Picks and Pans Review: Band of Gypsys Voodoo Soup

UPDATED 05/01/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/01/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT

Jimi Hendrix

Many people play guitar. Jimi made it speak in tongues. Band of Gypsys (Capitol) documents Hendrix's 1969 New Year's Eve concert at the Fillmore East, the New York City rock Mecca of that era. It's an essential recording because, in it, Hendrix—backed by drummer Buddy Miles and bass player Billy Cox—accomplished the impossible: he shattered the limits of a single amplified guitar in a performance setting with his fluid and full-bodied attack. Hendrix actually makes it sound as if he's playing both lead and rhythm guitars simultaneously. This remastered recording delivers Jimi's brilliance—from the sonic squall of "Machine Gun" to the curtains of feedback that conclude "Message of Love"—with marvelous clarity.

Sloppier but still instructive is Voodoo Soup (MCA), a collection of songs that was supposed to have made up Hendrix's fourth studio album—had he not died of an overdose of barbiturates in 1970 at age 27. Most of this material appeared on the posthumous release The Cry of Love (Reprise). Without the benefit of overdubs, multitracking and second takes, the record sounds more like a rehearsal than a studio session, and Hendrix's solos on "Drifting" and "Angel" contain some sour clunkers. Still, Hendrix's willingness to experiment is impressive. If there's a rock heaven, hosts of angels are sitting around with their mouths agape listening to Jimi jam.

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