From April 25 to August 1, 1970, Jimi,
Mitch Mitchell (drums) and Billy Cox
(bass) appeared in more than 30
American cities for what Jimi called
the Cry Of Love tour. Recordings from
20 of these concerts have been collected and any astute evaluation
reveals that 1970 was a phenomenally
inspired time for the guitarist's musical development. Show for show, the
spring of that year contained some of
Hendrix's most sophisticated concert
performances. Yet, ironically, this
period has in retrospect received the
least critical acclaim of any. There are
dozens upon dozens of accounts of
Jimi's career which gloss briefly over
the 1970 American tour as if it consisted of a half-dozen dull and poorly
received shows! This is the most tragic
falsehood of the Hendrix legacy.
Three days after Earth Day 1970,
Jimi's Cry Of Love band made their
debut at the Los Angeles Forum (4/25/70).
This music shimmers with a clarity
and precision unlike any other of
Jimi's recorded concerts. It's as if the
environmental awareness of that week
had inspired his highest degree of
sustained concentration and determination to "get it together." The "shakiness," as Jimi called it, that permeated
much of the Band Of Gypsys music
Commemorating the beauty of this
night, a mystifying new "little tune" is
introduced. Land Of The New Rising Sun, with its flamenco-flavored
Phrygian mode prelude, represents
the first recorded evidence of Jimi's
study and grasp of advanced theoretical concepts. Of the 115 collected
concerts, this 1970 L.A. Forum performance represents Jimi's musical
zenith (the show was recorded by three different audience members with three different tape decks, but the best audio sound comes from a tape on which a girl exclaims "Look at him, oh he's beautiful!" as Jimi introduces the band at the beginning, and the girls are heard giggling).
Only sections of Jimi's
Berkeley music can approach the L.A.
Forum show for sustained perfection.
Below I've lined up the three different tape sources from this concert for comparison: the "1970 tape" was bootlegged on an album that year. The "1980s tape" was located during the '80s and circulated amoung Hendrix collectors. Likewise, the "1990s tape" was found during the '90s.
The "1970 tape", which is best, is identifiable by the presence of two girls nearby the tape recorder who are heard speaking and laughing during the concert. The other (later-found) tapes have different audience members around those tape recorders. Listen for the two girls' voices, hear them giggling and moaning in response to the music during Spanish Castle Magic at points 0:17 - 0:20 and 2:05 - if we hear the girls, we know that the tape recorder they're near captured the best sound quality for this show.
And now, with the internet, we can line up the three different recordings and compare what the differences are in sound quality. After getting familiar with the amazing delicacy heard from Jimi on the best-sounding "1970 tape" - when we later go back to the bad-sounding tape sources, we can recognize just how much of the pleasure of hearing this music is lost on the "1980s" and "1990s" tape versions
Here are three Hendrix songs from the 1970 L.A. Forum Concert: Spanish Castle Magic (show opener), Hey Baby (Land of the New Rising Sun), and Villanova Junction. The sound dynamics in these three songs allows distinctions to be heard between the three different tape recorder sources:
L.A. FORUM 1970 SPANISH CASTLE MAGIC FROM 3 DIFFERENT TAPE DECKS:
Oddly, Jim Bickhart writing for
Entertainment World called the Forum
show "deadly dull," further noting
that "Jimi's attempts to update too-familiar guitar solos became pure
cacophony and Cox was half asleep as
he played bass runs first created by
Noel Redding." It seems many members of the press (and rock guitar
fans) couldn't resist the urge
to play push-the-icon-off-the-pedestal
when it came to Jimi. Many
such negative reviews were printed
about concerts that later surfaced
on tape and revealed themselves to
be, in fact, superb performances. Certainly, comments like those by Bickhart must have had a disturbing effect on Hendrix, especially on the heels of a monumental show like the
L.A. Forum. The point was painfully obvious: the musical quality of his improvizations didn't register with people who came to see his axe smashing act. One segment of his audience was made up of musicians who responded to the symmetry of his melodies, while another segment responded to his guitar acrobatics and violence. These were often mutually exclusive groups egging him on in opposite directions - with each side merely tolerating his concentrations on the tastes of the opposing side. While trying to accomodate both, Jimi sometimes satisfied neither.
But as a group, the 13 recordings from
Jimi's April, May and June 1970 concerts contain the most highly concentrated music of his career. The importance of Billy Cox's bass playing
should not be underestimated. Billy's
tone provided the massively deep
throb and stability that Jimi craved.
Together they would swing like a pendulum right over the rhythmic edge.
Billy, who had known Jimi for years,
had always been the guitarist's first
choice for bass. There is no doubt
that much of the sheer joy and rejuvenation heard in the band's music was
in response to Billy's solid accompaniment.
Milwaukee, May "1970"
Without question, the Cox/Mitchell
rhythm section provided Jimi with his
finest tour band. The first three concerts - Los Angeles (4/25/70), Sacramento
(4/26/70) and Milwaukee (5/1/70) - all contain urgent music. Though
many of these audience-made tapes are plagued with distortion, Jimi's sustained musical genius is more than evident in the melodies and hermonies that these recordings reveal.
MACHINE GUN TOUR
Jimi once said that "everything influences my music." Perhaps the most
dramatic example of this comes from
a concert performed shortly after
National Guard troops killed four
Kent State University students during
an anti-war rally.
Norman 1st Show
During that week of
national turmoil, Jimi performed on another mid-west campus for
an audience of Oklahoma University
students, on a site that was illegally
and brutally swindled from the
Cherokee Indians 40 years earlier
(Jimi was part Cherokee, and the
word "Oklahoma" translates in English to literally mean "red man's territory.")
Caught in the currents of this time
and place, Jimi dedicates Machine
Gun to the Kent State slain, improvises a six-chord salute, and wails forth
a fountain of tears. Like an eternal
swirl of collapsing sorrow, this Norman, Oklahoma (5/8/70), music is
the definitive dirge of utmost pathos.
This version of Machine Gun is the
single most chilling and fascinating
track in Hendrix's bootleg legacy.
Temple Stadium Philadelphia
One week later, a second group of
students were murdered by police
and troopers at Jackson State in Mississippi. The next day Jimi appeared
before students at Temple University
in Philadelphia (an 8mm color film
of the show exists). Following the
Grateful Dead and Steve Miller, Jimi
arrived with a feather in his headband. Like Geronimo on the warpath,
he scowled to the students, "It's a
drag that America's guns have made
the crack in the Liberty Bell their
symbol!" Again, a supematurally
charged version of Machine Gun
provided epic catharsis for the students attending.
When the Cry Of Love group hit
the open-air concert trail in July,
August and September (Atlanta, New
York, Isle Of Wright, Stockholm, Isle
Of Fehmarn), the precise timbres of
Jimi's earlier indoors sound system
were unfortunately replaced by a congested, bloated and over-distorted
NEW RISING SUN TOUR
Copenhagen - September 1970
Jimi's appearance at the Isle Of
Wright Festival on Sunday, August 30,
1970 is not a fitting portrait of Hendrix's music at the end. Fortunately,
all of his last seven concerts were
recorded in their entirety. I refer to
this tour as the New Rising Sun Tour,
because Land Of The New Rising
Sun is the only song common to
every concert and it seems to be the
centerpiece of Jimi's message at the
time. Each version of "Sun" is like a
serene prayer. Of the seven concerts,
Gothenburg (9/1/70) and Copenhagen (9/3/70) reveal themselves to
be two of Jimi's most elaborate and
Mitch Mitchell's daughter, Isha, was
born on the day of the Copenhagen
show and to commemorate the occasion, Jimi presented his drummer
with one of his fabled white Strats.
The music created with Billy Cox that
night is the jewel of the New Rising
Sun tour (an 8mm color film exits
from this show). This electric show is
my third favorite of 115 concert recordings, right behind LA. (4/25/70) and San Jose (5/25/69).
In connection with the aborted concert in Arhus last Wednesday, Jimi Hendrix is supposed to have said that he had 'been dead for a long time.' If this is correct, I would suggest that the concert in Copenhagen a day later was a resurrection from the dead. A similar musical liveliness I have rarely experienced. It lasted one and a half hours, and left one like a rag. It was hard to bear. More reserved listeners might make objections, saying that Hendrix fails to give the audience breaks, and that he played at unvaried speed at the highest volume and intensity. But I am afraid there seems to be nothing to do about that. After all, it is on this level of sound that he utilizes the guitar amplifiers tonal possibilities...it is not frequesnt you experience something like this...it is music which is continually built up, music which, almost from minute to minute, exceeds its own limits. Not to forget his unique appearance, his colorful dress, and most of all his supple grace in every movement during his playing. I do not think I know any musician who offers the eye as much as Hendrix...Drummer Mitch Mitchell is an excellent third part...with a rhythmic complexity and an ability to follow Hendrix everywhere, which can be hard to imagine any other drummer doing.
Erik Wiedemann - Information, Sept. 5, 1970
Copenhagen '70 8mm Color w/Sound
Copenhagen '70 - New Rising Sun
The label 'Concert of the Year' has been used many times, but this time it is justified. Jimi Hendrix at the K.B. Hallen last night surpasses anything we have heard until now. A filled hall made love to him, sat with open mouths and vibrating nerves, and heard him, Billy Cox, and Mitch Mitchell (who went to London yesterday and returned on a rented plane, to say hello to his newborn daughter). Jimi was ill and tired in Arhus, but was so high in Copenhagen that it was true energy, true adrenalin which ran through his fingers, through his guitar, and into all of us. That any human being can contain this much is incredible. He gave the peace sign when he entered, and the feelings he and his group expressed through their music was true love, a love which contains all the aspects of life, from sorrow to rebirth. As a warrior of love he stood, dressed in many colors, and was the best guitarist rock 'n' roll music can offer. What Hendrix, Cox, and Mitchell gave to those who were at the K.B. Hallen, no one can take away.
Helle Hellemann - Politikin, Sept. 4, 1970
I've tried to point out some of the
highlights to help you initially sort
through this incredible catalog of
music. Hendrix fans should, however, explore these tapes and pick
their own personal favorites.