Title - Machine Gun Jimi Hendrix Fillmore East 12/31/1969
Artist - Jimi Hendrix
As the '60s came to a close, Jimi Hendrix pushed the boundaries of funk, rock and R&B with a brand new group, Band of Gypsys. Together with bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles, Hendrix unveiled stunning, newly written material across four shows at the legendary Fillmore East in New York City.
This brand new release, Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/69 - out September 30th, 2016 via Experience Hendrix L.L.C. and Legacy Recordings and on CD, 2LP 180 Gram Vinyl, High Resolution SACD and Digital - marks the very first time the Band of Gypsys' first show has ever been released in its entirety. Indeed, it is a massive testament, once again, to Hendrix and his incomparable style of guitar slinging.
I have now listened to this CD three times on the trot and have to say that it is phenomenal. You don't have to be a Hendrix fan, persay to enjoy this for all self proclaimed lovers of music should be able to recognize majestic musical talent when they hear it. In what now turns out to be a rather brilliant eavesdrop into that debut performance of Jimi Hendrix’s short-lived, and yet eternally influential Band of Gypsys, you can only imagine what it must have felt to be there that night on September 30th, 1969.
The group played four historic concerts at the Fillmore East in New York City – two on New Year’s Eve 1969, and two on New Year’s Day 1970. As you can imagine, given the big media splurge about this new Experience Hendrix recording, Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/69 has never been released anywhere ever before. Indeed, the vast majority of the performances over those four nights have never even seen the light of day in any configuration, to be quite frank.
1. 'Power of Soul'
2. 'Lover Man'
3. 'Hear My Train a Comin'
6. 'Machine Gun'
8. 'Ezy Ryder'
9. 'Bleeding Heart'
10. 'Earth Blues'
11. 'Burning Desire'
As for the songs themselves, well, once introduced ("The Fillmore East welcomes back some very old friends with a brand new name - Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsys") we kick off with a frenetic 'Power of Soul', before Hendrix and his band of Gypsy brothers then bring us 'Lover Man', a stirring 'Hear My Train a Comin' (although Hendrix himself introduces it as 'Lonesome Train'), and then the Buddy Miles-led, fully charged, and so very harmonic 'Changes'.
Reading up on the history of this recording and it seems that it is a delightful mix of fresh new songs (at the time) combined with other material from the group that hadn't even been performed live then either. 'Izabella' is next, and with a brilliant rendition of the Howard Tate R&B hit 'Stop' sandwiched in between new tracks, the Delta blues soaked 'Machine Gun' and 'Ezy Ryder' ("We're gonna make up the words as we go along," Hendrix explains, "as we've got about 20 verses to it"), the roll was most definitely on.
As for those new tracks being combined with previously un-road tested other ones, Billy Cox has actually explained that. "We decided that we couldn’t do any songs that had already been released," he explains. "We wanted to give them something different. So we went at the project in a joyous, creative posture and ultimately developed the repertoire of the Band of Gypsys.”
This New Year's Eve set comes to a vibrant, extended guitar break close first with the only cover of the night, a slow poke, yet undeniably scorchingly stunning version of Elmore James’ 'Bleeding Heart', before sliding into the newly-created cut, the huge-sounding 'Earth Blues', and then the storming-at-times, mellow-and-passionate at others 'Burning Desire'.
As Hendrix quickly thanks everyone and wishes them all a goodnight, and some reverb comes back through a speaker with a guitar laid too close to it, the recording fades out. And even though the audience is still heard baying their constant approval for Hendrix and his band, it seems that Cox remembers Hendrix was quite alright coming off and staying off stage around that time. "After the gigs were finished, Jimi was quite relieved,” he recalls. "We felt the concerts went well. I might add that in previous gigs with the Experience he had used a fuzz face [tone control pedal] and a Wah-Wah pedal, then at Woodstock he used a fuzz face, Wah-Wah pedal and Uni-Vibe, but at the Fillmore East he used a fuzz face, Wah-Wah pedal, Uni-Vibe and Octavia and it was incredible. In fact you could hear all of it kicking in on ‘Machine Gun.’ It was incredible. There were people in the audience with their mouths open.”
Although his mainstream career spanned only four years, Jimi Hendrix is still widely regarded as one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of popular music; and one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes him as "arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music".
And finally, as a lot of people like these kind of facts, Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/69 was produced by Janie Hendrix, Eddie Kramer and John McDermott, the same team who have overseen all of Jimi Hendrix’s audio and audio visual releases by Experience Hendrix L.L.C. since 1995. As those in the know might know (!), Kramer served Jimi Hendrix as his primary recording engineer throughout his lifetime. Also, this newly mixed Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/69 is taken from the original 1” 8 track master tapes. Lastly, the entire album was mastered by Grammy Award winner Bernie Grundman.