Jimi Hendrix Live at Winterland

Eleven titles were released in 1987 when Ryko Distribution issued Live At Winterland from The Jimi Hendrix Experience.  The potent new team of Experience Hendrix with Sony Legacy issuing a quartet of Hendrix music – an expanded edition of the venerable old lp Hendrix in The West, Murray Lerner’s Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix Live at the Isle of Wight (DVD), a DVD with every Hendrix appearance on the Dick Cavett Show and another four discs, a box set of Jimi Hendrix Live at Winterland.

This review will focus on Winterland, specifically disc 4.  With 9 tracks each on discs one and two, eleven on disc three, the fourth is called the “bonus disc” which includes a revealing  backstage interview from the Boston Garden (about a month after the Winterland shows) as track seven preceded by six selections: “Foxey Lady” (10/12/68), “Are You Experienced” (10/10/68), “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” 10/10/68, “Red House” (10/10/68), “Star Spangled Banner” (10/11/68) and “Purple Haze” (10/11/68).   Now we purists, of course, may have preferred all three double dates (six shows in all, two each night) issued in the order as Jimi performed the titles…that concert experience times six, top to bottom, but just having the proper dates, the superb mastering, the booklet and more will have to suffice for the time being.

Rolling Stone writer David Fricke’s June 2011 liner notes explain details about the Winterland shows…how Wally Heider recorded “every note” – all of the music – and a bit about Jimi’s artistic presence at that point in time.

As a stand alone Disc 4 is a valuable library of music, both Red House and Star Spangled Banner displaying some of Hendrix’s musical eloquence along with cosmic bursts and delightful nuances put out there in inspiring fashion.  “Purple Haze” falls apart…wonderfully, the drums and bass playing on different planets the way Bachman Turner Overdrive went sideways during an 1980’s tour (though these days they are said to have come back down to earth and have it together)…but Jimi is the central point and, he, after all, is what we’ve come to hear.  No slight to Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding…with all three musicians having drifted from this mortal coil it is exciting to hear this music pouring from the speakers in all its psychedelic jazz-tinged glory.  Were disc four issued in the 1970s on Reprise some critics might have called it an instant classic.  In this setting its merely the bonus material…but it is staggeringly powerful and at least gives us a chance to enjoy …and study…the masterful sounds Hendrix generated.  Fun enlightenment is what it is.

Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.