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Jimi Hendrix - Historic Performances Recorded at the Monterey International Pop Festival (Hendrix & Otis Redding) CD (album) cover

HISTORIC PERFORMANCES RECORDED AT THE MONTEREY INTERNATIONAL POP FESTIVAL (HENDRIX & OTIS REDDING)

Jimi Hendrix

 

Proto-Prog

3.07 | 5 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
3 stars This album of undisputedly historic live performances reminds me of the US presidential debates that involved the two candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon in 1960. They were the first to ever be televised and they dramatically demonstrated the unbelievable influence that visual images had on the public's perception of an individual. Those that were only able to hear the exchange on the radio overwhelmingly thought that Nixon had beaten his younger rival to a bloody pulp while the majority of the populace who'd seen the two men go head-to-head on their TV screens considered Kennedy to be the obvious victor. What's the point of this analogy? Here ya go: If you only experienced aurally the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival shows put on by Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding that are captured in part on this record you would most likely give Otis the trophy. However, if you've ever seen the film footage from the concerts then you know without a doubt that Jimi's game-changing, earth-shaking on-stage persona isn't just overwhelming, it's one for the ages that may never be equaled in shock & awe value. (As the understated liner notes aver, when Jimi left the stage that evening he'd graduated from rumor to legend in the span of an hour.) I realize that it wasn't a contest (they appeared on separate nights) and I'm not trying to disparage either artist; I'm just trying to explain something significant. Both turned in electrifying performances but, without being able to see what Hendrix was doing on the platform that evening, the neophyte might be tempted to write him off as a crazy loon with a Stratocaster who was more or less out of his gourd in front of a whole buncha people. I present this album as evidence of the legitimacy of my argument that sound alone doesn't always tell the whole musical story.

Having said that, 'The Jimi Hendrix Experience' half of this LP opens with a slice of greatness. After some nervous, under-the-influence-of-who-knows-what-all verbal rambling Jimi gets down to the serious business at hand and produces my favorite cover of Bob Dylan's 'Like a Rolling Stone' ever. Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell show remarkable restraint on the verses while Jimi sings the words without a hitch, luxurious sarcasm dripping from his lips like golden honey. On the choruses his use of various chord positions on the fretboard (as well as some stinging licks interspersed here and there) keeps the song from growing repetitious and the recording quality is exceptional considering the era and the outdoor setting. Next is a heavy-handed version of B.B. King's old blues standard, 'Rock Me, Baby,' and you can tell the adrenaline levels in the trio are sky high as they begin to respond to the audience's fascination with them. It sounds like something simple that Hendrix felt comfortable throwing in at that moment and knew they could play without thinking, thus easing their nerves. Jimi's original, 'Can You See Me,' follows and it's a speed-demon blues ditty that's held together by Noel and Mitch while Hendrix does some six-string gymnastics to wow the mesmerized gathering out front. Not much of a tune, though. He ends his set with 'Wild Thing,' of course, but not before he tries to address the congregation one last time. If you've ever been around someone who's totally f**ked up but is sure he's making perfect sense then Jimi's barely-intelligible banter might seem familiar to you. After a short feedback fest he slams right into a pre-punk rendition of the 3-chord anthem that's become a guitar 101 prerequisite for fledgling rockers everywhere. This is where the video is not only helpful but essential to understanding the message he's sending ('You'll never hear surf music again') because without that visual aid it's no more than an extremely noisy musical melee that will inevitably result in your nursing a migraine. Not for the squeamish or the uninformed.

Otis fares much better in this one-dimensional format. While this wasn't his American debut by any means, he was still a relatively unknown entity to the thousands of mainly lily-white Caucasian faces he had the task of entertaining that night. Backed by the respected Booker T. and the MGs outfit as well as the MarKeys' horn section, Redding slammed into that unsuspecting throng like a cyclone by opening his set with Sam Cooke's irrepressible 'Shake.' You can tell he was working the crowd like a charismatic Pentecostal preacher in a revival tent meeting and his enthusiasm is bigger-than-life infectious. He follows that wake-up call with a pounding rock & roll version of his song that Aretha Franklin rode to stardom, 'Respect,' and it rolls through the fairgrounds like a freight train. Nothing subtle about this one, that's for sure! No human being could keep up that torrid pace so he slows it down to sing 'I've Been Loving You Too Long' for many appropriate reasons. The raw power in his voice is amazing and you can tell he's in absolute charge of the musicians behind him and the enraptured paying customers watching his every move. He then launches into a sped-up cover of the Rolling Stones' monster hit 'Satisfaction' and by the end of it you wonder what kept Otis from spontaneously combusting in a fireball. He put everything he had into it. He closes with his signature song, 'Try a Little Tenderness.' Even after all of the ferocious soul shouting he'd done up to that juncture, Redding still has complete mastery over his vocal and he delivers a stupendous performance that changed his status from being 'one of those R&B guys' to a rock idol in one night. Hard to believe that in six short months a tragic plane crash would take him from us. He was impossible to replace and this will tell you why.

Reprise records had tired of waiting for new studio material from Jimi Hendrix (it had been two years since 'Electric Ladyland') so that's what made them decide to finally release this album even though the material was three years old. It hit the record store bins in August of 1970, just weeks before Jimi's untimely death, and promptly rose to #15 on the charts. To be honest there's hardly anything that could be considered prog-related in these tracks so for the aficionado this disc is more of a historic relic from an innocent age long gone when it was possible to turn the world on its ear with one incendiary show than anything else. I recommend that you view the documentary to get the full impact but the music still packs a hefty punch by itself. There may be a lot of rough edges to contend with in the performances contained on this album but they more than stand on their own legs as representing something unquestionably unique. The souls of Jimi and Otis may still be talking about what they did in Monterey that summer this very moment.

Chicapah | 3/5 |

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