Recorded live on 31/12/69 and 1/1/70
Running time 45.16
After The Jimi Hendrix Experience disbanded in July 1969, Jimi Hendrix got together with bassist Billy Cox and funky, larger than life drummer Buddy Miles to initially fulfil contract obligations for a further album but also to showcase some new material and a new, more concentrated, serious playing style. They recorded the material live on 31st December 1969 and January 1st 1970. Hendrix played in a far less flamboyant fashion in that he stood pretty still for the performances, concentrating in his work as opposed to playing on instinct. He also used the guitar fuzz box together with other pedals and the like for the first time and the results are pretty impressive, putting down markers for so many subsequent guitarists to follow.
Although the tracks can be a bit rambling at times, they are full of innovation from all three players involved, it is pure, live music of the sort that characterised the late sixties and through the seventies but is now seemingly something to look back on nostalgically and think “was live music really that good?”. It has gone down as one of the greatest live albums of all time.
1. Who Knows
2. Machine Gun
4. Power To Love
5. Message To Love
6. We Gotta Live Together
Who Knows has some seriously good guitar, clear sound snd a wonderful, deep, rumbling bass. I have read some criticisms of the sound quality, but it sounds great to me - warm, deep, raw and “live” - exactly as it should be. Hendrix’s intense guitar power is mind-blowing, he is in total control here. Yes, lengthy tracks like this have that improvised “jam” feel about them, but they are all the better for it, as far as I’m concerned. Buddy Miles indulges in some madcap “scat” singing at one point, which is momentarily irritating, but don’t let that distract from the quality of the musicianship. He also contributes some funky drumming that gives Hendrix’s music a different dimension to that of previous drummer, the more jazzy Mitch Mitchell. Billy Cox is an excellent bass player too, whereas Noel Redding had been a converted lead guitarist.
Machine Gun is a twelve minute number that is possibly a bit to long but it is incredibly atmospheric, particularly when Hendrix replicates the sounds of war such as bombs, guns and grenades using his guitar. This was at the height of the Vietnam War, remember, and serves as a scathing, potent protest song. Miles matches Hendrix at points with some rat-a-tat, gunfire drums. Brian May of Queen was surely influenced by this when he did his guitar stuff on Brighton Rock and Now I’m Here a few tears later. Listening to the track again it actually flew by (comparatively) so maybe it wasn’t too long.
Changes would seem to be a version of Buddy Miles’s upbeat, funkily captivating Them Changes. It is shorter than the previous two tracks and more instantly appealing. Hendrix’s guitar is outstanding, it goes without saying. Listen to the three of them interact at 2:50. Wonderful stuff. Power To Love manages to merge rock with a loose but muscular funkiness that obviously comes from Miles. Once again the chemistry between the three musicians is breathtaking. Up there with Cream and Blind Faith from the same period. The same applies to the rhythmic Message To Love. These last two tracks have shown an appealing catchiness to Hendrix’s approach as rock and soulful funk are brought together into a most attractive melting pot. The sound is great on these tracks too, by the way, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Jimi don’t need no audiophiles, man, you dig?
Buddy Miles’s We Gotta Live Together has a riffy, easy vibe that has the audience clapping along - to Hendrix, wow. There is real sense if everyone enjoying themselves here, such a shame it would all come to an end tragically soon after this. This is a truly great album and has suffered unfairly over the years but it would seem that these days its greatness is generally acknowledged.