Tuesday, July 07, 2009

band of gypsys

the other day, after writing the jeff beck post, i put on hendrix's first rays of the new rising sun (the '97 comp that attempts to piece together the alb jimi was working on at the time of his death from material that was originally released on the posthumous albums the cry of love, rainbow bridge, and war heroes). it's my favorite hendrix period; i think he was coming into his own in '69, in spite of all the pressures and stress of constant touring and trying to get his electric lady studios off the ground. i just got my hands on the baggy's rehearsal sessions, a hard-to-find 2002 release on dagger records, the hendrix estate's "authorized bootleg" label.

baggy's consists of recordings made by the band of gypsys in preparation for their series of fillmore east shows around new year's eve 1969. i've always been ambivalent about the album capitol released from those shows (to fulfill a contract obligation dating from before jimi's discovery and apotheosis). the masterwork of "machine gun" aside, i dug the tunes "message to love" and "power of soul" real fine, but the recordings included in the album seemed somehow perfunctory, and buddy miles' compositions seemed to take up a disproportionate amount of space (prolly due to jimi not wanting to give up royalties or present too much of his own new material in such a form).

baggy's was a manhattan rehearsal studio that existed back when the idea of such things was new -- before that, if bands wanted to rehearse at volume, they had to do so after hours in clubs or halls. (it's hard to imagine today what things were like in those dark days before electronic tuners or even monitors; see mike haskins' pic of the experience in dallas '68 below.)

the material includes songs from the released band of gypsys alb ("message to love," "power of soul," buddy miles' "changes" and a snippet of "we got to live together"), as well as others that later appeared on the cry of love (the great "ezy rider"), rainbow bridge (two versions of "earth blues") and loose ends (two takes of "burning desire"), some revamped bits of old repertoire ("hoochie coochie man" and "lover man," jimi's rewrite of "rock me baby") and some jam material.

while buddy miles (who'll be inducted into the fw weekly's hall of fame this weekend) might have been a heavy-handed drummer and a spotlight hog, he has a sympathetic understanding of jimi's rhythmic thrust, as does billy cox (who was, to these ears, the ideal bassist for hendrix's music). and jimi himself is like a force of nature. when he's at his best, you don't hear technique (as impressive as his technical accomplishment was, and as much as it's been overanalyzed in the decades since his untimely passing) as much as you hear _music_ -- which is really the way it's supposed to be, isn't it?


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