Released just over two years after Jimi Hendrix’s tragic death, this album represents probably the finest collection of his live work.
Quite why it is called “Hendrix in the West” has always been a bit of a mystery, as it is a compilation of live recording from various locations including the Royal Albert Hall in London, San Diego Sports Arena, Berkley Community Theatre, and the Isle of Wight. But the album just gleams with quality. Not only is the music out of this world, but the atmosphere given off by Hendrix’s chat to the audience is also spellbinding.
For the opening song the band come on stage still tuning up, with the man himself claiming to have been asleep two minutes before hitting the stage. They then open up with a jammed version of the British national anthem, with Hendrix demanding everybody get to their feet. This is followed by The Beatles “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart Clubs Band”, first played by Hendrix in front of Paul McCartney and George Harrison three days after the album was released – much to their mutual satisfaction.
Now fully warmed up, Hendrix then gets down to business with a beautiful version of “Little Wing”, played with great love and tenderness. Then the rule book is thrown out the window with a storm through Hendrix’s blues classic “Red House”, coming in at over thirteen minutes and in those days people did not know a guitar could be made to make such erotic noises. This version of “Red House” is simply jaw dropping in its power.
Next we have Hendrix’s take on the Chuck Berry classic “Johnny B. Goode”, and he plays it at the speed of sound with the band having terrible difficulty keeping up with their leader. If you consider the musical ability of those backing the guitarist, that in itself speaks volumes. During the guitar breaks the strings literally take off.
Bringing things back to earth we get a very accomplished run through of “Lover Man” followed by a completely unrehearsed, but nevertheless brilliant Hendrixfied version of Carl Perkins “Blue Suede Shoes”.
There is no other way of finishing this album than with a version of the Hendrix self-penned classic “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”. Many people have had a stab at playing this song, but none really come close to the master and this is the best version ever recorded. It literally chops down mountains and is worth the price of the album on its own.
The album was remastered in 2011 and some of the tracks were switched around and tragically the original version of “Voodoo Child” was swapped with another longer edition from a sound check. Longer yes, but not better. If you can get your hands on an original copy I think you are getting the better of the deal.
I am not a great lover of posthumous releases, but in the case of “Hendrix In The West” I will willingly make an exception.
Mott the Dog Rating: 5 Stars.
Jimi Hendrix – guitar and vocals
Noel Redding – bass guitar
Mitch Mitchell – drums
Billy Cox – bass guitar
Tracks on original 1972 release:
British National Anthem
Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Johnny B. Goode
Blue Suede Shoes
Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)
Note: Written in wonderment by Mott The Dog and Hells Bells at Jameson’s The Irish Pub, Soi AR, North Pattaya.