An intimate, fascinating glimpse into Jimi’s musical sketchbook
As the title suggests, these solo demos were made by Hendrix at his Manhattan apartment sometime in April 1968, in between touring and recording sessions for his third studio album Electric Ladyland. And while the tapes had been widely bootlegged, this was, and remains, their first and only official release, thanks to the munificence of Alan Douglas, who thought that they would make a nice companion disc to the beautifully illustrated book Voodoo Child: The Illustrated Legend Of Jimi Hendrix. Both the book and CD are out of print, but that hasn’t prevented bootleggers over the years from making copies of their own, thus keeping collectors happy and perhaps meaning that we likely won’t be seeing another official release any time soon.
While the graphic novel itself received a high amount of praise, it was more than likely the accompanying CD which would have had fans running out to the shops. Featuring several intimate recordings of tracks Jimi was still tinkering with, only two of the six songs here eventually found their way onto Electric Ladyland, with the rest either being discarded, or re-recorded over the next couple of years.
“1983…(A Merman I should Turn To Be” bares little resemble to the far more complex studio master he created later on, even though the song’s basic structure and narrative are firmly in place. “Angel,” a tune Hendrix had been working on for some time, is perhaps the most familiar, while “Gypsy Eyes,” another Ladyland track, is barely recognisable.
The “Voodoo Chile-Cherokee Mist” medley has Jimi exploring a range of different ideas, from Delta blues to American Indian blues (as he also does on “Cherokee Jam”), while “Hear My Train A-Comin,” often a highlight of his live sets, is given a brief outing only.
Such is the intimate and personal nature of these tapes, that it’s safe to say that Jimi never would have intended for them to be heard by anyone but himself, making these ‘home recordings’ even more precious.
Apparently other tapes exist of Hendrix on either acoustic or electric-acoustic guitar, so let’s hope more material will eventually see the light of day, especially the fabled “Black Gold” recordings Jimi purportedly made in 1970.