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On 5 March, Experience Hendrix LLC and Legacy Recordings releases People, Hell And Angels, a new collection of previously unreleased Jimi Hendrix recordings culled from sessions between early 1968 and late '69, which saw the guitarist assuming the producer role and experimenting with different groups of musicians outside of the original Jimi Hendrix Experince trio.
"It's a really exciting and interesting album," says John McDermott, who co-produced the set with Eddie Kramer and Janie Hendrix. "The idea on Valleys Of Neptune was to show the end of the original Jimi Hendrix Experience, and with People, Hell And Angels, we moved the timeline up some. We looked at the remaining material, and the idea was to fill in the portrait as best we could."
The recordings on People, Hell And Angels feature the first-ever studio session by the Band Of Gypsys, along with the group that Hendrix assembled for Woodstock, and also it showcases collaborations with old friends and new friends. "He was widening the net," says McDermott. "Once the Experience were no longer going to be an effective recording unit, he got Billy Cox and Buddy Miles, as well as additional percussion and Larry Lee on additional guitar. And there's a track where his friend Stephen Stills bass. There's experimentation, but it's not in a loose, unformed way; Jimi was working with really compelling song structures, and he was playing great, too." (To check out audio of the track Somewhere, which features Buddy Miles and Stephen Stills, click here.)
During this period, Hendrix worked at various facilities – New York's Record Plant, Hit Factory and Sound Center, along with the Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama – and with the exception of the track Somewhere, everything was recorded 16-track onto two-inch tape. “They were mainly Scotch tapes, and they were great shape," says McDermott. "Jimi was fortunate in that he was working at a time before tape got thinner. We didn’t have to do any baking to the recordings. Everything held up beautifully.”
Hendrix's last official album with the Experience was 1968's Electric Ladyland, and the tracks on People, Hell And Angels offer fascinating insights as to the musical direction he was entertaining on his planned double album First Rays Of The New Rising Sun. "Jimi was working with friends who shared a common language with him," says McDermott. "To be able to say to people who knew Elmore James, ‘I want to get an entirely different beat to this. I want to take this somewhere new. Here’s where we’re going’ – that was exciting for him. Everybody fell right in and tore into the music.
“What’s fascinating about Jimi is that one week of his felt like a year for other artists. There was so much creativity and so many possibilities. He was really looking to challenge himself. When he had an idea, he chased it fearlessly."
On the following pages, John McDermott walks us through Jimi Hendrix's People, Hell And Angels track-by-track.