guitarist
As Alan Douglas sifted through the seemingly endless multi-track tapes in search of potential candidates for his next project, what would become 1994’s Blues album, he uncovered a veritable cache of jams, outtakes and unfinished ideas, most of which had remained in the vaults unheard for more than two decades, except by a small number of those in the music industry.
By Night – The Blues Album Outtakes is not an official release, but it might as well be. Unlike most bootlegs, the tapes themselves originated from official sources (i.e. Douglas), which means that each of these seven tracks are in near-pristine sound quality, making By Night an essential document for any Hendrix collector.
The album begins with the most complete take of “The New Rising Sun,” recorded 23rd October 1968 at TTG Studios, LA. An excerpt first appeared on 1975’s Crash Landing, followed by a longer, albeit heavily edited version on 1995’s Voodoo Soup. At over eight minutes, “The New Rising Sun” tends to drag a bit, but is fascinating all the same, as each instrument was recorded by Jimi himself, and casts the young musician in a totally different light.
“Country Blues,” another lengthy instrumental, was not officially issued until 2000 on The Jimi Hendrix Experience box set. This version, recorded with Buddy Miles (drums) and Billy Cox (bass) on 23rd January 1970, is interesting in that it contains a cleaner mix, perhaps representing how this impromptu jam session might have sounded at the time it was recorded.
For some years, Douglas had been eager to present an authoritative studio version of Jimi’s blues epic “Hear My Train A’ Comin’.” Despite his efforts, such a recording would elude him, as it has also the current custodians of Hendrix’s music. But that didn’t stop Douglas from crafting a ‘new’ version from two separate performances, rather clumsily merged to create a finished master. As such, it should remain on the shelf, even if one gets to hear some extremely spirited guitar playing.
Next is another hybrid, only this time it’s from one of Jimi’s last studio recordings, the inimitable “Belly Button Window.” As with “Hear My Train,” this so called ‘master’ has been inelegantly stitched together using different sources. But that’s OK, because it’s still nice to listen to. Far better is the much bootlegged “Things That I Used To Do,” from an early morning jam session at The Record Plant (May 1969) with Miles, Cox, Johnny Winter and Stephen Stills. While not exactly spectacular, it seems as though everyone present were clearly enjoying themselves.
Perhaps the most compelling and remarkable recording here is “Villanova Junction Blues,” which took place 23rd January 1970. At a whopping 27 minutes, this highly energetic tour de force was slightly edited and divided into individual parts for the ‘official bootleg’ Burning Desire, which means that By Night is the only place where the original jam can be heard in all its unabridged glory.
A truncated “Three Little Bears” originally appeared on 1972’s War Heroes, however thanks to Douglas, the full version as made by Hendrix and Mitch Mitchell on the night of 2nd May, 1968, can be enjoyed, regardless of whether Experience Hendrix ever decide to release it. At 12 minutes, this predominately free-form jam makes for essential listening, with Jimi exploring new ideas (often melancholy ones) virtually on the fly.
Anyone who is part of the Hendrix trading circuit will likely possess all this material in some shape or form. That Alan Douglas was happy to pass on various tapes to collectors over the years, has ensured that many serious fans have had the opportunity to further appreciate the genius of Jimi Hendrix. By Night – The Blues Album Outtakes is one such curiosity.