Dagger Records/Experience Hendrix LLC
Review By Oscar J. Jordan III
There was nothing like "The Jimi Hendrix Experience", and there would be nothing like it ever again. Young, lucky, naive, hip, interracial, and oh yes, very gifted. The Jimi Hendrix Experience stormed across the world like a traveling circus laying down a serious three ring acid trip of musical virtuosity, showmanship, fashion, humor, and song craft on the true believers who paid their daddy's hard earned ducats to see a man do everything one could possibly ever dream of doing with a Fender Strat and few good 60's Marshall Plexis. His message was positive, and those who understood the message were there. Those who weren't wanted to be there. I wish I could have been there, but thank God Ken Koga was.
When The JHE played at the Oakland Coliseum on April 27th 1969, they were at the top of their game but getting on each others nerves. Particularly Jimi and bassist Noel Redding. At the time they had just finished a successful show at the LA Forum the day before. Billy Cox was waiting in the wings to replace Noel. Noel had no idea! In a few months Jimi would get busted in Toronto, Noel would quit, Jimi would add on new members, and "Gypsies Suns and Rainbows" would play Woodstock". The rest is history.
The JHE Live at the Oakland Coliseum is a bonefide bootleg that makes no apologies. It is what it is and is marketed towards the Hendrix fanatic as opposed to the casual listener who only wants to hear concise industry approved studio pop hits. Though it lacks pristine-digital-sounding-stereophonic-production, it makes up for it by giving you the feeling that you're actually at the concert amongst the legions of fans.
Ken Koga was somehow able to sneak a portable Sony reel-to-reel deck and a microphone into the Coliseum and record it in mono. It's a good thing he did because this is the only known recording of this concert. Sure it lacks clarity of sound, but the band was very on that night and the vibe of the audience was one with the band. No fake audience overdubs at just the right place on this double disk. This is the real deal. You are there!
Disk Number One starts off with Jimi setting the tone for the evening telling everyone to "Forget everything that went down today or last night". It's all about you and The Experience tonight. Just us. That said, the band launches into a ferocious version of "Fire". The sound is raw and muscular as we also hear low level audience chatter (It's like being there!) and clear backing vocals by Noel Redding. Need a lesson in controlled feedback? Take out your note book on this one! When the song ends Noel informs the audience that "If any young ladies would like to become mothers, just come around the back afterwards".
The band is off and stampeding with fresh sounding versions of "Hey Joe", "Spanish Castle Magic" (Check out that extended acapella guitar solo), and "Hear My Train A Comin'". This is a particularly good version of the song as Jimi takes everyone on a ride from the Funky Delta to Venus and back again. Mitch Mitchell's drumming on this song is so free! Improvisation without soloing! Few drummers can fill out a song the way he could without being obnoxious. Next is an instrumental version of "Sunshine Of Your Love". Jimi was a big Cream fan but takes this song to places Clapton could only dream of going. In comparison the Cream version sounds conservative and uptight while Jimi's version becomes a vehicle for free form musical exploration. He quotes Clapton's intro solo by playing the opening notes to "Blue Moon", then takes it to sonic performance art. The band is tight and loose at the same time which has become a lost art, as Noel plays bass as only a real guitar player could. Very melodic and free of all Bass clichés.
"Red House" closes disk number one with Jimi's own original Blues that does not merely copy his influences note for note like so many others who worship the masters (Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Earl Hooker, B.B. King and Albert King), but takes it to a new personal and creative level. He shatters the boundaries between what is Blues, what is Rock, what is Jazz, and what Blues is supposed to be. This is a particularly good version. It's good Blues, and deep too.
But it ain't over yet! Disk Number Two continues with a very hard, brutal, tumbling, long version (Ten minutes thirty five seconds!) of Foxey Lady. When the song finishes you feel as though you've been beaten up only to be refreshed again by a laid back but well played version of "The Star Spangled Banner". "Purple Haze" follows and reminds us how in your face Jimi was when this song came out. This version is absolutely engorged!
Last but not least the CD ends with "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)". The band is joined on stage by Jack Casady bassist for The Jefferson Airplane. Noel Redding switches over to a Gibson 335. What transpires is eighteen minutes and three seconds of mind altering Voodoo Blues. Jack Casady and Jimi speak to each other on stage with their instruments with call and response riffing sending the listener into a state of hypnosis.
This CD is a raw musical snap shot of a time and place gone by. An audio time machine if you will. You don't hear much about this concert in the history books. It didn't get the same kind of coverage and press that Albert Hall, LA Forum, Monterey, or Woodstock got, but it shows you that Jimi did a lot of gigs and played them to the best of his ability. I would like to commend Ken Koga for his bootlegging skills, and Janie Hendrix and John McDermott for producing. I appreciate their willingness to release this concert. If it wasn't for them we would be deprived of listening to a great artist at the height of his musical powers.