Jimi Hendrix returns to the pop charts with an album of never-released tracks recorded in 1968 and 1969. For much of People, Hell & Angels, Hendrix teamed up with his Band of Gypsys cohorts, drummer/vocalist Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox, to record a bunch of blues and funk-flavored studio songs, which sat in a vault somewhere until now.
Even in its somewhat unfinished state, it's a totally brilliant album, starting with the first track, "Earth Blues," featuring punchy backup vocals and an overall sound powerful enough to blow away an arena crowd of any size. Hendrix pumped an extra 10,000 volts into the song with screaming single-note guitar blasts. He sounded crisp and energized. This guy's dead? No way.
Steve Stills payed bass on "Somewhere," which reminds me of "Wind Cries Mary," but with a lot more wah-wah pedal on the lead. (Hendrix famously played on Stills' first solo album.)
The third song, "Hear My Train a Comin'," reaches heights comparable to his landmark tune, "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)." When Hendrix lets his guitar notes wail, it ignites your soul.
This multi-faceted album also includes vocals by the Ghetto Fighters and fat horns on "Mojo Man," saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood on the funk-jam "Let Me Move You," and Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell on "Easy Blues" and "Inside Out."
These raw studio demos would have provided Hendrix with the basis for an album rivaling any of his best, but the rock star died at age 27 in 1970. By then, Hendrix had already exploded as a '60s icon who set his guitar on fire at the Monterey Pop Festival and walked onto the stage at Woodstock and played the "Star Spangled Banner" as it was never heard before.
The depth of Jimi Hendrix's talent and work is still being realized more than 40 years after his death. Though People, Hell & Angels is said to be the last of his studio recordings that will be released, there are plenty of live tapes still in the archives and who knows what else? They're worth waiting for.