Posts Tagged ‘Jimi Hendrix’

“Are You Experienced?” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967)

In the summer of 1966, Jimi Hendrix was going by the stage name of Jimmy James and playing in New York City bars with a band called the Blue Flame.

Less than a year later, his Jimi Hendrix Experience had three hit singles to its credit in his new base of the United Kingdom, and the band was about to release its first album to an eagerly anticipating audience.

“Are You Experienced?” hit the British shelves on May 12, 1967, a few weeks before the Beatles’ latest long-player, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Both represented how far rock music had come in the dozen or so years it had been in existence, and particularly in the short time even since the Blue Flame days.

It took another three months, though, for “Are You Experienced?” to be released in Hendrix’s native United States. The Experience had made its American live debut with its stunning appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival in June, a set that filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker caught for posterity. The Monkees subsequently invited the Experience to open for their summer concerts, but that experiment didn’t last too long.

So Hendrix still was relatively unknown in the United States when “Are You Experienced?” came out, but that didn’t stop it from selling strongly, reaching No. 5 and establishing Jimi as … well, Jimi Hendrix.

The U.K. and U.S. releases of “Are You Experienced?” are substantially different. The British version does not include any of the hit singles – “Hey Joe,” “Purple Haze” and “The Wind Cries Mary” – which, of course, represented some of the strongest tracks on the American issue. On the other hand, “Can You See Me,” “Remember” and “Red House” were removed from the U.S. version, the latter against Hendrix’s wishes.

In 1993, MCA rectified the situation on compact disc, including all the songs from both releases, plus the B-sides of the British singles: “Stone Free,” “51st Anniversary” and “Highway Chile.”

For the sake of this discussion, let’s go with the American version. It’s difficult to think about “Are You Experienced?” without hearing the opening notes of “Purple Haze” blasting out from the grooves of the first song on Side One!

Few, if any, chord progressions and guitar leads are more recognizable than the start of “Purple Haze,” and calling the song a musical landmark almost seems like an understatement. At once we have the full bloom of psychedelia and nascent hard rock – it even might represent the birth of what became heavy metal – into a sound that still seems to be on the cutting edge 46 years later, and perhaps always will.

The lyrics have been a source of discussion for four and a half decades, especially the line “‘Scuse me, while I kiss the sky,” which often are misinterpreted, usually for comedic purposes. Jimi claimed the finished product was boiled down from a much longer science-fiction epic. He also disavowed the seemingly obvious drug references.

“I dream a lot and I put a lot of my dreams down as songs,” Hendrix said in a 1969 interview with the New Musical Express. “I wrote one called ‘First Around the Corner’ and another called ‘The Purple Haze’, which was all about a dream I had that I was walking under the sea.”

Whatever it is, that song serves as a defining moment in the history of popular music. It scored the Experience another bit hit in Britain, hitting No. 3, and also was the band’s first charting single in the United States, peaking at No. 65.

The theme of “Manic Depression,” the second track on the American version of “Are You Experienced?”, is summarized on Hendrix’s introduction to the song during a performance at San Francisco’s Winterland in October 1968: “a story about a cat wishing he could make love to music, instead of the same old everyday woman.” The composition is in a 3/4 time signature, somewhat unusual for rock music at the time.

One of the most-covered rock songs of the ’60s remains “Hey Joe,” which was written by – or at least, it was copyrighted by – a South Carolina-born musician named William Moses Roberts Jr. In 1965, the Los Angeles band the Leaves had a regional hit with the song, and they re-recorded it the following year, putting it on the national charts. Other artists to cut versions around the same time include the Standells, the Surfaris, Love, the Music Machine and the Byrds.

Hendrix’s version represents his first recording as a bandleader, at the urging of manager Chas Chandler, who actually had been looking for an artist to record the song. Folk singer Tim Rose had performed “Hey Joe” at a slowed-down tempo, and Hendrix’s arrangement appears to have been based on that. Adding backing vocals are a vocal trio called the Breakaways, three ladies named Jean Hawker, Margot Newman and Vicki Brown (in case it ever comes up in a trivia contest).

“Hey Joe” was released in the U.K. on Dec. 16, 1966, quickly vaulting up to No. 6 on the charts and establishing the Jimi Hendrix Experience as one of the hottest acts in a nation that had an unparalleled abundance of quality rock groups at the time. The band’s live debut of the song was at Monterey, and Jimi closed his set – and the entire Woodstock Music and Arts Festival – with “Hey Joe” on the morning of Aug. 18, 1969.

“Love or Confusion” is one of the more sonically affected songs on “Are You Experienced?”, its musical overtones enhancing the uncertainty expressed in Hendrix’s heartfelt lyrics:

My head is poundin’, poundin’
Goin’ ’round and ’round and ’round and ’round
Must there always be these colours?
Without names, without sounds
My heart burns with feeling, but,
My mind, it’s cold and reeling
Is this love baby,
Or is it just confusion?
You tell me baby, is this
Love or confusion?

“May This Be Love” is a true gem of psychedelia, as Hendrix takes the listener on a journey to a world where all is well, all is ideal: “Some people say day-dreaming’s for the lazy minded fools with nothing else to do/So let them laugh, so just as long as I have you to see me through.”

Featuring one of Hendrix’s many eminently memorable guitar riffs, “I Don’t Live Today” examines the mundane side of life, perhaps with Jimi ruminating about his days as a struggling musician and the tremendous disappointment therein. The key line: “It’s such a shame to waste your time away like this, existing.” The song evolves into a jam featuring a prototypical example of Hendrix’s guitar awash in studio effects, panning back and forth between channels and giving listeners at the time a taste of something they’d never heard before, from anyone.

In the U.K., Track Records issued “The Wind Cries Mary” as the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s third single, and it became another No. 6 hit. The languidly paced love song is one of Hendrix’s enduring classics, and deservedly so. The Curtis Mayfield-derived riff evokes the melancholy of the subject, a lament for lost love put forth in an eloquent manner that establishes Jimi’s genius as a lyricist:

A broom is drearily sweeping
Up the broken pieces of yesterday’s life
Somewhere a queen is weeping
Somewhere a king has no wife
And the wind, it cries Mary

The Experience often opened its shows with “Fire,” a tremendous showcase for Hendrix’s riffing that, as with many of his earliest songs, still sounds fresh and invigorating today. According to an article in Record Collector, the song’s genesis is from when Jimi asked bass player Noel Redding’s mother if he could stand next to her fireplace to warm himself. She agreed, but her great dane was in the way: “Aw, move over, Rover, and let Jimi take over.”

In an album full of tracks that built the foundation of Classic Rock, “Third Stone from the Sun” stands out for its influence what would become jazz-rock fusion. The signature melody has been dropped into many a guitar solo over the years, with the teenage Ted Nugent quoting it during his flashy run on the Amboy Dukes’ “Baby Please Don’t Go” later in 1967, and the Allman Brothers often including it in “Mountain Jam.”

Thematically, the song draws from jazz great Sun Ra’s vision of worlds beyond ours, with Hendrix employing dialogue at varying speeds to portray an extraterrestrial being’s description of the earth to his control center (pre-Major Tom). In 2000, Experience Hendrix released “The Jimi Hendrix Experience” boxed set, which includes the uncut dialogue between Jimi and producer Chas Chandler. Much of it goes somewhat like this:

Starfleet to scoutship, please give your position, over.
I’m in orbit around the third planet from the star called the sun. Over.
You mean it’s the earth? Over.
Positive. It is known to have some form of intelligent species. Over. I think we should take a look.
Strange beautiful grass of green, with your majestic silver seas, your mysterious mountains.
I wish to see closer. May I land my kinky machine?
Although your world wonders me, with your majestic and superior cackling hen, your people I do not understand.
So to you I shall put an end. And you’ll never hear surf music again.

The “surf music” line has been a source of conjecture for decades. Guitarist Dick Dale wrote in his autobiography that the comment was Hendrix’s reaction upon hearing that Dale was battling a possibly terminal case of colon cancer. Dale recovered, and he later covered “Third Stone.” And Frank Zappa often quoted the line in concert to introduce the suf music-inspired “Theme from Lumpy Gravy.”

The British “Are You Experienced?” opened with the faded-in burst of guitar feedback that erupts into “Foxy Lady,” another song that certainly has stood the test of time with its distinctive octave-leap riff and sexually charged lyrics. The liner notes of the 1992 CD reissue quote Jimi as saying he was relatively shy and never would approach women in the way the song suggests. Nonetheless, from every available report, Mr. Hendrix did quite well with the ladies, indeed.

Both versions of “Are You Experienced?” close with the title track, a monumental piece of audio experimentation that serves as a grand summation of everything Hendrix brought to the table on his debut album. Much of the instrumentation is recorded backwards, extending the possibilities of what the Beatles had introduced in such psychedelic staples as “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Rain.” Jimi’s lyrics explore a theme he’d revisit often, of entering a brave, new world, so to speak:

I know, I know you probably scream and cry
That your little world won’t let you go
But who in your measly little world
Are you trying to prove that
You’re made out of gold and, eh, can’t be sold

So, are you experienced?
Have you ever been experienced?
Well, I have

So has anyone who appreciates the “Are You Experienced?” album for what it is: a true cornerstone of Classic Rock, this by a man who had been playing to audiences of a perhaps a dozen just nine months before its release.

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“Spirit” by Spirit (1968)

In the summer of 1966, Randy Craig Wolfe was a 15-year-old kid with a strong interest in music and a family to match: His uncle Ed Pearl ran the Ash Grove club in his native Los Angeles, and Ed Cassidy, the man who’d recently married Randy’s mother, had been a professional drummer since the ’30s.

Ed, then 42, had taken his new family to New York City so that he could find more work, and Randy, an aspiring guitarist, started hanging out at the legendary Manny’s Music on West 48th Street. Perhaps he was hoping to see someone famous; according to a New York Times article published when Manny’s closed in 2009, “The store hit its heyday in the 1960s, when British Invasion bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Who made Manny’s a must-stop destination upon landing in America. ”

Instead, he met another young, out-of-state guitarist, a black guy from Seattle. As Randy recalled:

He was in the back of the store playing a Strat. Our eyes caught each other, and I asked him if I could show him some things I learned on the guitar. He then gave me the Strat and I played slide guitar. He really liked it and invited me down that night, which I believe was his first night of this gig at the Cafe Wha?

The band, billed as Jimmy James & the Blue Flames, had a bass player who also was named Randy. So the guitarist started referring to them by their home states, Randy Texas (Palmer) and Randy California (Wolfe).

Jimmy James, of course, turned out to be James Marshall Hendrix, and he started teaching Wolfe some of his own favorite chops.

“I know he showed me the chords to ‘Hey Joe,’ because I had never heard that before,” Wolfe reminisced, as quoted in Johnny Black’s “Jimi Hendrix: The Ultimate Experience.”

Cafe Wha? is where Hendrix met Keith Richards’ girlfriend Linda Keith, who in turn introduced Jimi to Animals bass player Chas Chandler, who in turn was looking to get into the management side. The rest is history, as Hendrix went with Chandler to his native U.K. and to superstardom … without Wolfe. As Chandler told Black:

Jimi genuinely wanted to bring Randy to England, but I was adamant that he made space between them. I said, “How the fuck am I going to get a visa for a 15-year-old, anyway? Do you understand what implications there are with something like that? You just don’t do it.

And so Randy was left with this observation:

One day I arrived to find that Jimi’d split for England. That was the end of it.

But Hendrix’s desertion didn’t deter Wolfe from his pursuit of music. After his family moved back to Los Angeles, he met up with some musicians he’d played with as the Red Roosters prior to the extended New York stay. They got back together, this time with Ed as the drummer, and with a new name: Spirits Rebellious, from a Khalil Gibran book. Plus Randy kept the name Jimi had given him, now professionally known as Randy California.

The five-piece band – also including vocalist Jay Ferguson, bass player Mark Andes and keyboard player John Locke – eventually shortened its name to Spirit and started drawing a decent following around the L.A. clubs. In an era of increased musical experimentation, Spirit drew from a variety of influences for a cross between acoustic folk, early jazz-rock fusion, hard blues-based rock, wowing audiences with its ability to mix tight song structures with long, technically advanced improvisation.

One such vehicle for improvisation was a song Locke composed called “Elijah.” Spirit recorded an 11-minute version as part of its demo tape, made available some 25 years later on an anthology called “Chronicle” by an obscure Canadian label. The songs on the tape, although poorly recorded, helped the band draw interest from record companies.

One of those was Ode Records, a fledgling label formed by music entrepreneur Lou Adler after he sold his Dunhill label to ABC. Although he later signed Carole King as a solo artist – she recorded the landmark, top-selling “Tapestry” for Ode – and launched the record- and movie-making career of Cheech & Chong, Adler’s first release for his new venture was Spirit’s debut album.

The album came out in January 1968 amid a wildly eclectic musical landscape, one that had broadened during the decade to embrace all kinds of styles. As such, “Spirit” seemed to have something for everyone, what with its musicians’ variety of influences and, perhaps directly related, the age range of its members (Ed was 44, Randy 16).

Perhaps there was too much diversity within the grooves. The LP did peak at No. 31, but at a time when singles dominated the market, Spirit’s initial offering, an odd dirge called “Mechanical World,” went nowhere.

Among albums released in 1968, though, “Spirit” has aged extremely well, as many of its compositions sound not the least bit dated nearly 45 years later.

The message put forth in the album opener, “Fresh Garbage,” certainly still rings true. The lyrics are short and to the point: “Look beneath your lid this morning/See those things you didn’t quite consume/The world’s a can for your fresh garbage.” Ferguson was inspired by a trash collectors’ strike to write the song, but its environmental implications proved to be ahead of the curve.

Musically, the song features a memorable riff, one that might sound familiar to heavy-duty Led Zeppelin fans: It was used by that band during performances of Garnet Mimms’ “As Long As I Have You” during early Zeppelin concerts, some of which as the opening act for Spirit.

The bridge of “Fresh Garbage” demonstrates that Spirit is no ordinary band. The song abruptly breaks into a peppy, piano-driven section that reaches a multi-instrumental crescendo before returning to the main theme, over which Ferguson repeats the lyrics.

By contrast, Ferguson’s “Uncle Jack” is a relatively straightforward rocker, although what he sings is somewhat enigmatic: “‘So many lives to live,’ I heard him say/’But some people live to give themselves away, to find peace of mind, waiting where they can’t get it'” The song is the only one from Spirit’s August 1967 sessions to make it to the LP; the remainder was recorded between Nov. 9 and 17.

From left: Ed Cassidy (b. 1923), Randy California (1951-97), John Locke (1943-2006)

About “Mechanical World,” California later wrote:

Mark was very ill with the flu and was confined to his room for weeks, making him feel very depressed and mechanical. Towards the end of his sickness, Jay could be seen sneaking in and out of Mark’s room with guitar in hand. When Mark finally came out, there was a brand new song. The group really collaborated on this track, and everyone was happy to see Mark smiling and healthy again.

As for the song, it lurches along spouting lyrics that reflect a sick person’s outlook: “Death falls so heavy on my soul/Death falls so heavy, makes me moan/Somebody tell my father that I died/Somebody tell my mother that I cried.” Even with that baggage and its clocking in at more than 5 minutes, it became the single, perhaps because of the money spent by Adler on its orchestral arrangement.

The orchestra returns for “Taurus,” an instrumental that serves as California’s first solo composition. Since 1971, conjecture has been rampant that Led Zeppelin copped part of the melody for none other than “Stairway to Heaven”; the listener is the ultimate judge. California simply had this to say:

Written for my first love, Robin. She was a Taurus. But I must also mention the perfect astrological balance of the band with two Tauri (Cass and Jay), two Pisces (Randy and Mark) and one Libra (John).

Now, that sounds like 1968!

Ferguson’s “Girl in Your Eye” perhaps is the most 1968-sounding track on the album, with its incorporation of the sitar and orchestral sweeps. California’s pioneering use of feedback sustain, however, is used to great effect to counteract some of the period elements.

“Straight Arrow” is a fun piece that Ferguson wrote about Keith Andes, Mark’s father, an actor who inspired the composition with his performance as Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha.” Again, the song takes a jazzy sidetrack in the middle before returning to its main theme.

The lyrics for the most part evoke a Western-type hero, with one line standing out: “Watch what you do because Straight Arrow watches you.” Spirit would revisit that line of thinking on California’s seemingly paranoiac “1984,” a song that climbed up the charts in early 1970 before radio play ceased for no apparent reason. So, who was being paranoid? …

The “Spirit” album continues with the ultra-heady “Topanga Windows,” which features some of Ferguson’s most catchy wordplay: “People searching for a better season, trying to catch their moment on the run/Always asking wanting what’s the reason, what do you want when you just want to have some fun?” The song’s languid, dreamlike pace picks up substantially in the middle, bolstered by California’s double-tracked guitar, again putting the teenager’s tremendous talent on full display.

“Gramophone Man,” the album’s sole group composition, chronicles a common plight among musicians: meeting with record-company executives who care only about sales, not who might be doing the performing. The message is conveyed in a sly manner: “And watch the time, the world is waiting, give a tune for Mr. Gramophone Man/Jack and Jill falling down off their hill, singing songs for Mr. Gramophone Man.”

Ferguson contributes two brief compositions, “Water Woman” and “The Great Grand Canyon Fire in General,” that lead up to the album’s conclusion. The latter is interesting for its allusions to an actual Los Angeles event, “a big summer fire that burned about half of Topanga Canyon,” California wrote. “Our yellow house was saved, but everyone had to evacuate and spend a week camping at the beach.”

Poor guys.

“Elijah” clocks in at nearly 11 minutes on the LP version, allowing the various members to show their chops. California wrote about its serving as a concert extravaganza:

Some of the more memorable solos I recall were Jay and Mark pulling out two chairs center stage and facing each other doing the “hambone,” a two-man, hand-slappin’, thigh-hittin’ rhythmic affair. On John’s solo, he often would use a hand-held, breath-controlled keyboard that sounded like a sax. …

Sometimes I would do my guitar solo by turning my amp off and playing acoustically right on the microphone. Our audiences were great – you could hear a pin drop.

“Elijah” probably worked better as performance art than as an album track, but it does present a clear picture of each of the musicians’ capabilities. California’s section is a bit disappointing considering his groundbreaking work on most of the rest of “Spirit,” but he certainly acquits himself well, particularly considering his age at the time.

For fans of rock’s psychedelic era, “Spirit” is a real treat in that it doesn’t have to go to great lengths to offer a cerebral listening experience. Even the orchestration, something Spirit never again integrated, is subtle enough to serve pretty much as an auxiliary instrument, rather than tending to drown out the proceedings.

Perhaps it didn’t resonate with the record-buying public, or for posterity, as did the albums recorded around the same time by California’s former bandmate.

But Hendrix continued to hold Spirit in high regard until the end of his life, always acknowledging the role that young Randy Wolfe played in Jimi’s salad days.

“Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” by Derek & the Dominos (1970)

Superstardom may have seemed inevitable for Eric Clapton, but for a while he did his best to avoid it.

Having gained international fame through his work with John Mayall’s Blues Breakers and especially Cream, Clapton seemed to want to ratchet it up a notch after the latter band splintered. Joining with Traffic’s Steve Winwood, Family’s Ric Grech and Cream associate Ginger Baker, Clapton formed Blind Faith, for which the term “supergroup” was coined.

That project didn’t work out as well as expected, so Clapton decided to ditch the spotlight and play guitar for an American husband-and-wife team, Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett. Then there was the show he played as part of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band on Sept. 13, 1969, as captured on the “Live Peace in Toronto” album and D.A. Pennebaker’s “Sweet Toronto” movie. Proceedings go well until Yoko starts doing her thing all over the audience, as John so aptly puts it, but it’s kind of fun to watch the guys flailing away on their guitars as she caterwauls.

Back to Delaney and Bonnie: Clapton liked the other members of their band so much that he drafted them to play on his first solo album, “Eric Clapton,” recorded November 1969 through January 1970. Then bassist Carl Radle, keyboard player Bobby Whitlock and drummer Jim Gordon teamed up with Clapton to tour as Derek & the Dominos, which represented an attempt to keep a low profile.

Other “Dominos,” including George Harrison, went into the studio to record a couple of songs for a single, “Tell the Truth” and the lascivious “Roll It Over.” The single was released but quickly withdrawn, and the four regular members of the band subsequently traveled to Miami to work with producer Tom Dowd on a full album.

Dowd happened to also be working on the Allman Brothers Band’s “Idlewild South” at the time, and he invited Clapton to check out the Allmans at a Miami concert. Members of both groups headed back to Criteria Studios for an all-night jam session, and Clapton promptly invited Duane to sit in on laying down tracks for the album.

The result generally is regarded as the pinnacle of Clapton’s half-century of recording, a combination of original songs and blues covers, most drawing on the theme of unrequited love. Of course, much of that stemmed from Clapton’s own unrequited love for Harrison’s wife, Patti, the “Layla” of the album’s classic title track.

At first glance, “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” seems sprawling, with its 14 songs spread over two albums in its original incarnation. And some critics at the time thought they detected some filler among the compositions.

That might be true for the album’s closer, “Thorn Tree in the Garden,” which is Whitlock’s song. Otherwise, “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” stands as a statement by musicians putting on a clinic.

Several of the originals – “I Looked Away,” “Bell Bottom Blues,” “Keep on Growing,” “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?” and a slowed-down “Tell the Truth” – have become classic-rock standards, while the covers as just as scintillating, especially Big Bill Broonzy’s “Key to the Highway.” On the album, the song fades in, as the engineers didn’t quite capture the beginning of what started as an informal jam.

Clapton had been performing Billy Myles’ “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” since his Blues Breakers days, but the song takes on particular poignance in the “Layla” setting, nailing the Eric-Pattie relationship: “all the time you know she belongs to your very best friend.”

The LP’s fourth side opens with a hard-edged cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” which was was recorded right around the time of Jimi’s death. And the call-and-response vocals of Clapton and Whitlock are put to effective use on Chuck Willis’ “It’s Too Late,” as witnessed in the band’s appearance on Johnny Cash’s TV show.

The Clapton-Allman collaboration culminates with “Layla,” with its blistering dual-guitar attack leading in to Eric’s definitive tale of woe. The song eventually segues into a piano coda, composed and played by Gordon with the guitarists adding their flourishes.

The album reached No. 16 in the United States but failed to chart in Britain, probably because of Clapton’s muted presence. Thanks to the title track’s re-release as a single a few years later, “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” eventually went gold. Twenty years after its recording, it was released as a three-CD “deluxe package” featuring two discs of instrumental jams and outtakes, the first of its kind and still one of the best.

As for Derek & the Dominos, they toured the U.S., then started working on a second album before the inevitable breakup. Clapton went into a drug-induced seclusion for a couple of years before finally producing the top-selling “461 Ocean Boulevard,” his solo masterpiece.

Radle rejoined Clapton for that album and was part of his band through the ’70s. Carl died in 1980 from a kidney infection.

Whitlock recorded four solo albums in the ’70s before spending much of the next two decades out of the music business. He returned to recording, performing and songwriting in 1999.

Gordon remained a sought-after session drummer, playing with the likes of Lennon, Harrison, Traffic, Steely Dan, Alice Cooper and Frank Zappa. Unfortunately, he developed schizophrenia and was eventually was convicted for the 1983 murder of his mother.

Allman was riding his motorcycle in his hometown of Macon, Ga., on Oct. 29, 1971, when he ran into a flatbed truck carrying a lumber crane. He died a few weeks short of his 25th birthday.

He never knew what his collaboration with Eric Clapton would mean to rock music’s legacy.

“Band of Gypsys” by Jimi Hendrix (1970)

The first released document of Jimi Hendrix’s shows at the Fillmore East bridging the ’60s and ’70s represents something of an anomaly in the guitarist’s catalog.

“Band of Gypsys” is the only live album to appear in Jimi’s lifetime. It’s the only one to capture his collaboration with bass player Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles, with good reason: Besides four Fillmore shows on Dec. 31, 1969, and Jan. 1, 1970, the Band of Gypsys played just one other gig, which ended after two songs at Madison Square Garden.

And “Band of Gypsys” probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day except for a legal matter.

Before he made it big, Jimi had signed a contract with a show-business type named Ed Chalpin. After Hendrix became a superstar, Chalpin tried to cash in, with the result that Jimi agreed to a one-off album.

The results show a musical direction he may have pursued had he lived past age 27. Perhaps.

The music captured at the Fillmore East certain shows Hendrix veering away from his more complex and fanciful songs from 1966-68. The Cox-Miles rhythm section powers him through funkier, more solidly rooted jams, which very well could have been a precursor of things to come.

The original LP features two of the more extended numbers, “Who Knows” and “Machine Gun,” on the first side. The former features a memorable Hendrix riff driving a call-and-response vocal section by Hendrix and Miles, with Jimi running off molten guitar licks until Buddy breaks in with some fairly annoying scat singing. Oh, well.

“Machine Gun,” which Jimi dedicates to soldiers in various locales, including Vietnam, is a slow burner that stretches out for 12 minutes and contains some of the most biting Hendrix guitar ever captured on tape. The song wraps up with Jimi simulating gunfire with a wall of guitar feedback that must have been something to behold for the Fillmore audience.

Miles’ “Them Changes,” which became his signature song, makes its first appearance on “Band of Gypsys.” Compared with Buddy’s later solo version, the Fillmore take benefits significantly from Hendrix’s guitar licks, which should surprise no one.

Two more never-before-released Hendrix songs, “Power to Love” and “Message of Love,” follow. Both also represent Jimi in a much more R&B-driven vein than, say, the psychedelia of “Third Stone from the Sun” and “Are You Experienced?” In particular, “Message of Love,” with its catchy backup vocals, bears more of a resemblance to Stax/Volt than Swingin’ London.

“Band of Gypsys” closes with a truncated version of Miles’ “We Gotta Live Together,” a loose jam that rambled on for 16-plus minutes during the late show on New Year’s Day before segueing into the familiar territory of “Wild Thing,” “Hey Joe” and “Purple Haze.” The choice of Buddy’s song for inclusion on the LP, with at least three dozen other songs available from the Fillmore concerts, may have had something to do with Jimi’s opinion of Chalpin.

Regardless, it’s a decent enough conclusion for an often-overlooked gem in the Jimi Hendrix discography, one that deserves repeated listening no matter what the circumstances of its release.

“The Inner Mounting Flame” by the Mahavishnu Orchestra (1971)

For a guitarist who primarily did session work in his native England during the mid-‘0s, John McLaughlin’s reputation preceded him.

On March 25, 1969, he sat in with Jimi Hendrix for a jam session at the Record Plant in New York City. An album from the resulting tapes was set to be released in the ’70s but was shelved, one of the few Hendrix recordings that seems to have escaped such a fate!

McLaughlin, meanwhile, had come to America to join Miles Davis drummer Tony Williams in his trio called Lifetime, which also featured keyboard player Larry Young. From there, it was an easy step into session and live work for Davis, who was in the formative stages of his seminal work in jazz-rock fusion.

By 1971, McLaughlin was fronting his own band, which he called the Mahavishnu Orchestra with encouragement from his guru, Sri Chimnoy. Joining him were virtuoso musicians Billy Cobham on drums, Jan Hammer on keyboards, Jerry Goodman on violin and Rick Laird on drums.
The new band followed the general concept developed by Williams’ group, of jazz motifs played at dizzying volumes.

The Orchestra’s debut, “The Inner Mounting Flame,” captured the interest of the listening public, rising to No. 89 on the Billboard 200. McLaughlin was heralded as a new guitar hero, even as he pushed age 30. And Hammer started on a path that would take him to superstardom via “Miami Vice.”

“The Inner Mounting Flame” opens with a prime example of what to expect from the band’s sonic capabilities. “Meeting of the Spirits” features the musicians playing at full tilt, with McLaughlin’s guitar leads surging through a quirky rhythmic structure that puts the power of Cobham’s drumming on full display.

“Dawn,” as the title suggests, calms the proceedings down a bit, with Hammer’s electric piano setting an easy, upbeat pace. Following a Goodman-dominated establishment of the melody, McLaughlin steps up for a guitar solo at approximately the 1:20 mark. The results are astounding, as his fingers glide over the strings of his Gibson at lightning speed, the mastery of which must be heard to be believed.

The metallic overtones return with “The Noonward Race,” as McLaughlin again dominates proceedings with his breakneck runs. Rumor has Laird and Goodman getting into a fistfight during the recording of the piece, as the other members played louder to drown out the sounds of the altercation.

Cobham and Laird take a break for “A Lotus On the Irish Stream,” which features McLaughlin, Hammer and Goodman unplugged. McLaughlin shows his prowess on the acoustic guitar, an instrument he later played exclusively with his late-’70s band Shakti.

“Vital Transformation” picks up the dynamics significantly with Cobham contributing heavy percussion to start the tune, a technique he’d use effectively two years later on his stellar solo debut, “Spectrum.” A long middle stretch has McLaughlin and Goodman playing an adrenaline-fueled lead duet.

“The Dance of the Maya” opens in an unconventional time signature before breaking into a decidedly bluesy motif featuring Goodman’s violin. The song returns to its jazz inflections, with McLaughlin dazzling once more, before returning to the original rhythm.

Perhaps the most interest track on the album, and certainly the most influential, is “You Know You Know.” McLaughlin opens with a moody guitar theme, which eventually is joined by the other musicians and repeated over the course of five minutes, with everyone contributing his own inflections, before Cobham closes with a frenetic percussive run. The theme has been sampled by numerous contemporary artists, including Mos Def, Massive Attack, David Sylvian and Blahzay Blahzay.

Closing “The Inner Mounting Flame” is the relatively brief, full-volume “Awakening,” which also provides a showcase for Cobham’s drumming.

The Mahavishnu Orchestra did even better with its follow-up album, “Birds of Fire,” which peaked at No. 15 in 1972. But that was the group’s swan song, as inner tensions pulled it apart by 1973.

McLaughlin later recorded under the Mahavishnu Orchestra name, and while the results are interesting, they fall short of what the original lineup had to offer.

Of interest: Rick Laird retired from the music business in the early ’80s to concentrate on photography. In 2009, he found numerous photos he’d taken of jazz musicians that never had been seen. His work is featured on jazz.com.

“Procol Harum” by Procol Harum (1967)

Lyricist Keith Reid told author Claes Johansen about his inspiration for what stands as one of the most recognizable, respected and oft-played songs in rock history:

“Some guy looked at a chick and said to her, ‘You’ve gone a whiter shade of pale.’ That phrase stuck in my mind. It was a beautiful thing for someone to say. I wish I’d said it.”

And so it was that later, the band he wrote for, Procol Harum, combined Reid’s words with a melody reminiscent of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major.” Released as the band’s debut single, the song went to the top of the charts in most of the civilized world. And none other than John Lennon took to playing the tune constantly in his Rolls-Royce.

Suddenly the band with the odd name – the group’s manager, the late Guy Stevens, named it after a friend’s cat – was in high demand; its live debut was opening for another hot act at the time, the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

To capitalize on the success, Procol Harum entered London’s Olympic Studios for a coupe of days in June 1967 with new members Robin Trower on guitar and B.J. Wilson on drums to record on album’s worth of material.

The result is a collection of songs that display an impressive amount of diversity, melodicism and maturity for a band that had been together only a couple of months. True, several of the members had played together previously as the Paramounts (and as such had opened several shows for the Beatles), but that aggregation’s forte was rhythm and blues.

Procol Harum combined elements of the nascent psychedelic scene, particularly Reid’s often-arcane lyrics, with a sophisticated instrumental approach spearheaded by Trower, lead singer Gary Brooker’s piano and especially Matthew Fisher’s Hammond organ, the dominant instrument on “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”

The debut alum opens with “Conquistador,” which became a major hit several years later via a live version recorded with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. The original studio version, though, conveys a similar theme of urgent grandiosity using only the instruments available at Olympic.

Reid remains well-known for his morbid sense of humor, as his lyrics to “She Wandered Through the Garden Fence” attest: “And though I said, ‘You don’t exist,’ she grasped me firmly by the wrist/And threw me down upon my back, and strapped me to a torture rack.”

The sense of foreboding continues with “Something Following Me,” with Trower’s guitar driving hard-edged instrumental backing for a tale about a man who keeps encountering his fate: “I went into a shop, and bought a loaf of bread/I sank my teeth into it, thought I’d bust my head/I dashed to the dentist, said, ‘I’ve got an awful pain’/The man looks inside my mouth and screams, ‘This boy’s insane!’/Imagine my surprise, thought I’d left it at home/But there’s a lump in my mouth with my own tombstone.”

“Mabel” seems to lighten the mood with a short burst of music-hall cajolery, but Reid sneaks in this line: “In the cellar lies my wife/In my wife there’s a knife.”

Ouch.

Trower really cranks up his Stratocaster on “Cerdes (Outside the Gates Of),” getting a distinctively distorted sound by running one amplifier (Selmer Little Giant) into another (Fender). Lyrically, Reid creates a fantasy world complete with his own characters, such as Sousa Sam, Peep the Sot and the immortal Phallus Phil.

The LP’s second side starts with “A Christmas Camel,” which despite its title never seems to make it onto holiday compilations. That’s no wonder, with lyrics like “While some Arabian oil well/Impersonates a padded cell.”

“Kaleidoscope” always has been one of my favorite Procol Harum songs, with Fisher’s organ the dominant instrument on a catchy slice of hard rock. Reid doesn’t kill anyone off in the lyrics, but the paranoia remains: “Still out in the dark I grope/The key’s in my kaleidoscope.”

Reid returns to a favorite subject in “Salad Days (Are Here Again),” writing of a couple: “The sun seeps through the window to see if we’re still dead/To try to throw some light around the gloom upon our bed.”

OK, then.

The brief “Good Captain Clack” leads into the apogee of “Procol Harum,” if not the band’s entire career: Fisher’s epic instrumental “Repent Walpurgis,” which begins as another Bach-inspired melody before Trower steps in with his raging Fender fury. Brooker takes the foot off the accelerator with a relatively light piano arpeggio before the full band returns with a vengeance, finally wrapping up proceedings with in an extended, highly dramatic fashion.

It’s no wonder Procol Harum often played “Repent Walpurgis” as an encore, even into its 21st-century incarnation.

One knock against “Procol Harum” – and I’d have ranked it higher if this weren’t the case – is that the album exists only in monaural form. The situation was rectified somewhat by the 1999 CD release of “Pandora’s Box,” which contains true stereo versions of several songs, and also features two versions of “Repent Walpurgis,” the latter clocking in at more than seven minutes.

“Pandora’s Box” also features a stereo mix of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” that sounds infinitely superior to the single version and plays out to its natural conclusion instead of fading in the middle of Brooker’s vocal on the chorus.

Procol Harum went on to record a series of highly regarded albums – “Shine On Brightly,” “A Salty Dog,” “Home” and “Broken Barricades” – before Trower left to pursue a successful solo career. Reid and Brooker continued to write music together, and probably still do ’til this day.

But they and the rest of the band may have peaked right there at the very beginning, certainly commercially and perhaps artistically.

“Forever Changes” by Love (1967)

When the Doors were getting their start in the mid-’60s Los Angeles music scene, their aspiration was to become as big as Love.

Of course, Jim Morrison and company reached that goal after their second single, “Light My Fire,” shot to the top of the charts in 1967. By comparison, the best showing by Love was “Seven and Seven Is,” a burst of garage-meets-psychedelia that peaked at No. 33 the previous year.

And so it went for the Elektra labelmates. The Doors remain one of the most readily identifiable bands in rock history, while Love is a footnote, albeit a well-respected one.

The story of Love starts with the late Arthur Lee, whose early musical credits include writing a song called “My Diary” that was recorded by an obscure singer named Rosa Lee Brooks; it would be utterly forgotten today except for the identity of her guitarist, one James Marshall Hendrix.

Lee formed his own band, the Byrds-influenced Grass Roots, but changed the name to Love after another band appropriated the first choice. Love was an early interracial band, with the black Lee and guitarist Johnny Echols joined by white musicians, including the late Bryan MacLean, also on guitar.

The band scored a minor hit with a cover of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “My Little Red Book,” which in a roundabout way ended up forming the basis for Pink Floyd’s instrumental “Interstellar Overdrive.” “My Little Red Book” appeared on the debut “Love” (1966), which generally featured a harder-edged sound than most folk-rock albums of the time.

Love’s sound gained more complexity on “Da Capo” (1967), which along with “Seven and Seven Is” also features such outstanding tracks as “Stephanie Knows Who,” later covered by the Move; MacLean’s introspective “Orange Skies”; and the LP-side-length “Revelation” (originally titled “John Lee Hooker”), based on a jam that Love had been doing since its early days.

“Da Capo” peaked at No. 80 on the billboard charts, a poor showing compared with the Doors’ debut album and “Strange Days,” both of which made the Top 3.

Sessions for Love’s third album began with some of L.A’s crack studio musicians backing Lee on his compositions “Andmoreagain” and “The Daily Planet,” a strong indicator that he was seeking an increasingly sophisticated sound for his material.

The rest of the band did play on the other tracks of what eventually constituted “Forever Changes,” but they were complemented by strings, horns and other flourishes that took the band into a whole new dimension musically, even if the musicians’ physical appearances were standard for the time. As John Einarson quoted Lee in “Forever Changes: Arthur Lee and the Book of Love”:

“I walked into the studio and took a seat in one of the chairs. I must have been there at least 45 minutes when one of the classical musicians said, ‘If this guy Arthur Lee doesn’t show up soon, I’m leaving.’ I said, ‘I’m Arthur.’ Most of them, if not all of them, couldn’t believe their eyes. This black hippie guy is Arthur Lee?”

When “Forever Changes” was released in November 1967, many listeners probably had to ignore their preconceptions, too. The album certainly has its basis in rock, but many of the songs veer into Baroque territory, with the extra instrumentation complementing Lee’s ambitious lyrics.

The opener actually is a MacLean composition, “Alone Again Or,” which also was released as a single. It sets the tone for “Forever Changes” with its highly orchestrated arrangement, including a section with a mariachi band.

Lee’s “A House Is Not a Motel” rocks out considerably more, with a churning riff backing such words as “And the water turns to blood, and if you don’t think so/Go turn on your tub, and it’s mixed with mud/You’ll see it turn to gray.”

Arthur also was imaginative with his titles, as evidenced by “Andmoreagain,” “Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale” and “The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This.”

Perhaps the highlights of “Forever Changes” are the final two tracks: “Bummer in the Summer,” a two-chord rocker chronicling the demise of a Lee love affair, and “You Set the Scene,” a mini-suite of musical ideas that takes a less direct approach to encapsulating a relationship.

For all the later praise heaped upon “Forever Changes” – it, for example, has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame – it made a negligible impression on the American charts. As a result, Lee follow through on what he’d started during the album’s first session by firing the rest of the band and starting over in 1968.

Although the revamped Love had its moments, it never came close to reaching the creative heights of “Forever Changes.”

And for many listeners, neither did the Doors.