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© Michael Ochs Archives/Corbis
Stone Free was the first song Hendrix wrote when he arrived in England in 1966, and one of his earliest recordings with the Experience. Produced by his then-manager, Chas Chandler, it appeared as the B-side to Hey Joe.
Apparently, the guitarist felt he had a better take in him, and this recording, from April and May of 1969, puts things right. Jimi’s old army buddy, bassist Billy Cox (replacing the soon-to-be jettisoned Noel Redding) finds air between Mitch Mitchell’s drum fills that never before existed. This getting-to-know-you performance is one of playful discovery.
The tempo is slower than the original and the production is stripped down (gone are the percussive overdubs), but the mood is both intimate and party-like. Hendrix’s vocals are pure, sustained elation; he’s on the verge of becoming, transcending, and he knows it.
The gritty, gnarly guitar solo is a mini star-turn, and when Hendrix lets out a excited “whoo!” in the middle there can be no doubt that he just blew his own mind.