Jimi Hendrix - guitar, vocals; Noel Redding - bass; Mitch Mitchell - drums; Guest: Virgil Gonsalves - flute on "Are You Experienced?"
This run of Jimi Hendrix Experience concerts at Winterland, with Dino Valenti and then Buddy Miles Express opening, produced some of the most interesting Hendrix sets ever recorded. In mid 1968, just as he had released his monumental Electric Ladyland album, Hendrix began actively pursuing opportunities to jam with other musicians. He became more open to his improvisational abilities than at any other time in his too brief career. These shows capture Hendrix at his most exploratory, expanding the boundaries of his music and adding other musicians to the mix - in this case with no rehearsals. This new approach would eventually spell the demise of the Jimi Hendrix Experience as a band, but for a brief time would open up inspiring new possibilities within the music. These sets illustrate this new improvisational approach that Hendrix was beginning to explore. Without exception, these Winterland sets offer fascinating glimpses into Hendrix's thought process and the new approach he was bringing to his music in 1968.
The early show on the second night repeats the setlist from the early show the previous night, but the performances are quite different. The recording begins with a long tuning section that lasts over five minutes, where you can hear stage adjustments being made over an excited crowd.
Finally Bill Graham introduces the band and they head straight into heavy psychedelic territory with "Are You Experienced?". This version is radically different than the one played the night before, as the group gets into a highly improvisational jam. Incredibly, a flute player, Virgil Gonsalves, jams along with the band, adding some interesting Latin jazzy texture to the proceedings, inspiring the band to experiment with their dynamics and approach to the song.
The band returns to form for "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)," here played much like the album version but with added flair. The song was still rather new at this point and hadn't developed into the set closing monster it would eventually become. However, what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in intensity.
The "Red House" that follows brings a bit of relief after the previous onslaught. Although shorter than the previous night's version, the song gives another perfect example of Hendrix's deep rooted blues playing. His phrasing is exemplary and the emotion he squeezes out of every note is astounding. The soundboard tape ends here and the last three songs are from a greatly inferior audience recording. These three songs are the only songs from this run that were not captured by the professional recording crew.
As the early shows tended to attract younger audiences who were less appreciative of experimentation, Hendrix appeases them with "Foxy Lady" before assaulting them with his "This Is America" experiment, which eventually morphs into the opening of "Purple Haze" to end the set.
-Written by Alan Bershaw
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