Live At The Café Au Go Go
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Audio CD, Import, 15 January 2021
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LITTLE KNOWN 1968 LIVE JAM SESSION WITH HENDRIX AND HIS BUDDIES Recorded on March 17, 1968 at the Cafe Au Go Go in New York, these half-dozen largely instrumental jams feature Jimi Hendrix playing with Paul Butterfield (vocals and harmonica), Elvin Bishop (guitar), Harvey Brooks (bass), Herbie Rich (keyboards and sax), and Buddy Miles (drums). Hendrix and the Experience were in New York recording what was to become Electric Ladyland at the newly opened Record Plant Studios, when one evening Jimi climbed onstage at the famous Soho venue to perform with the esteemed musicians listed above, for what was essentially a spontaneous show, and which was recorded for a live FM Radio Broadcast across New York State and its surrounds. For the most part, the musicians stuck to basic blues progressions around which to improvise, and though the playing is both flashy and solid, it reveals an elegant chemistry amongst the band and gets more interesting as the gig progresses, and Jimi finally takes off into some truly inspired soloing on Jamming Wing, presumably so named for its resemblance to Little Wing . Previously unreleased, this new release features the full dynamic performance delivered this early spring evening in a small New York club, more than 50 years ago. 1. Little Wing 9:14 2. Everything s Gonna Be Alright 8:46 3. Three Little Bears (Part 1) 15:54 4. Three Little Bears (Part 2) 6:13 5. Instrumental Jam 8:42 6. Stormy Monday 8:23 7. Jam I 6:14 8. Jam II Drunk Again 17:01
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Because Jimi is one of my music heroes, ofcourse I decided to plunge in buy it. So my review does come with a few caveats. This recording is largely let down by the two final tracks. Track 7 is what can be best described as "muffled " in its entirety. Track 8 suffers in parts by this "muffled sound". It gets better when Jimi is playing guitar. This in itself should not deter you getting this release, as tracks 1 through to 6 are pure Jimi magic. These tracks are recorded to the highest quality.
When you look at the line up of musicians playing, what was described as an impromptu performance, it is impressive. You will also see in the description that this impromptu performance was based around the blues. We all know how much Jimi loved the blues. Even though all of the tracks have titles, you can clearly hear the improvisation from Jimi and the fellas.
After the negatives I have mentioned, it may surprise you why the 5 stars? To answer that question is simple. From the moment Jimi starts playing, it is electric. I can assure you that it will send shivers down your back. As fans we all know what a showman he was and the charisma he exuded. For me personally, when a gig was impromptu or at a smaller venue, it was then that he was able to play the blues. As such, it allowed Jimi to be himself without the constraints of a band or having to create an album.
Contrary to the sleeve notes claims that The JH Experience were in New York for recording purposes, they were in fact on tour in the US, and had a couple of days off having played Atwood Hall at Clark University just two nights previously on the 15th and would again be playing two prestige gigs billed as "Superconcert" up in Ottawa's Capital Theatre in two days time on the 19th. In fact there was only one recording date throughout the entire month of March 1968 at the Sound Center (aka CEN) in New York City on the 13th, and not as claimed at the newly opened Record Plant. Hendrix didn't set foot in the Record Plant until the 18th of April, which was also Eddie Kramer's first day on the job as the studio's engineer.
Furthermore, this recording was made on Hendrix's own recording equipment which he took everywhere with him and used at every given opportunity. Therefore, suffice to say the sleeve notes claim that this was an FM broadcast are absolute nonsense.
These recordings are as good as it's going to get even if they have been presented in a completely mixed up, wholly out of original sequence manner. In fact, the gig opened with Everything's Gonna be Alright and closed with Three Little Bears Parts 1 & 2, where we can hear the recording coming to an abrupt fade-out at the close of track 4.
The stereo separation recording quality is for the most part through tracks 1 to 5 very good. However, for some reason the channels have been reversed starting from track 6 and both guitars are now mixed together as heard on the right as Hendrix had clearly been separated over on the left for all previous tracks. The sound quality takes a further dip as evident from tracks 7 and 8, which have been tacked onto the end (as opposed to the original performance sequence) which may explain the reason why so as not to spoil the flow of the majority of very good quality recordings. However, there's no explanation as to why the tape corrects itself with Jimi placed loud and clear back in his left channel just at the closing bars of track 8.
There's nothing particularly special about Hendrix's performances here as he could play these numbers in his sleep and he's probably held back at times by a particularly mismatched leaden sounding rhythm section, which may or may not have had something to do with other forms of active ingredients.
That said most of this or at least the best part of two-thirds of it make for some interesting listening as Hendrix is on great form. Even if I have heard dozens of far more exciting Hendrix performances at his proper concerts it's great to hear him just jam-out with no restraints of audience expectations and the absence of barrages of catcalls screaming for yet another rendition of 'Foxy Lady'.
Jimi does not appear to do any of the singing, which sounds as though it comes from Paul Butterfield, though it is hard to tell as his voice is overshadowed by the volume of the instruments playing at the time. The other notable musician here is Buddy Miles who was on drums.
While this is good value at 80 ½ mins it is more for the dedicated Hendrix fan, rather than for those who are only familiar with his greatest hits