CD Review: Jimi Hendrix “People, Hell and Angels”

Jimi Hendrix

People, Hell and Angels, (Experience Hendrix/Legacy Recordings)

By Brian Arsenault

So I’m thinking, ‘Hey, Jimi’s been gone better than four decades, so how can they keep releasing new albums?’  Or rather, I’m thinking that right up to the second cut, “Somewhere,” when I start thinking, feeling what a joy it is to hear him play. On songs and versions I’ve never heard before.

“Somewhere” has this wondrous wah-wah work, you know what I mean, that morphs into his waterfall playing, into this rolling rock tour de force.

Then comes “Hear My Train A Comin’.”  That’s surely a blues classic by now, isn’t it? Pick your version. This one is a tour de force to the second power, maybe the tenth.

We knew the truth when Jimi was still alive, and this version of “Hear My Train A Comin’” demonstrates once again, that rock guitar cannot advance from here.  It hasn’t in 40 plus years. It would be like saying that you can build a better Mozart or Miles.

Jimi was the “just gone” guitarist that Eric and Peter and Jimmy and all the others aspired to be.  He sometimes builds a riff where you think a mortal can’t go — “Easy Blues” — pulls it off and then just slides into something else.  But there was a price to be paid to get there. We know that now.

Jimi was also the acid romance poet Morrison aspired to be. Listen to the lyrics of “Somewhere” to know that — as if you didn‘t already. Another price to be paid.

I’ve been featuring two songs so far in this review but there’s more.  Oh yes, there’s so much more.

There’s a just super version of Elmore James’ “Bleeding Heart.” We’ve always known Jimi had good taste in music, great taste.  Who could range from James to Dylan with not a trace of self consciousness?

“Have mercy people.”

On “Let Me Move You” we hear Jimi trading leads with Lonnie Youngblood’s sax.  Sax, that’s something I don’t think I’ve ever heard featured in Hendrix songs I know. But it works like a bear in this so-fast, beer-drinking, butt-wiggling. road house song where a fight breaks out at 11:30 while it’s played.

“Izabella” is a true Jimi “love” song; longing and lust intermingle.  And “Crash Landing” tells of love’s labors lost with a whole lot of vitriol.

There’s some secondary stuff on the second half of the album, it’s true, and the closing song, “Villanova Junction Blues,” isn’t even a finished piece.

But the next to last song, “Hey Gypsy Boy,” got me to thinking there is in Jimi’s music some mysterious stuff. What is the wellspring?  Oh I can hear all the rock and blues and r&b influences too but there’s something that just came from somewhere else.

Charlie Parker had that too.  Part of the tradition.  A supreme realization of what came before crafted anew.  But where did he come from, really? Some other time and place we only imagine.

This isn’t truly an album.  It’s a thrown together collection of previously unreleased tracks. There will probably be more.  It’s about cash flow after all. But when it comes out March 5 those under the spell will of course get it. Because magic in pieces is still magic.

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To read more reviews, posts and columns by Brian Arsenault click HERE.

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