13 to the universe by studio dreamweaver and sonic soundscaper Jimi Hendrix
remains arguably one of the greatest electric guitarists that ever lived, someone whose genius has often been likened to that of Robert Johnson and Miles Davis
. Upon his untimely passing in 1970, he left behind an enormous wealth of previously unheard studio recordings which, according to those in the know, had the potential to offer new and compelling insights into one of the 20th Century's ultimate rock instrumentalists. Both Sides of the Sky
is the third and purportedly final instalment in a trilogy of albums (starting with 2010's Valleys of Neptune
and 2013's People, Hell & Angels
) dedicated to highlighting Jimi's creative development throughout the last two years of what was an incredibly short albeit spectacular career.
As Hendrix scholar and archivist John McDermott stated in relation to the project: "I have had the good fortune of being able to listen to everything in the vault and I got a sense that some of these songs trace back to '67 and he was still working on them. Jimi really tried to be whittling down songs, working hard to refine things. There was a constant evolution of the content."
Starting with "Mannish Boy," a bluesy funky rocker that finds Hendrix exploring his inner Muddy Waters
, the cut is also the first known recording he made with Buddy Miles (drums) and Billy Cox (Bass) in April 1969, several months before the trio officially named themselves the Band of Gypsys. "Lover Man," also recorded with Cox and Miles in December 1969, is another up-tempo tune Jimi had been tinkering with since 1967's Are You Experienced
but never quite managed to perfect to his satisfaction.
He lets rip on a scorching "Hear My Train A Comin,'" backed by Mitch Mitchell (drums) and Noel Redding (bass), followed by a country-tinged rendition of "Stepping Stone," the last single released during his lifetime. On Stephen Stills' "$20 Fine" Hendrix proves that he could easily have been a fifth member of CSNY, thanks to some very tasty guitar licks, while on "Power of Soul" he out-funks Parliament Funkadelic
by at least a few thousand light years.
On other tracks Jimi burns the midnight amp via "Jungle," a previously unreleased instrumental, along with an embryonic take of "Sweet Angel" (recorded in January 1968), a song inspired by a dream Jimi had of his late mother, and continued to work on until his death. There are also recordings with Johnny Winter and previous band-mate Lonnie Youngblood, each of which places a historic spotlight on Hendrix's blues credentials.
Fans of Crosby, Stills & Nash may be fascinated to hear a nascent reading of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock," with Stephen Stills singing and Hendrix filling in the role on bass. On other tracks Jimi branches out, exploring new musical territory on the medium-tempo ballad "Send My Love To Linda," and closing cut, the oft-bootlegged "Cherokee Mist," a moody instrumental which sees Hendrix playing electric sitar to Mitch Mitchell's tribal beat. Both Sides of the Sky
is in no way a perfect record, nor does it definitively illustrate Hendrix's undisputed genius. But what it does offer is further insight into Jimi's seemingly unlimited potential and talent as an artist. That his music continues to inspire people to this day is a testament to his enduring brilliance as both a guitarist and composer.
Mannish Boy; Lover Man; Hear My Train A Comin’; Stepping Stone; $20 Fine; Power Of Soul; Jungle;
Things I Used to Do; Georgia Blues; Sweet Angel; Woodstock; Send My Love To Linda; Cherokee Mist.
Jimi Hendrix: guitar, vocals; Mitch Mitchell: drums; Noel Redding: bass; Billy Cox: bass; Buddy Miles:
drums; Stephen Stills: vocals, guitar, organ; Dallas Taylor: drums; Johnny Winter: guitar; Duane