More posthumous treats: Hendrix, Prince, Strummer, Petty, Cornell

By Tom Von Malder | Dec 06, 2018
Photo by: Experience Hendrix/Legacy Recordings The new cover art for Jimi Hendrix's "Electric Ladyland," by the late Linda (McCartney) Eastman, is of the band and children at the statue of Alice in Wonderland in New York City's Central Park.

Owls Head — The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland Deluxe Edition (Experience Hendrix/Legacy, 3 CDs, 3:42:22, + Blu-ray, 86 min.). Released in 1968, this was the third and final studio album by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, which consisted on Hendrix on guitar and vocals, Mitch Miller on drums and Noel Redding on bass. During its recording, the relationship between Redding, who originally was a guitarist and still played rhythm guitar, and Hendrix was starting to deteriorate. Several recordings were made without Redding, who eventually was replaced by Billy Cox when Hendrix expanded beyond a trio to larger groups. Drummer Buddy Miles, who plays on a couple tracks here, also became part of the larger groups.

"Electric Ladyland," originally released as a double-vinyl effort, was a groundbreaking classic. It begins with the strange, psychedelic  aural journey, "... And the Gods Made Love"; includes such Hendrix classics as  "Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)" with its delicate vocal harmonies, "Crosstown Traffic," "Voodoo Chile" and "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)," with its classic, instantly identifiable funky opening riff; and a classic cover of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" that replaced Dylan's own version as the definitive one. "Voodoo Chile," which features Steve Winwood, then of Traffic, on bass and organ, extends to 15 minutes, while "1983 ...(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)" stretches  to 13:39 in its experimentation. The original album has been remastered by Bernie Grundman from the original analog tapes.

This deluxe edition comes with a second CD of early takes of the album's songs, including Hendrix's own, intimate demos, recorded in his room at the Drake Hotel in New York City the previous March. On these 12 tracks, one hears Hendrix as composer, working out how the songs should sound. The recordings are very raw ... just Hendrix with his guitar and a small amplifier. The disc also has studio recordings of "Angel Caterina" (later to become "1983")and Redding's "Little Miss Strange," with Miles on drums. Redding plays bass on "Angel Caterina," but switches to guitar on "Little Miss Strange." The two studio takes on "Long Hot Summer Night" include just Al Kooper on piano on take one and Kooper and Mitchell on take 14.

Disc three is a Sept. 14, 1968 concert at the Hollywood Bowl in California, where the band was hot and the crowd very boisterous, with people jumping in and out of the pool of water that separated the stage from the concert seating. One hears Hendrix admonishing the crowd a couple of times. The concert opens with "Are You Experienced?," then previews "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" from the new album, which was to come out in two weeks. This recording, made surreptitiously from the house mixing console onto a two-track tape machine, runs out near the end of "Foxey Lady" and only gets swapped out in time to catch the end of "Fire." Hendrix refers to the breakup of Cream, one of his favorite bands, before the trio performs Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" as an instrumental. The show (68 minutes captured here) concludes with a fiery "Star Spangled Banner" that bleeds into "Purple Haze."

The final disc is a Blu-ray that includes the original "Electric Ladyland" stereo mixes in high resolution audio, as well as immersive 5.1 Surround Sound mixes, created by original album engineer Eddie Kramer and sourced directly from the original multi-track tapes. The Surround Sound sounds awesome.

Finally, the Blu-ray contains an expanded version (86 min.) of the restored documentary, "At Last ... The Beginning: The Making of Electric Ladyland," which originally was produced in 1997 as part of the Classic Album television series. This version adds almost 40 minutes of additional content. Among those interviewed are Chas Chandler, who was the band's co-manager and initial producer of the album (Chandler eventually walked away as he disliked the album's direction away from radio-friendly short songs), remaining Experience members Mitchell and Redding, and Kramer, who talks about the album and plays various individual tracks from the control room board. Joining Kramer at times are drummer Miles and bassist Jack Casady, who played on "Voodoo Chile" while a member of Jefferson Airplane. Also interviewed are Winwood and organist Mike Finnigan, who recreates his moments on the record. Among the many interesting things in the documentary is how Hendrix disliked his own voice, but Chandler liked it for its rhythm, and that an early pressing of the music was labeled "Electric Landlady."

The four discs are housed on the inside covers of a full-color, 48-page hardcover book that contains Hendrix's handwritten lyrics, poem and instructions to his record label about the cover, as well as previously unpublished photos from the recording sessions, taken by Kramer. The new cover art, by the late Linda (McCartney) Eastman, is of the band and children at the statue of Alice in Wonderland in New York City's Central Park. The booklet also includes the controversial UK gatefold photo of 19 naked women, which Hendrix famously disliked. The book also has essays by music critic David Fricke and producer John McDermott. Grade: box set A+

Prince: Piano & a Microphone 1983 (Warner Bros/NPG CD, 34:19). This is another intimate look at a songwriter in the process of his craft. The recordings were made in Prince's home studio in Chanhassen, Minn. between the creation of his "1999" and "Purple Rain" albums. The Prince here is freewheeling and improvisational at the piano.

The opening "17 Days," which later was released as the B side of "When Doves Cry," is jazzy at times. It is followed by about 90 seconds of "Purple Rain," before Prince covers Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You." That is followed by the traditional spiritual, "Mary Don't You Weep," which is done as blues. Prince's recording of "Mary Don't You Weep" is used during the closing credits of Spike Lee's "BlacKkKlansman" film. The funky "Strange Relationship" heard here would surface as a finished track on 1987's "Sign O' the Times" album. Prince also reworks "International Man," which appeared on "1999," into a less steamy version and substitutes some vocalizing for words. A brief, jazzy "Wednesday" is followed by two songs that never made any of his albums: "Cold Coffee & Cocaine," which is more blues and features short shouts, and "Why the Butterflies." The first seven tracks are played without any breaks.

"This raw, intimate recording, which took place at the start of Prince's career right before he achieved international stardom, is similar in format to the 'Piano & A Microphone Tour' that he ended his career with in 2016," said Prince Estate entertainment adviser Troy Carter in a press release. Grade: B+

Joe Strummer: Joe Strummer 001 (Ignition, 2 CDs, 2:05:33). This first career-spanning compilation of Strummer's career apart from The Clash has 32 tracks,  with the first disc being favorites from his recordings with the 101ers and The Mescaleros, as well as his solo albums and surprisingly extensive soundtrack work. The second disc contains 12 previously unreleased recordings.

Looking at the unreleased material first, there is an early demo of "This Is England," then known as "Czechoslovak Song/Where Is England," and a solo demo of "Letsagetabitarockin'," recorded in Elgin Avenue in 1975. There are two versions of "Pouring Rain," a 1984 version with Clash-mates Paul Simonon and Pete Howard and a 1993 solo version. Both the straight blues of "Crying on 23rd," credited to The Soothsayers, and "2 Bullets," credited to Pearl Harbour, are outtakes from the film "Sid & Nancy." "London Is Burning" is bouncy rock (and one of the last songs Strummer recorded; he died in December 2002), but "The Cool Impossible" just kind of meanders. The disc ends with another Clash mini -reunion, as Mick Jones joins Strummer on "U.S. North," an unused song from the film "Candy Mountain" that has a nice pop melody, stretches to 10:32 and is the best of the unreleased tracks.

After his death, it was learned Strummer was an archivist of his own work, having barns full of writings and tapes stored in his back garden. There are now more than 20,000 items in the Joe Strummer Archive. The archiving of this material and compiling of this collection was overseen by Strummer's widow, Lucinda Tait, and compilation producer Robert Gordon McHarg III. The set can be bought as a hardcover book, resembling a notebook that contains handwritten lyrics and drawings. All tracks were restored and mastered by Grammy Award winner Peter J. Moore at the E. Room in Toronto, Canada.

Of the disc one material, The 101ers (1975-76) includes the hard rockabilly of "Letagetabitarockin'" and "Keys To Your Heart," the band's debut single. "Love Kills" is from "Sid & Nancy," "Tennessee Rain" from "Walker," both films directed by Alex Cox, and "Trash City" from "Permanent Record," directed by Marisa Silver. Strummer did "Burning Lights" and "Afro-Cuban Be-Bop," credited to The Astro-Physicians, for the film "I Hired a Contract Killer," directed by Aki Kaurismaki. There is an African feel to "Sandpaper Blues" and old style rock piano on "It's a Rockin' World," which features Isaac Hayes on guest vocals. Two standout collaborations are with Johnny Cash on "Redemption Song," a Bob Marley cover, and with Jimmy Cliff on their co-written "Over the Border."

Six tracks are with The Mescaleros (he recorded three albums with the band of that name), including "Yalla Yalla," with its interesting electronics, the upbeat "Johnny Appleseed," and "Minstrel Boy" from the film "Black Hawk Down," which features military drumming and bagpipes. Overall, the collection showcases the wide variety of styles that Strummer embraced. Grade: B+

Tom Petty: An American Treasure (Reprise, 4 CDs, 4:05:31). This strong collection features 60 Petty tracks, 14 of which are alternate versions, 15 are live, 11 are previously unreleased and most of the rest are key album tracks that focus on Petty as a songwriter and arranger. The discs come in a CD case-sized, 52-page hardcover book that features rare photos and commentary on each songs by one or two of Dana Petty, his wife; Adria Petty, his daughter; Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench; and Ryan Ulyate, who engineered, mixed and co-produced Petty's projects since 2007. The bulk of the notes are Campbell and Tench recalling the creation of the tracks.

Best of the unreleased tracks is the jangly "Surrender," which was often played live; the Southern soul of "Lost In Your Eyes"; and the autobiographical rocker, "Bus To Tampa Bay." "Keep a Little Soul" and "Keeping Me Alive" are both chugging rockers, while "Wake Up Time" has a pretty melody. "Gainsville" is another autobiographical song, while "Lonesome Dave" is a rockabilly rave-up and "Walkin' From the Fire" is slide guitar-driven swamp rock. "Two Men Talking" is another song that was often performed live, while "I Don't Belong" is a darker song.

The live material includes the then-new "Listen To Her Heart" from 1977 and such hits as "Breakdown," "Even the Losers," "A Woman in Love" and "I Won't Back Down." There is a live version of "Insider," sung with Stevie Nicks, who also sings on the demo version of "The Apartment Song." Roger McGuinn of The Byrds is a gust on the wonderful early take of "King of the Hill." Ringo Starr plays drums on the album track, "To Find a Friend." Other solid rockers that were album cuts include "Rebels," "Deliver Me" and "Good Enough." The terrific Jeff Lynne-produced "Please Don't Treat Me Like a Stranger" was only the B side of a UK single.

Of the alternate versions, a couple, including "Where the Time Comes" and "Here Comes My Girl," eliminate the fadeout at the end, so the listener can hear some brief studio chatter. "What Are You Doing in My Life" includes Petty's chanting a name on the close. The version here of "You're Gonna Get It" pulls up the strings in the mix and ends with the strings. There is a different vocal approach on an earlier attempt at "Louisiana Rain" and a version of "Straight Into Darkness" that was recorded for French TV. Grade: A+

Chris Cornell: Chris Cornell (UMe, 4 CDs, 4:59:46). Most people of a certain age will remember Cornell as the frontman and songwriter for Seattle's Soundgarten, a band born of grunge that helped spearhead the alternative rock movement. Yet in this collection, Cornell seems more a balladeer. The set was curated by his wife, Vicky, in collaboration with his bandmates and friends. As a general rule, there are two selections from each album he made with Soundgarden (12 tracks), Temple of the Dog (2) and Audioslave (6). The fourth disc consists of 15 live tracks that show off his near four-octave vocal range.

The "bad boy" grunge days, when the band was on Sub Pop Records, is represented by "Hunted Down," "Kingdom of Come," "Flower" and "All Your Lies" (the best of the four),but they soon give way to major label days of the albums "Louder Than Love," "Badmotorfinger," "Superunknown" (with the massive hit, "Black Hole Sun") and "Down on the Upside." "Temple of the Dog," a one-off tribute band to his late friend Andrew Wood, also gets to tracks, including "Say Hello 2 Heaven" and "Hunger Strike," both impressive.

Like Joe Strummer, there is a surprising number of film score work, including the softer "Seasons" from the "Singles" soundtrack, the  exciting James Bond theme, "You Know My Name," from "Casino Royale," and songs from "Machine Gun Preacher," "12 Years a Slave" and "Avengers." Audioslave, a group he formed with the three remaining members of Rage Against the Machine, also gets two tracks from each of the band's three albums, including the Led Zeppelin-like "Cochise" (later there is a cover of Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" done with Santana), the wah-wah filled "Doesn't Remind Me" and "Shape of Things To Come." Also successful is a Steve Aoki remix of the dance-oriented "Part of Me."

There is a Cornell-written track recorded with Slash for the former Guns 'n' Roses guitarist's eponymous album; a dramatic interpretation of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean"; an overwrought cover of "Stay With Me Baby" for the "Vinyl" HBO series; and a Christmas-oriented "Ave Maria" that is simply too much. A live acoustic trio includes a cover of John Lennon's "Imagine," during which Cornell drags out the words too much.

There are 10 previously unreleased tracks, including the organ-filled "When Bad Does Good." The other nine unreleased tracks are on the live disc and includes covers of U2's "One," Prince's "Nothing Compares  2 U," The Beatles' "A Day in the Life," Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" and, performed with Cat Stevens, Stevens' "Wild World." The final collection song is a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Thank You," one of three selections recorded live in Sweden.

The  limited edition set comes with a 50-page booklet that includes an essay by Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil. There are shorter writings by Soundgarden and Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron, Pearl Jam's Mike McCready, who played on "Temple of the Dog," Audioslave's Tom Morello and record producer Brendan O'Brien. The booklet also contains personnel and recording information for each track and 24 photos. Grade: B+

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