Nearly 50 years after his death, Jimi Hendrix’s legacy is still flourishing. Experience Hendrix—the official family company that manages the iconic guitarist’s name, likeness and music—has teamed with Legacy Recordings to release Both Sides Of The Sky. The new album features 13 studio recordings made between 1968 and 1970—including 10 that are previously unreleased.
The third volume in a trilogy of albums intended to present the best and most significant unissued studio recordings remaining in the Hendrix archive, Both Sides Of The Sky is the follow-up to 2013’s People, Hell And Angels and 2010’s Valleys Of Neptune. The new album is of historic importance because it chronicles the first recording session, on April 22, 1969, of Band of Gypsys (Hendrix, bassist Billy Cox, drummer Buddy Miles). The album also includes a previously unreleased version of “Hear My Train A-Comin’,” featuring the guitarist’s bandmates in the Jimi Hendrix Experience: drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding.
The program documents sessions at New York’s Record Plant Studios and includes the instrumental “Jungle” (a variation on Hendrix’s Woodstock Festival anthem “Villanova Junction”); a moody “Cherokee Mist” (featuring Hendrix on Coral sitar guitar); an instrumental of “Angel” (titled “Sweet Angel” here); and a previously unheard original, “Send My Love To Linda,” purportedly written about Linda Keith, the woman who introduced Jimi to his future manager, Chas Chandler.
Guests on Both Sides Of The Sky include Stephen Stills, blues guitar great Johnny Winter (who flaunts some wicked slide chops on a version of Guitar Slim’s “Things I Used To Do”) and saxophonist-vocalist Lonnie Youngblood.
Newly mixed by Eddie Kramer, who served as recording engineer on every Jimi Hendrix album made during the artist’s lifetime, Both Sides Of The Sky was co-produced by Kramer, Janie Hendrix, president and CEO of Experience Hendrix, and John McDermott, catalog manager of Experience Hendrix.
“There are a bunch of songs on the new album that have not been bootlegged,” said McDermott. “Fans will be surprised to hear these recordings.”
“Sweet Angel” sounds like a template for the tune that Hendrix would craft two years later, with vocals and lead guitar, at his Electric Lady Studio. That track appeared on a posthumous 1971 release, The Cry Of Love. Regarding the instrumental rendition, Dermott said: “We felt it revealed an entirely different approach to what he would later redo entirely with the song in 1970. Remember that he really tinkered with this—another early version can be heard on The Jimi Hendrix Experience box set [nicknamed the “purple” box set and released by MCA in 2000]. It serves as a great example that Jimi was changing, adapting, creating all of these songs right up to the last minute. His creativity was relentless, and ‘Sweet Angel’ helps make clear how Jimi would take any path to achieve the creative vision he desired for each song.”
A super-funky studio version of “Power Of Soul,” recorded three weeks after Band of Gypsys’ legendary set at the Fillmore East on Jan. 1, 1970, was mixed by Hendrix and Kramer in August 1970. The version of the mystical “Cherokee Mist” included here takes a much different approach than the one that appeared on the Jimi Hendrix Experience box set.
Hendrix’s version of “Mannish Boy,” an homage to two of his blues heroes, is a hybrid of Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy” and Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man.” Said McDermott, “This is a very different take than the one that appeared on the Blues compilation [released by MCA in 1994]. It’s much better and more fully realized than that version. ... Jimi sneaks a little of Bo Diddley’s ‘Before You Accuse Me’ during his version of ‘Things I Used To Do’ with Johnny Winter. He obviously dug Bo and it is a nice homage.”
Hendrix died on Sept. 18, 1970, and a few months later, readers voted him into the DownBeat Hall of Fame. Over the decades, his stature has grown and fans have been hungry for additional recordings from his too-short life. While there is still plenty of Hendrix material of varying quality in the vaults, McDermott said that Both Sides Of The Sky represents the cream of the crop.
“These are the recordings that we felt fans should be able to access,” McDermott said. “Hopefully, it provides them with a deeper appreciation and understanding of just how talented Jimi truly was.” DB