Sunday, December 18, 2016

Jimi Hendrix & The Cry of Love - People, Hell and Angels


Jimi Hendrix's last album released while he was alive, Electric Ladyland, was released a full two years before his passing in 1968, making us wonder: what did he do in those two years? Did he stay at home sleeping and watching TV? We later discovered that he was actually working on a fourth studio album, tentatively named "First Rays of The New Rising Sun", "Strate Ahead", or "People, Hells and Angels". It was also going to be either a double or triple LP, and feature all the songs he had recorded/rehearesed with either the Band of Gypsys (w/Billy Cox and Buddy Miles) or the Cry of Love band (w/Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell). But tragedy striked when Hendrix died of asphyxia after breathing his own vomit, after arriving from a party. According to most involved in the album, it was really close to being completed, and the estimated release date would be that of early 1971. We even know some hand-written drafts of the album's tracklist, but none are really complete, and some even are confusing, with a song being listed two times, for example. A single album, titled "Cry of Love", was released posthumously in mid 1971, featuring only nine songs from the sessions and "My Friend", recorded during the 1968 sessions for Electric Ladyland. Other releases like that followed, none really trying to create what he originally intended. Until in 1997 Hendrix's estate finally attempted to reconstructing the album, with "First Rays of the New Rising Sun", commiting the same mistakes as it's precedents. A confusing tracklist, the inclusion of songs not from the original sessions, uneven sides, all that contributing to the thoughts all JH fans have every now and then: what if?
In my attempt, I try to create a triple album version of the sessions, including almost everything that was recorded by then, under the name "People, Hell and Angels". Doing so, I separated the three LPs by themes: People (Rock N' Roll and Pop), Hell (Blues and Funk) and Angels (Experimental and Others). Hendrix in total recorded some 35 songs during the sessions. Excluded are some too primitive, like "Sending My Love to Linda" and the bootled only "Heaven Has No Sorrow" (sometimes titled "Heaven Has No Tomorrow"), so that we have 30 tunes, 10 of each "theme". 2013's "People, Hell and Angels" has nothing to do with this, being just a compilation of previously released material and some "new" songs from the vaults. I also try to sequence it the most like his ideas, by for example starting the album with the song "Dolly Dagger", and using "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun) as one of the final tracks. I tried to stay as faithfull to the timeline as possible, not including earlier tunes or songs with later overdubs, such as the ones in the heresy-full "Crash Landing" album, from 1975. The BOG studio tunes are some that cause debate, if either they were part of the project or not. But I decided to include them for two basic reasons: the first being that during his final weeks he mixed them, along with other tunes, showing us he would probably use them, and the second beingthat due to the size of the album, we need the songs to "fill" the album, in a way. Some of the songs on Jimi's lists, such as "Locomotive", weren't even recorded, so it is pretty hard to know what would happen had he lived. But as he unfortunately didn't, we do the best we can with what we've got to imagine what would be. And here's what I envisioned:

Side A
  1. Dolly Dagger
  2. Night Bird Flying
  3. Room Full Of Mirrors
  4. Straight Ahead
  5. Angel
Side B
  1. Ezy Ryder
  2. Drifter's Escape
  3. Drifting
  4. Pali Gap
  5. Freedom
Side C
  1. Earth Blues
  2. Message to Love
  3. Beginnings
  4. Belly Button Window
  5. Hear My Train A-Comin'
Side D
  1. Steppin' Stone
  2. Bleeding Heart
  3. Power of Soul
  4. Lonely Avenue
  5. Izabella
Side E
  1. Lover Man
  2. Crash Landing
  3. Valleys of Neptune
  4. Bolero
  5. Midnight Lightning
Side F
  1. Cherokee Mist
  2. Astro Man
  3. Come Down Hard on Me
  4. Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)
  5. In From the Storm

Our first part of the album, "People", begins the same way as the Hendrix tracklist, with "Dolly Dagger", followed by "Night Bird Flying", and a song that began in early 1969, during the Experience's last sessions, "Room Full of Mirrors". Once the title track of the album, "Straight Ahead" follows, as well as "Angel", the twin song from "Little Wing", finishing Side A. Side B begins with "Ezy Ryder", followed by a Dylan cover, "Drifter's Escape", and yet another gentle ballad, "Drifting". The first instrumental, "Pali Gap", is to my ears like a segue between two songs, and fits pretty well where it stands. The first part of our trilogy ends with "Freedom", as well started during the last Experience sessions, letting us dwelve into the blues for part two. The sophomore part of the album, "Hell", begins appropriately enough with "Earth Blues", being somewhat a new version of 1968's "Somewhere", followed by BOG's "Message to Love", the instrumental "Begginings", and the slow lament of "Belly Button Window". One of my favourite of his, "Hear My Train A Comin'", was being played ever since 1967, and most certainly deserves a place as a side finisher. Another BOG song, "Steppin' Stone" was almost a single A-Side in late '69, but the single was pulled by Hendrix's request. A Elmore James cover, "Bleeding Heart" follows, as well as "Power of Soul" by the Band of Gypsys and the mostly instrumental "Lonely Avenue". Ending the second part of the album is the B-Side of the "Steppin' Stone" single, "Izabella", and we head of to where things get weird. 
The last third of the album, "Angels", begins with an earlier tune, written in 1968, "Lover Man". Followed by "Crash Landing", stripped from it's overdubs, as well as "Valleys of Neptune" and the epic instrumental "Bolero", keeping the idea of a instrumental by album. Ending the side is the quiet, guitar-and-vocals-only "Midnight Lightning", followed in the last side by "Cherokee Mist", and the novelty of "Astro Man", telling the first-person story of a superhero, followed by the three-minute throwaway of "Come Down Hard On Me". "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)" is most probably my favourite song in the whole album, and once the title track of it. Ending the whole affair in a rough and good manner is "In From the Storm", a great, intense song telling of escaping something bad. As most triple albums (there aren't many out there!), this is a sprawling, sometimes even megalomaniacal statement. There are, yes, some weak links in it, but the quality of most of the material makes it a fun, if not really long, listening experience. It would be more of an album for the hardcore fans, somewhat of a "Sandinista!" of the early 70's, and seen that I love Sandinista, I've found a home in this. Sides are about 20 minutes each, some of them run a little too longer, but not much. It's a shame that this material was never properly finished, because it is some of the best stuff he ever wrote. It's very tragic that he had to die, while creatively a new sun was rising for him.

Sources:
- The Cry of Love
- Rainbow Bridge
- War Heroes
- West Coast Seattle Boy

4 comments:

  1. Will you be putting up a download link for this one? I have some of the tracks but not all.
    Thanks in advance if yes. If no, well that's cool too. I'm just enjoying what you're posting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a hell of a lot of tunes, but i'll try to do it soon, in about a day it'll be there

      Delete
    2. Thank You! No Hurry... when ever you get around to it, it will be cool. I really do appreciate it. You da man!

      Delete
  2. You can try to use the alternate mixes. They do fit well together and blend nicely with the instrumentals. I never realized this until I listened to them following your track list.

    ReplyDelete