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Jimi Hendrix: Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix

Nenad Georgievski By

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Several decades after his tragic and premature death, Jimi Hendrix looms even more larger and deeper than ever. An intrepid risk taker and untamed musical force that he was, this pre-eminent guitarist of the 20th century achieved his position by treating his guitar rather differently than the others. Fueled by a boundless musical imagination, Hendrix used device he could find in order to amplify the multicolored sounds he heard in his imagination. His premature death at the age of 27, when his ambitions were pushing his work towards fusing sounds of classical music, jazz and rock, robbed the world of a true innovator.

So why his music and guitar playing still matter today? The answer lies in the music itself. Hendrix was a genius on fire whose music awed many great musicians and was respected by each and every successive generation of musicians. The fascination is still alive as it ever was. His pioneering ways have paved the way for new musical genres to come and his output still resonates as one of the most progressive and radical yet most popular. And he achieved all of that during a small period of time -his career lasted only four years.

Tribute to popular artists and their output is a tricky affair as artists have to pay respect to iconic music that millions worship and know its every detail and simultaneously to add something new to it, a personal stamp. Not everyone is up to the game and that is why more often than not these tribute albums sound like a money grab than a tribute to a certain artist or a band. Released back in 1993, Stone Free assembled a truly stellar cast of various pop and rock stars each offering his or her take on a song from Hendrix's estimable songbook. That list of artists is really impressive: guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Slash, Vernon Reid and his band Living Color, Pat Metheny, singers Seal and Paul Rodgers or classical violinist Nigel Kennedy. But recording or performing Hendrix is no easy task for anyone. Hendrix was to rock guitar what Miles Davis was to trumpet playing. Artists have to stand next to a mountain of Hendrix's prowess on the guitar and the greatness of his songs. His songs are timeless enough to sound good in any given era.

All the participants on this tribute are enthusiastic and dedicated, each injecting their own spin to the originals. Fortunately, some of the participants answer this challenge by refusing to be pious or reverent with the material. Some songs like Clapton's "Stone Free," Beck's "Manic Depression" or Slash's "I don't live Today" are fueled by so much fire and stamina that they sound like spirited swaggers just like the original songs were but in a different way. Clapton's take on "Stone Free" is easily the best track on this tribute. Driven by a powerful rhythm section consisting of members of Chic, Clapton delivers a passionate and dynamic version where he easily outdoes the original. Every detail about this song is awe inspiring and Clapton really delivers a heartfelt tribute to his onetime rival and friend. Slash and singer Paul Rogers are backed by Hendrix's Band of Gypsies rhythm section bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles which ostensibly adds another layer of authority. The most unusual approach certainly goes to classical violinist Nigel Kennedy whose arrangement is a fusion between classical and funk rock where he plays the vocal lines with his violin and occasionally samples Hendrix voice in the mix.

Of course, changing things around doesn't guarantee success as heard by The Cure's original approach on "Purple Haze," by introducing hip hop beats, the band rather than going wild with it, it literally tames the song to a blatant version. This beat is nothing strange to Hendrix's output as back in 1969 he recorded a song named "Doriella Du Fontaine"with Jalal Mansur Nuriddin, a spoken-word poet over a hip hop bet which is considered the first hip hop track ever. Some of the songs are strictly fundamentalist, with the artists backing off any significant changes to the original recording like Living Color's take on "Crosstown Traffic," Belly's "Are You Experienced?" or Spanish Castle Magic by the Spin Doctors. Chicago bluesman, Buddy Guy adds his magic on the boisterous blues "Red House" and rips the guitar open. Another highlight is Pat Metheny's take on Third Rock From the Sun. He sounds so unexpectedly funky with his characteristically loose and fluid, but uncharacteristically noisy phrasing.

While the approach towards Hendrix's oeuvre vary on this record and many of the tracks have different producers, the whole albums sounds cohesive. This music will sound great on any sound carrier, but the vinyl reissue adds that magic and depth. The allure of this reissue comes from the full and smooth audio presentation. The packaging has kept the original artwork including the detailed info about the musicians and the original liner notes. Back then in 1993, all of the proceedings from this record were donated to several charities.

During the '90s era, the whole decade was like a goldmine for bad tribute albums which gave the tribute records a bad name, but Stone Free is so full of character and full of excellent takes on master Hendrix's songs. It is one of those rare occurrences in the tribute sub-genre that is so often littered with garbage.

Track Listing: Purple Haze, Stone Free, Spanish Castle Magic, Red House, Hey Jo; Manic Depression, Fire, Bold as Love, You Got me Floatin',I Don't Live Today, Are You Experienced? Crosstown Traffic, Third Stone from the Sun, Hey Baby (Land of the New Rising Sun)

Personnel: Robert Smith: lead guitar, vocals; Simon Gallup: bass; Boris Williams: drums; Perry Bamonte: guitar, Keyboards; Eric Clapton: lead guitar, vocals; Bernard Edwards: bass; Tony Thompson: drums; nIle Rodgers: guitar; Richard Hilton: Keyboards; Buddy Guy: guitar, vocals; Johnie Johnson: piano; Billy Cox:drums; Ray Allison: drums; Seal: vocals; Jeff Beck: guitar; Pino Paladino: bass; Jim Copley: drums; Nigel Kennedy: violin; Slash: guitar; Paul Rogers: vocal; Billy Cox: bass; Buddy Miles: Drums; Tanya Donelly: guitars, vocals; Vernon Reid: guitars; Pat Metheny: guitars, bass, drum loops.

Title: Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Music On Vinyl

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