Here are the album reviews I wrote for the April issue of EL Magazine, which was distributed in Tokyo on March 25.
Both Sides of the Sky
-Jimi Hendrix (Legacy/Sony)
Stone Cold Soul: The Complete Capitol Recordings
-Jackie DeShannon (MSI)
Jimi Hendrix’s legacy as a musician transcends his specific skills as a guitarist and singer. He was forward-thinking without necessarily trying to make something new. His approach to the blues, to contemporary rock, to folk, even to pop was reverent of whatever source material he covered, but in the spirit of the time he endeavored to make it his own, and because he was so prolific the high points were geniunely progressive. Nobody sounded like that at the time and no one would build on that sound for years to come. Since then the Experience Hendrix enterprise has released scads of studio ephemera and concert tapes, and while there is little in this mountain of material that adds significantly to the man’s legend, nothing detracts from it either. This latest collection has been hailed as perhaps the first integrated “album” released since the Rainbow Bridge recordings, mainly because some of the tracks were intended for an album that was jettisoned. But just as the idea that the genius of his official ouevre can be partly credited to what was left out, Both Sides of the Sky should be judged by the fact that it was abandoned. For the most part, the blues cuts—a funky “Mannish Boy,” a jumping “Things I Used to Do” with Johnny Winter—stand up surprisingly well, while the two Stephen Stills collaborations, including one of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” seem to feature Hendrix hardly at all. There’s a Lonnie Youngblood vocal that feels like a curiosity and a few cuts that are obviously edits of things that were never finished. The best thing here, a song that shows Hendrix stretching stylistically, is “Stepping Stone,” and the notes say it was destined to be a single but withdrawn at the last minute. Otherwise, the album sounds like an artifact of its time, which isn’t a bad thing, but it ain’t the future. A new collection by Jackie DeShannon, originally recorded around 1970-71, is also very much a product of its time. DeShannon, who wrote some of the best pop songs of the 60s, was scooped up by Capitol Records in 1970 and sent to Memphis, where she recorded with Chips Moman (Elvis, Dusty Springfield). The idea was for Jackie to reconnect with her Southern roots and it’s obvious Capitol was looking for something as authentic as what The Band was giving them at the time, but for some reason they never released the recordings. Instead they hauled her back to Los Angeles and had her cut R&B versions of Dylan, Van Morrison, Hoyt Axton, and some of her own songs. The album didn’t sell so they let her go. Now everything she recorded for Capitol has been released as Stone Cold Soul, and while it doesn’t rewrite the book on her career, it does make the case that Jackie was a better soul artist than people thought. It’s not the future, but it’s really good. Continue reading