January 4, 1999
[a]Jon Spencer[/a] may play them with a twist of hardcore irony and postmodern chic but to [B]Hendrix[/B], the blues were the real deal...
8 / 10
Jon Spencer may play them with a twist of hardcore irony and postmodern chic but to Hendrix, the blues were the real deal: a mere matter of course for a black soul brother who picked up a guitar in the '50s and breathed in the life force of Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and Howlin' Wolf.
For Jimi and his peers, there was no room for analysis, soul-searching or retrospection. For them, the 12-bar rhythm and the sex-frenzied solo was a direct line to the heart of perfection. And this is why, when you look in the face of the blues guitarist, it is always enveloped in the throes of orgasmic tension. It is often said that Hendrix could play the guitar in more positions than anyone else. If that isn't a double entendre, I don't know what is.
Jimi Hendrix was arguably the sexiest blues player that ever graced the planet. Unlike many of his mentors he didn't look insane or wretched - instead he paraded his wares with all the psychedelic nous he could muster and dressed accordingly. And this is important because without that image, or Jimi's balmy vocal stabs, this compilation could just be another meandering blues jam conjuring up horrifying images of university muso societies. Alas, such is the bludgeoning, all-pervasive effect of white-boy imitation.
Still, nothing can really detract from the definitive electric blues sound that Hendrix pioneered. Here, we get the upbeat impertinence of 'Jelly 292', the proto-metal of 1968's 'Electric Church Red House', the Kravitz blueprint that is 'Catfish Blues' from '67, or Hendrix's homages to the true grass roots of the genre, 'Hear My Train A-Comin'' and the legendary 'Red House', the latter from '66. The man respectfully took everything he needed, held his own, and injected his playing with a cocky youthfulness that popularised the blues in a way that no-one had ever done before.
Digital remastering might not be an exciting reason for repackaging a compilation, but the excellent Experience Hendrix series - a reissue programme designed to better benefit Hendrix's surviving family - has again done the right thing. Sometimes, the best is history.
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