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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It was an increasingly difficult time to be a musician. The last performance of the Jimi Hendrix Experience in June of 1969 was marred by tear gas and rioting, and led to the group's dissolution. Jimi found himself with little support at a time when the pitfalls of success were starting to eat at him. Bad business arrangements, poor management, thievery, harassment and legal problems, the most innovative musician of his generation found himself abandoned by almost everyone at a time when he should have been reaping his well-earned rewards. And in order to settle a disastrous contractual obligation, he had to deliver a new album of original material.

But after securing the help of friend and drummer Buddy Miles and old army pal Billy Cox on bass, Hendrix was ready to reemerge as both rock deity and blues legend, and it resulted in one of the finest live recordings in music history. It is the only full live LP released during Jimi's lifetime and the last album before his death in the fall of 1970. After a ten-day rehearsal, the trio played four shows in NYC over two days on the cusp of 1969/70 produced by Hendrix. The fellas waste no time and roll into 'Who Knows', a mid-tempo shuffle that showcases Jimi's gifts; the riffing, phrasing, fills, perfect tone and surprisingly perfect intonation, spewing blues fire through his Marshall cab, his wah functioning well and employing a new filter that mimics a steeldrum. Hendrix's production is beautifully clean-- Cox round, warm and heavy, Miles crisp, all mixed just the right way. Legendary 'Machine Gun' raises things to a higher level, the poignancy of the times it reflects not lost and Jimi's electrifying use of his ax as a musical weapon splaying open those troubled days with the abandon of a true artist, his guitar howling into this New Years night bravely leading his ragtag following into the jaws of death and love all at once. He played his amplifiers as much as his guitars, using them as instruments and that is no better heard here, outdoing even his famous Woodstock performance and miming the firing of an automatic rifle at the crowd. This is Hendrix the player, and it's where he shone most brightly. The chaos that was Hendrix's reality is also mirrored in these shows and seemed to come exploding out during this 2-night event [the rest of the material available as Hendrix Live at the Fillmore East]-- all the frustration, disillusionment, treachery and strangeness blown back out to the world. And no one could do that better than him. 'Changes' is an upbeat and melodic Buddy Miles tune and 'Power of Soul' is bright and brilliant, a free-flying dance of sheer energy and heavy blues joy. Hendrix signature piece 'Message to Love' is always a pleasure and another Miles cut finishes with some R'nB.

A clean and pure expression of why James Marshall Hendrix was what he was to so many, this is an unimprovable document and his finest moment as instrumentalist.

Report this review (#210960)
Posted Friday, April 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is an emotional review for me. This live album was the first one I ever bought from Jimi.

Retrospectively, it is not the best live one but at the time of release, it was the only source of live material (at least for the young fellow I was).

Hendrix was not really happy with the material but since he overlooked the production of this album, one can be assured that a lot of care was taken for this release (even editing of some tracks).

History will tell that Hendrix had to release one more album for contractual reasons. It was then decided to get a live album out of the four concerts of the legendary performances at the Fillmore East on these evenings of December 31st , 1969 and January 1st, 1970.

I have to say that when I listen to this album now, I found it quite uneven. The Buddy Miles tracks being a lot soul inspired and frankly they are not really great numbers (''Changes'' and '' We Gotta Live Together'').

Even the Hendrix'ones weren't all of the best available if you would except the long and incredible ''Machine Gun'' and the excellent version of ''Message To Love''. These two tracks are almost good for fifty per cent of the album and are a good justification for owning this testimonial of these live sets.

I can understand that if you jump into Jimi's catalogue right now, most of you might be disappointed. For those ones, I would recommend the double CD set ''Live At The Fillmore East'' which is a more extended picture of those concerts (even if the second CD is not super either).

This is only a good representation of the live capabilities of Hendrix (but remember this is with Cox and Miles: the Band Of Gypsys not with the Experience). Three stars. There are better examples of live performances out there.

Report this review (#210999)
Posted Saturday, April 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars To fully appreciate this album you have to consider time of the release.Recorded on New years eve 1970,this is,IMHO,best guitar live album ever,and I'm probably being absolutely biased for a simple reason:this was my FIRST lp-album I owned.And what a stunner that was for a 13-year old flower-pop filled ears !Sabbath were yet to enter my world and Band of gypsys were the ones to bridge that gap from pop-era of the sixties to something new and exciting that will come in early 70's.Forget about The Experience,Band of gypsys was the ultimate Hendrix power trio,with excellent vocals&funky drumming courtesy of Buddy Miles and thunderous bass work of Billy Cox. Jimi's solos onWho knows and (especially)Machine gun are out of this world,and rest of the material is also very strong.In my view,Hendrix was ultimate live performer,his studio material was always better performed in front of the audience , his improvisations and extended solos were never boring,unlike some of his contemporaries(Cream?). Eddie Kramer's restored version of this album sounds better than ever before adding aura of immortality to one of the best live records in history of popular music.Essential stuff!
Report this review (#211071)
Posted Saturday, April 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
2 stars I rarely review so many albums of an artist added to a non Prog category, but in the case of Jimi Hendrix, I'm pretty familiar with his releases, being that in the early 70's it was almost mandatory to own his records, so again I went to my old LP's and got Band of Gypsys in order to review a live album after two studio ones.

If Hendrix's music is hard for me in studio, on the stage is even worst, senseless jamming, long futile guitar solos and a few chords repeated ad nauseam, all in a very high volume that may be great if you are a teen full of dope, but which sound excessive if you are a 44 years old fart completely sane like me.

The opener Who knows is simply one of he most boring musical experiences I had in the last ten years (the time I don't play the album), poor arrangements, terrible vocals and unnecessary solos created only for the glory of the performer.

Machine Gun is even longer, and so the torture for my ears, despite a very interesting introduction, Hendrix and team fall in the same pattern as in the previous track, even Buddy Miles seems to repeat the same set of hits over and over, all the variation is in the guitar, but that's not enough, the almost absolute lack of coherence, simply makes me wonder why is this album so appreciated, then I think that maybe the guy was all that people say about him and that sound like dentist drill is the touch of a genius, but I can't discover it.

At last a better track, Changes by Buddy Miles has a coherent structure, some good changes, despite the horrendous vocals, now the three guys seem to play for the band and not only for Hendrix's glory.

Power to Love is clearly Blues oriented with the usual cadence that is interrupted by Jimi's abuse of soloing as if he was tuning his instrument, maybe this is virtuosity and I'm incapable of finding it, but for me is only senseless noise, sorry but this is my honest opinion.

By this point, and being that Message to Love and the other Buddy Miles theme We Gotta Live Together are more of the same, I feel unnecessary to continue this review that sounds like a rant, but is only the expression of what I listen.

Some artists sound better on stage, I don't believe Hendrix is one of them, unless you love to listen a rhythm section playing a few chords and a soloist doing anything he wants. This may be a heresy for most of the fans of Jimi, but is what I honestly feel.

I know most people love this album, but I can't rate it with more than two stars, because for my ears is repetitive, dull and boring, again, maybe because I never saw him on the 60's or because I'm more used to elaborate and melodic songs I'm unable to see the greatness of Band of Gypsys, but as always, I try to be honest with my impression.

Just want to say that I believe Hendrix was an oustanding guitar performer and some of his studio albums are really good, but on stage he doesn't prove it to this ears.

Report this review (#211078)
Posted Sunday, April 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars With the Experience now blown to bits, Jimi attacked the new decade with his first all-black band and a once-only New Year's Eve concert in NY and the Band Of Gypsy. The bass was occupied with a former US-Army buddy Billy Cox and on drums the funk legend of Buddy Miles. With a rather simple coloured photo of Jimi at work for a cover, the album is rather surprising because it doesn't sound anything like the previous Experience. . Note that the BoG, the group was built against his manager Jeffries and the manager forced Jimi to fire Buddy Miles (uncontrollable to Jeffries) not long after the group's two concerts and reinstate Mitch Mitchell on the drum stool, but he failed to reinstate the "Experience" group. With Billy Cox on bass the new group went on tour in February 70 in the Cry Of Love tour, but this is out of the scope of this album.

The least we can say is that BoG is really a funk-rock group, and the opening track the 9-mins+ Who Knows where Buddy Miles is obviously as involved as Jimi. It is followed by a lengthy and stunning blues, the 12-mins+ Machine Gun, with its stunning imitation of the weapons. Easily the album's peak. The flipside is made of four shorter tracks, that go back to Who Knows?'s funk rock. Again completely dominated by Jimi's guitar, the tracks are more rhythmic than abut guitar heroics. Buddy Miles' drumming is quite different of Mitchell and therefore offers different opportunities. Cox's bass playing is fairly basic, partly because Jimi taught his buddy to play the instrument, but the man is obviously not a natural at it.

Historically this album was definitely not received as well as the previous three Experience albums, but there are some solid reasons for that too. First, this comes from a sole concert that was most likely under-rehearsed and comes with the "warts an'all". For my part, I keep the album for Machine Gun and a fourth Hendrix album in my collection.

Report this review (#211092)
Posted Sunday, April 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another old album that I listened for the first time when I was 5 or 6 years old!

The first version of this album that I listened to in 1970 or in 1971 was the LP released in Mexico by DUSA (Discos Universales, S.A.), a company which released it under the Polydor label, and a company which also released other very good albums form that period: "Woodstock", "Who`s Next", "Tommy", "Blind Faith", "In-a-gadda-da-vida", etc., and a lot of singles which were played on the Radio. That company later changed its name to Discos Polydor, and later it became PolyGram Discos, and now it is called Universal Music Mexico. The albums released by DUSA almost always had the original cover art, but in some cases, the cover art was changed a bit. It happened with this "Band of Gypsys" album, because they changed the back cover art by including a drawing of Hendrix. The next version that I listened to was the one released on Remastered form on CD by Experience Hendrix / MCA in 1997. This CD version sounds very good, and it also includes the full cover art, plus very good booklet notes done by John McDermott. In that booklet notes, McDermott explains that this album was recorded by Hendrix as a contractual obligation for one manager for whom Hendrix signed a contract in 1965. When he signed another contract with Chas Chandler, Hendrix forgot that old contract, but that old manager never forgot it, of course! So, when Hendrix became famous, this old manager went to the courts to force Hendrix to record an album for him and Capitol Records. In the end, Hendrix had to do it, so with the help of Buddy Miles and Billy Cox he formed the Band of Gypsys to record this live album, which was compiled from 4 concerts the band played and recorded in 31 December 1969 and ! January 1970. This album was the last of his albums that Hendrix sanctioned before he died.

With three very good Black musicians playing together, this band was very good, playing with a mixture of Heavy Rock, Psychedelia, Funk and Soul. When I listen to this album I can hear how good are these Black musicians playing together, like they understood very well each other despite not being playing together for a long time. In fact, they only rehearsed briefly for the concerts.

Hendrix also wanted to give Buddy Miles the opportunity to sing some of his own songs, so I think that Hendrix wasn`t the typical egocentric guitar hero. He was humble enough to let Miles shine too in the band.

The album starts with "Who Knows", a very good song, somewhat heavy, with Hendrix singing lead vocals while Miles sings backing vocals.

"Machine Gun" is a bit heavier, and noisy too, with Hendrix dedication of this song for the soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War. His guitar playing and Miles`snare drum try to imitate the sound of Machine Guns at war.

"Changes", composed and sung by Miles, is a very good song with some Funky and soul influences. It was a hit for Miles as a soloist when he recorded it using some horns in the arrangement.

"Power of Soul" (tiled "Power to Love" in the CD, being this obviously a mistake) is also a very good song, with Hendrix singing lead vocals while Miles and Cox sing backing vocals.

"Message to Love" is another Hendrix`song, and my favourite from this album. It also has some Funky and Soul influences, and it is also one of the heaviest songs in this album, with a very good lead guitar.

"We Gotta Live Together" is a song composed and sung by Miles, also with Funky arrangements and some heavy guitar.

This album is very good, as I wrote before. I think that I´m going to buy the double CD set called "Live at the Fillmore East" which inludes more songs from these concerts.

Report this review (#211313)
Posted Tuesday, April 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Band of Gypsys was the project that marked Jimi Hendrix's return to soul music as well as the beginning of newfound spiritual enlightnment. For those expecting to hear the acid-tinged works of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, there is only but a little resembling "Third Stone From the Sun" or "Purple Haze". There is instead much more of an emphasis on the groove, and the feedback drenched stylings of albums past have been replaced by the riffs Hendrix learned and mastered on the chitlin circuit. Jimi recruited R&B drummer/ vocalist Buddy Miles and his old Army friend Billy Cox for occasion.

"Who Knows" starts things off with a slow but funky jam. The performance is raw and a bit sloppy; Jimi's guitar and Buddy Miles' lead vocals fall out of tune. However, the spirit lies within the groove. Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox never leave the pocket.

"Machine Gun" comes next, and this performance is perhaps the closest to Experience-like psychedelia that the Band of Gypsys come. It is a masterpiece. For the uninitiated, Jimi's guitar work may seem like random noise and feedback, but to quote Wesley Snipes' famous line from White Men Can't Jamp, "you can't hear Jimi." At the very least you aren't truly listening to Jimi and what he is trying to convey. Taken within the context of all the turmoil of the time such as the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, Jimi takes all of that heartache and pours it out through his feeback and univibe-drenched Fender Stratocaster. Fittingly, the ex-paratrooper dedicates the song to the soldiers fighting in Vietnam as well as the "soldiers" fighting for civil rights in the US.

Buddy Miles' funky diddy "Changes" brings the mood back up. This little gem sounds remarkable when performed in such a stripped down fashion by the trio, sans Buddy's usual horn section. Furthermore, Buddy Miles shows how he was truly an amazing drummer/ vocalist.

"Power of Soul" follows, and the funk is really rolling by this time. Billy Cox shadows Jimi riff for riff. This is by far one of the funkiest Jimi Hendrix songs in his extensive catalogue.

"Message to Love" continues the funk. Also known as "Message of Love" and "Message to the Universe", this ode to self-empowerment is a reflection of Jimi's spiritual awakening. It is one of the genuine post- Experience classics, and it captures Billy Cox is at his finest.

Buddly Miles closes the show with "We Gotta Live Together". An audience participation number, it is a strong closer, and it showcases more of Buddy Miles' stellar vocals. This was after all a New Year's Eve show, and what better way to close a party than with a sing-along.

All-in-all, Band of Gypys is a worthwhile recording to add to your Jimi Hendrix collection because it captures an important stage of Jimi's career. However, from a strictly progressive music standpoint, because it is more backward leaning in its R&B/soul stylings, it does not have quite the same visionary impact as did his recordings with the Experience or his jazz-fusion experiments as chronicled in Nine to the Universe. I give it 4 stars, very recommended but not quite essential. .

Report this review (#212929)
Posted Wednesday, April 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Despite the fact that there was little rehearsing by this group before this concert, the performance is quite good. Personally, I never thought Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding were quite up to par with Jimi Hendrix. This goup, with Buddy Miles on drums, and Hendrix' army buddy Billy Cox on bass seems to give Hendrix a lot of space to do his thing, while also laying down some sweet rhythms.

The highlights on this album are Machine Gun, and the Buddy Miles classic Changes.

While the music here might not qualify as prog, what Hendrix does on his guitar had not been done by anyone else to that point. His use of feedback, fuzztones and other effects was revolutionary, and laid the groundwork for most of the guitar heroes to come.

Five stars for a great performance, minus one for lack of prog.

Report this review (#263764)
Posted Monday, February 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I am not an expert on Jimi Hendrix but Yes his music was part of the things that coloured my childhood as the local music magazine, AKTUIL, was frequently featuring Hendrix as one of best guitarists in the past. But I never put his music into the kind of ELP, Yes, Pink Floyd, Genesis, King Crimson or so called prog music. I always refer to Hendrix music was somewhat similar with the kinds of Grand Funk Railroad, Humble Pie, Moxy and the like. I was also not aware about number of albums Hendrix produced but for sure I love this 'Band of Gypsys' album which actually a live recording.

My best favorite is of course Machine Gun that really represents the best part of Hendrix in playing his guitar as well as singing. I like the way the music flows in a blues-rock nuance. The other track which is also excellent from this live set is Changes. Again, hendris plays his guitar wonderfully. Overall, in blues-rock perspective, this is an excellent record.

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#403706)
Posted Saturday, February 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars It was the end of the 1960s, and who better to play the decade out than Jimi Hendrix? Band of Gypsys consists of original songs trimmed from Hendrix's new blues-soul-rock combo in their gigs at the Fillmore East on New Year's Eve 1969 and New Year's Day 1970, giving the album a good claim to be both the last one recorded in one decade and the first recorded in the next. But musically speaking, it's a deliberate back-to-basics attempt, laying down heavily blues- influenced tracks and toning down Hendrix's usual experimental edge (which he was still indulging in the studio, as can be heard on the First Rays of the New Rising Sun album). Pretty good stuff, perhaps not very prog, but still important as a means of capturing a side of Hendrix's music we have precious little record of.
Report this review (#457959)
Posted Tuesday, June 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Let's go straight to the point:Band of Gypsys is the best live rock n'roll album ever made.To hear a recording of Hendrix' live performances,never doing the same thing twice and still managing to be unparalleled all the time in therms of guitar improvisation,is always a joy.Mitch Mitchell,his Experience drummer,was almost as equally gifted.But the man behind the drum kit in this 1970 new year's eve performances in New York was Buddy Miles,who somehow completed and brought out Jimi's vein in american black music.As a result,what we hear is an absolutly brilliant mixture of blues,funk,soul, and elements of jazz,at least in therms of structure.

Jimi might not have being on a good mood that day,as it is popularly known.His guitar sounds like a demon on acid.By tuning it on the key of D,he managed to bend and vibrate the strings in a ferocious way.Hendrix evoques a napalm bombing out of a stratocaster,and thankfully this recording exists 40 years later to prove why,according to Neil Young,"no one was even in the same building as that guy".The sounds that popped in his head at the spur of the moment,and which he flawlessly gave physical dimention with his fingers,may be one's subject of study for years.And still,not even the most skifull guitarrist will ever be able to plainly reproduce what is heard on record.

Buddy Miles,with his Motown-stile singing,is also a shining star here.His contribution to the setlist,Changes,is a first-class James Brown inspired funk groove.The centerpiece of the album,Machine Gun,is where the spotlights turn completely to Hendrix.In a 12 minute lysergic ritual,we hear his guitar as a force of nature,thundering and roaring through the Marshall amplifiers in a caotic,atrocious,unearthly powerfull way that would never be heard again after he was gone.

This album is truly what rock n'roll is all about,or was at it's best moment in time.Not a proper style of music,but a mixture of many.Hendrix drinks from outside influences to formulate the purest rock brand,wich was his own and 100% original.What makes it a true work of art is the priceless spontaniety of the whole thing, which was definetly in the air in the late 60's,but no one captured as well as Jimi.To go on writing just how disturbingly genious was this man is pointless.All of his albums speak for themselves,and maybe this one does so best of all.

Report this review (#702481)
Posted Sunday, April 1, 2012 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
3 stars Maybe not the definitive Jimi Hendrix live album, but A Band of Gypsys is a solid piece of thick, smokey, R&B goodness none the less.

"Who Knows" and "Machine Gun" give us dark, moody, effects-driven jam sessions which are probably the highlights of the album, while the other tracks are shorter and more conventional, though still with open-ended solo sections. The rhythm section keeps it tight and engaging throughout, making the trio sound like they're working together and playing off each others' riffing.

Interestingly, the setlist doesn't include any of Jimi's iconic hits. Depending on your viewpoint, this is either a strength or a weakness. If you're hoping to hear Jimi jam to tunes that aren't on his greatest hits, then you're in luck. The recording quality is good overall for the period.

Overall a solid, but not great live recording featuring the all-time great rock guitarist

Setlist: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Stage Energy: 3 - Live Experience: 4

Report this review (#1417139)
Posted Tuesday, May 19, 2015 | Review Permalink

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