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A Fantastic Show
on 20 October 2003
It's a fantastic concert.
This is the latest in a series of wonderful releases from Experience Hendrix over the past few years. It is clear that the Hendrix Estate aren't sure of the best way to market Jimi's live concerts, and they've tried a range of approaches. "Live at Fillmore East" was a 2CD compilation from four concerts - a great set for the casual fan but the serious completists complained that they would rather have had a box set of all four shows in their entirety. The Isle of Wight concert ("Blue Wild Angel") was released in two formats, a single CD of highlights for the casual fan and a 2CD set for the serious completists - so everyone was happy. Now the second of the two Berkeley concerts has been released in its entirety, and I would suggest this is good news for both the casual fan and the completist.
Personally I would have preferred a complete set of both concerts, perhaps marketed like "Blue Wild Angel", but on balance I'm pleased that Experience Hendrix have opted to issue this concert in its entirety. Perhaps the first show will follow in due course.
The second concert was the better of the two shows and altogether a much tighter show. OK, the two most famous Berkeley recordings "Hear my train a coming" and "Blue Suede Shoes" were highlights of the first show and need to be in any Jimi collection, but most fans will already have them already on the "Voodoo Child" set or the "Experience" Box Set anyway. The first show peaked early with those two fantastic tracks and rambled a bit in the second half when Jimi was suffering from tuning problems.
But let's concentrate on this new release of the second show. First of all, the sound and the mix are fantastic and knock spots off the bootleg tapes that have been circulating for years. The performance is tight, enthusiastic, energetic and a joy from beginning to end. There's a killer sequence of tracks at the opening - "Pass it on" (a fascinating work in progress), followed by "Hey Baby" (new to both the band and the audience and sounding as fresh as a daisy), "Lover Man" (the definitive version previously available on "In the West", complete with the "Flight of the Bumble Bee" solo"), and tight renditions of "Stone Free" and "Hey Joe". You are halfway through the concert before Jimi even pauses for breath! The rest of the concert is largely Jimi's standard 1970 show closers but - with the possible exception of "Foxy Lady", where Jimi has a tuning problem and changes guitar half-way through - all are close to definitive performances, with "Machine Gun" and "Voodoo Chile" particular standouts.
The proof of this CD is in the listening. It is a fantastic concert for the newcomer and the completist. It's certainly not a wasted opportunity. A compilation of both Berkeley concerts definitely would have been a wasted opportunity, and the Hendrix Estate should be congratulated for not going down that easy route. Maybe one day we'll get an official release of the first concert, but I suspect we'll still play this one more.