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The Jimi Hendrix Experience
LIVE AT BERKELEY
(Experience Hendrix)
Stars graphics

The film Jimi Plays Berkeley is a psychedelic-era muddle — so ill-lit and full of fuzzy, grade-school visual effects that it distracts from the fiery spirit of the music Hendrix and his rekindled Experience, with Billy Cox on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums, played that night. So finally, here’s that music without any distractions. These 11 blues-soaked numbers comprise the Experience’s entire second show at the Berkeley Community Theatre May 30, 1970, a performance driven more by songs than improvisation. And they capture the sound of a new line-up (Cox, who appeared with Hendrix’s one-shot Woodstock band and in Band of Gypsys, replaced original Experience bassist Noel Redding) digesting the basics of the hits "Foxy Lady," "Purple Haze," and "Hey Joe" while working up the chord changes for new tunes, which include evolutionary versions of "Straight Ahead" and "Hey Baby (New Rising Son)." Even the performance of Hendrix’s anti-war anthem "Machine Gun" seems a bit truncated, if still growling. There’s also a ripping, feedback-soaked ramble through the "Star Spangled Banner," which Hendrix added to his concerts after he turned the national anthem into a subversive-but-beautiful sound collage at Woodstock. Hendrix is at his most exploratory on "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)," but even there he stays close to script, accenting the tough, gritty side of his playing rather than the more florid musical explorations he undertook when his comfort level was high. Nonetheless, what was perhaps playing it safe by Hendrix’s standards still seems uncannily aggressive and expansive compared to the work of other guitarist-songwriters.

BY TED DROZDOWSKI


Issue Date: October 10 - 16, 2003
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