Monday, September 20, 2010

Jimi Hendrix - Live Isle Of Wight '70

It was over forty years ago when Jimi Hendrix performed at the Isle of Wight festival, a performance that would prove to be his final one in England.

The obligatory album released after Hendrix had passed suddenly became one of my favorites about fifteen years ago. There’s no explanation for it other than I needed to learn a new story about Hendrix and his performance at the Isle of Wight must have taught me something about Jimi that I didn’t know.

I’m talking about the original Polydor release of Isle of Wight. I don’t own Blue Wild Angel; it’s a victim of the pricey import of the original release that prevented me from purchasing the expanded re-issue.

And, to be quite honest, it isn’t very good either. Oh sure, even the most mediocre of Hendrix posthumous releases will have a few moments of real fire taking place-but this live document shows Hendrix sounding worn out throughout most of the set.

I bring this up because I got the album years ago when trying to piece a complete story of Jimi together in my head. I was trying to piece the narrative together from his performance.

I know, it makes no sense whatsoever, but at that time I was at a point in my life where I was approaching the age of when Hendrix passed away-and I was living at my parent’s home in my old bedroom, a former place of security that had since been remodeled.

Because what parent thinks their child will be back home after they’ve moved out of the nest for good.

I did. And it was embarrassing.

My funk was filled with interrogations from my mother about the number of resumes I had filled out.

Each day ended with a few drags of a stash that were blown through a tube stuffed with Bounce dryer sheets, concealing the smell and the reality of my surroundings.

It helped me sleep, but it was two albums that helped spin the soundtrack to my insomnia.

Live Isle of Wight ’70 seems the perfect song for that period it my life. It’s slow, unfocused, and distracted. Hendrix’s performance throughout it is sloppy and unspirited. Mitch Mitchell’s performance is repetitively bombastic, like a minor-league Keith Moon who didn’t bother to hear how Moonie could at least keep time in all of that percussive chaos.

Even the stable and reliable Billy Cox sounds like he’d rather be anywhere other than on the stage playing in front of a festival crowd.

And then there’s Jimi, who’s lackluster delivery is complete with flubbed lines and exhausted phrasing. He sounds tired, and it reaches over into his guitar playing too. For a man that sailed so high with his guitar playing, it’s sad to hear him sink so low shortly before his death.

No comments: