This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.
This is album retro-review number 162 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.
The series is called “Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.
Links to the previous 150 reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.
This may be the first time in 162 albums, that I have repeated an artist, but he is one that probably could be repeated many times.
The artist is Jimi Hendrix and the album is titled – Radio One.
Released on CD in 1988 on the RKYO Label it has the identifying code of RCD 20078.
The CD has 17 tracks recorded over a variety of dates and on various BBC programs.
It comes with a four double sided pages booklet, on gloss paper and it has a short blurb on the recording and on Hendrix on page 3, while pages 4 & 5 (in the centre) have the track listing, and pages 6 & 7 some information on the recording sessions.
The remaining pages consist of the same single photograph of Jimi.
The best part of the booklet is indeed the short but informative information on the recording sessions, but overall the booklet is pretty ordinary.
Like the Beatles and other major popular groups and artists from this period, the story of Jimmy Hendrix is so well known and it is quite a redundant issue to go over it again.
But a bit on the story behind this CD is probably warranted.
Lets all flash back to the start of 1967. Jimmy is the darling of the British music press and the Jimi Hendrix Experience is at the top of the “must see” acts on the London Club circuit, both by music fans and other musicians.
Hey Joe is rocketing up the charts in the UK but in the USA he still remains a relative unknown. Yet, by the end of the year he will be headlining at London’s Royal Albert Hall and will be the most talked about and well known act in almost every country that allowed “western” music within its borders!
The demand for him in the USA grew and despite an abortive tour with the Monkees, he absolutely blew away the audience at the Monterey Pop Festival.
Despite the demands upon him and the Experience and a very hectic schedule which included the recording of the two albums, somehow he manages to squeeze in five sessions for the BBC Radio.
It is from those five sessions on Radio One, that this amazing compilation of Jimi and the Experience (with Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums) was put together.
Here is the running list of shows:
Saturday Club –
Session 1 recorded 13/2/67
Session 2 recorded 28/3/67
Top Gear –
Session 1 recorded 6/10/67 with the program broadcast 13/10/67
Session 2 recorded 15/12/67 with the program broadcast 24/12/67
Alexis Korners’ Rhythm & Blues Show –
Session recorded 17/10/67
The CD booklet says – “…put on your ‘ear goggles’ – turn it up LOUD – and picture yourself in the swinging London pop scene of 1967 turning the dial to Radio One and soaking in the sound that would forever change the shape of pop“.
Well, I’m not quite certain that’s the image many of us would chose to use now, but as for turning up the volume, well there is no other way to listen to Jimi Hendrix.
I believe Jimi had to fight the BBC recording technicians constantly, as they had never attempted to record someone with such volume and ‘distortion”, as they put it!
They constantly tried to record his playing at lower levels, and, to defeat his feedback.
Fortunately, they lost the battle!
So what we have in fact is actually a decent recording of the man playing live. It can be argued that this CD does represent some of the best ‘live” music of Hendrix, and as we listen we can also pick up variations to the recorded versions of tracks, some subtle, others not so subtle.
The album also contains previously unreleased covers of “Hound Dog” and Curtis Knight’s “Drivin’ South“,
But as usual, Jimi’s music does his talking so let’s look at the track listing.
1. Stone Free 3:23
2. Radio One Theme 1:27
3. Day Tripper 3:18
4. Killing Floor 2:27
5. Love or Confusion 2:52
6. Drivin’ South 4:49
7. Catfish Blues 5:28
8. Wait Until Tomorrow 2:55
9. Hear My Train a Comin’ 4:52
10. Hound Dog 2:44
11. Fire 2:39
12. Hoochie Koochie Man 5:30 *
13. Purple Haze 3:00
14. Spanish Castle Magic 3:06
15. Hey Joe 4:01
16. Foxy Lady 2:57
17. Burning of the Midnight Lamp 3:42
* The only track recorded on the Alexis Korner’s Rhythm & Blues Show
I’ll break away from my usual format of starting at track 1, which I generally contend is the calling card of any album, because Hendrix is not just “any” player – and no one I am aware of, needs a “calling card” from Jimi Hendrix!
Let’s cut to track 2 – which is titled Radio One Theme.
This came from the second session on the Top Gear program, and really is Jimi providing an impromptu jingle for Radio One.
Now we need to understand that in 1967 Radio one was brand new. Until this time all other ‘arms” of the BBC were devoted to “serious” music, news and current affair “type” programs and radio plays. But “Aunty” as the BBC was fondly known, came to realise (a little after everyone else), that the “pop music” explosion was not just going to go away, it was growing – rapidly.
Other stations, particularly the “pirate” stations such as Radio Caroline, were gaining a lot of listeners. Times had changed and picking up “her skirts”, Aunty was forced to change and so Radio One was created solely for “pop” music.
According to the notes in the booklet, Jimi had 5 unused minutes at the end of this Top Gear program, and never one to waste an opportunity, promptly put this piece together.
There is nothing that I could find that indicates what the BBC executives thought of this Radio One Theme.
Radio One Theme
I have been an absolute fan of Howling Wolf since the mid 1960’s, and so I was automatically drawn to Hendrix’s version of his classic track Killing Floor.
Make no doubt about it, that despite his “trippy” image and exotic guitar style, Hendrix was a bluesman at heart. So it was no surprise that he included blues numbers, either self penned or as in this case, Howling Wolf’s Killing Floor – track 4.
In fact there is another fantastic Hendrix adapted blues number on this CD with track 12 – Willie Dixon’s Hoochie Koochie Man.
But back to Killing Floor.
In a tribute to the master bluesman, Jimi rips through this track with a supersonic blast of electric blues, that was unlike anything anyone else was playing, even though almost all the British pop bands of the time had a blues based repertoire.
Not even the Yardbirds with Eric Clapton could compete with the innovative Hendrix style and interpretation of the blues. This track was recorded on the Saturday Club show, session number 2.
In fact this was one of the tracks that caused the engineers so much grief.
His sound was so innovative it was a headache for the BBC engineers, and I said, this was one of those tracks that caused them grief.
After a couple of attempts to record the track they became more and more frustrated and the BBC producer, realising that the repeated efforts to record him was cutting into valuable drinking time, said – “Look Jimi, I’m terribly sorry but we seem to be getting quite a bit of distortion and feedback and I can’t seem to correct it!”
It was at that point that Hendrix set them “straight” on what “he”wanted. Before long they were finished and all at the pub.
Track number 6 is one of the previously unreleased tracks – Driving South.
Running at just under five minutes it’s a nice mid-tempo piece recorded at the Top Gear session number 1.
It’s a pure instrumental and it allowed him to play what amounts to 4 minutes and 45 seconds of solo!
That wasn’t a problem for him, and for Hendrix music fans, it was a delight as it features many of his guitar playing elements, soaring notes, crashing chords, delightfully delicate riffs, power, and more power.
The BBC wanted a host that could identify and bring to the show the cutting edge groups and acts. They hired Pirate radio wizz, John Peel, who was known for his ability to find the more experimental and psychedelic acts of the time.
With the Experience on this program were The Who, The Incredible String Band and Scott McKenzie. The programs producer, Bernie Andrews, is recorded as saying of Jimi, “He always seemed to be stoned but in the nicest way.
He was very gentle, cooperative and easy to work with.”
The other previously unreleased track was track 10, Hound Dog.
In looking at and listening to this track, it might be worth recalling what Jimi said about rock ‘n roll. “Rock is so much fun . . . . that’s what it’s all about – filling up the chest cavities and the empty kneecaps and elbows.”
This track and Blue Suede Shoes were two tracks that Jimi loved to play live.
The track was another recorded at the Top Gear session number 1, as was the the previous track. It may be a R&R track, but Jimi drops the pace and puts his own unique spin on it both musically and lyrically (would we expect anything else?).
Yelps, barks, meows and howls are courtesy of Mitch, Noel and anyone else who happened to be at the session.
Was anybody NOT having fun yet?
My god, every track on this album is a blast!
But we move to the penultimate track, track 16, Foxy Lady.
Recorded at the Saturday Night Club session number 1, it is one of the best recorded versions of a Hendrix live track. It really is so close to how he played it live on stage in front of an audience.
The best description is, that it is made up of a graphic force, with zero studio garnish, best representing the turmoil and passion that fuelled Hendrix’s technique.
We must share the last track – Burning Of The Midnight Lamp.
What is most startling about this track is that is presented to us in its most stripped back form.
We are all used to the version recorded using mellotron, buried vocals and as brilliant as they were, the overdubs were all mixed into a sound that may very well have been recorded in a cathedral.
It is in the end, one of Jimi’s most memorable “ballads”. It comes to us in this “raw” state, and it is somehow richer for it.
This is a seriously fantastic version, and again would have represented how the trio would have sounded when they played it live.
An exercise in sonic brilliance!
Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
I need to be careful of the number of superlatives I could use, as I make it clear I am totally enamoured with the music of Hendrix.
Then again, why be careful? The man was an absolute genius, completely unique in his style and application and his like, will absolutely never come this way again.
Was he the best?
Well that like asking, “Who is the best painter ever?”.
A nonsense question because we need to put parameters around the question, not the least being, what style are we talking about.
It is nonsense to try and compare the works of the Impressionists with Surrealism and Pop Art.
The same goes with guitarists!
But when it comes to innovative styles, and the music of the period, Hendrix had no peer, and in many ways still has none today.
This album is a ripper!
In many ways it strips the music back to the bare bones of the three members of The Experience.
The Beatles stopped touring for a couple of reasons, but one was that they claimed they could not reproduce what they were playing on their records, on stage without a massive orchestra and the like.
Jimi? He recorded music that was easily as complex in construction and recording as the Beatles, but still managed to play it on stage – and while it may have sounded different, it lost nothing.
I say again, the man was a genius!
Unlike the greater majority of the so called “releases” made after his death, this one is not crammed with bad out-takes, and tracks and pieces of tracks he never would have conceived releasing.
This is a genuine studio album, albeit the studio engineers struggled to understand his needs.
Radio One is a genuinely righteous Jimi Hendrix album and most people would be unaware of it, with the exception of his die hard collector fans.
Interestingly the album is now available as a double vinyl LP and is available on Amazon US for around US$100 but you can get it from Great Britain through Ebay for as little as Au$90.00.
Whereas Discogs have second hand copies of the original CD for a paltry $10.00
I have not heard the Festival release so I can’t comment on its quality.
I usually finish off with the image of the album, but on this occasion maybe this might just be the best way to finish off anything that can be said about this great man!
“Pvt Hendrix plays a musical instrument during his off duty hours, or so he says. This is one of his faults, because his mind apparently cannot function while performing duties and thinking about his guitar.”
— Sgt. Louis Hoekstra [A report recommending Jimi’s discharge from the US Army]
Amazingly there are a couple film clips of the performances at the BBC on Youtube.
Jimi Hendrix – Catfish Blues & Hoochie Koochie Man: Live At The BBC
Jimi Hendrix – Hey Joe
Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:
To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –
To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –
To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –
Click to open the following reviews covering #’s 151 onward.
#155. Billy Thorpe – Tangier
#159. The Band – Stage Fright