Tone Deaf: What Does the Program Director Listen to?
How can an artist that The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame described as “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music” release an album despite passing almost fifty years prior? By leaving the rights of his music and his name to a money hungry corporation.
On March 9, Experience Hendrix and Legacy Recordings unabashedly released “Both Sides of the Sky,” an uninspired album featuring 13 studio recordings, 10 of which have never before been released, under Jimi Hendrix’s name.
“Both Sides of the Sky” offers a brief glimpse at a transitional period in Hendrix’s work by including material from some of the last studio sessions by the Experience and, Hendrix first collective, Band of Gypsys. Not all is lost as a few song save the day, and the album, from being a disappointing wreck.
Gracefully, songs like “Send My Love to Linda” exhibits Hendrix working harder and harder to try and best himself, “Hear My Train Comin” produces an absolutely revolutionary force, and “Georgia Blues” feels more like lounge music then the twisted blues usually associated with a Jimi Hendrix track, as well as the unforgettable funky ode to Chuck Berry that is “Mannish Boy.” In spite of the wonder that encompasses these few songs, there simply not much else to rave about.
As part of the trilogy of albums that were meant to showcase Jimi Hendrix’s never released works to the public, “Both Sides of the Sky” is the third installation in the series following “People, Hell and Angels,” released in 2013, and “Valleys of Neptune,” released in 2010. Although this release was anticipated to complete the, in theory, spectacular recording event, “Both Sides of the Sky” proved to be another desperate attempt to collect cash from Hendrix’s fanbase leaving this album like the others–a characterless collection of songs never permitted by the artist to be released.
Originally recorded between 1968 and 1970, and marketed as the musings of a never fully understood genius, most of the songs on this album lack the sort of Jimi Hendrix bravado that we’re used to. These experimental bluesy and rare assortment of songs were most likely never released because of the surprisingly short life that Jimi Hendrix lead.
One important piece of information to note is that Hendrix was enthralled with recording and producing music; he practically lived in the recording studio. Because of his obsession, it’s said that there is an abundance of unreleased material that Jimi recorded himself.
Hendrix desire to push the boundaries of the blues can be heard almost throughout this compilation of half finished composions but, in truth, most songs seemed incorrectly completed and leave the listener wondering why “Thing I Used to Do” just seems to be flaunting Johnny Winter’s knack for slide guitar.
“We have a growing commitment to preserve the legacy of Jimi and also to continue to give the worldwide family of Jimi fans quality releases. That’s what Both Sides of The Sky reflects…our ongoing commitment,” said Janie Hendrix, Jimi’s half sister and President and CEO of Experience Hendrix, in an article for the Official Jimi Hendrix Site. “We are now in our third decade of watching over Jimi’s creative works and our resolve to maintain the integrity of what he left us has only grown stronger with time.”
She later mentions that, in order to preserve the integrity and continuity of the Hendrix legacy, the same team has produced every Jimi Hendrix audio and visual release since 1996. Although those nice words and clarifications are said from a “selfless” sibling, the smell of greed clouds the whole situation. Hal Horowitz said for American Songwriter that “now, 47 years after his passing, music Hendrix never authorized is available, warts and all, in a package that, for all of its captivating moments, still exudes the faint yet noxious whiff of wringing every last dollar from his dedicated fan base.”
Legacy Recordings are really scraping the bottom of the barrell to find any semblance of work with Jimi’s sweat stain on it, having used up all the revolutionary material already, effectively squeezing out every last penny they can from Hendrick’s dedicated but devastated fanbase. This album hardly pays any sense of homage to the deceased legend. While a couple of these unreleased gems sounded like Jimi in the raw, most of it seemed to lack that experimentally feel and seem devoid of the life fans are used to.
Jimi Hendrix was a legend. As one of the most well known American performers, even though his mainstream career lasting only four years before his untimely death, he is still widely regarded as one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of rock music, and is one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century.
Even though he willingly, even ethusatically, recorded music that he thought one day he’d release, does it make it ethically right to finish and release his work without any sort of consent?