This was one of the earlier Dagger Records releases; I only got around to it recently. Basically that's because I always figured, how good could rehearsals be? And these didn't seem to have too good a reputation.
I was wrong. It's one of the more satisfying Hendrix releases of its decade.
It draws from the 12/18-19/69 rehearsals for the New Year's 1970 gigs at the Fillmore East by the Band of Gypsys. Those gigs have been pretty thoroughly explored on disc; in addition, quite a few tracks cut by this lineup in the studio have been released. As a result there's nothing here that can't be heard elsewhere, except for the jazzy "Baggy's Jam," which isn't the most memorable part of the disc.
But as far as I can tell, most of what's here sounds better here than elsewhere. The best example is "Message To Love." It's a little slower than the more familiar versions, which turns out to enhance the groove. And since this was recorded live to two-track, nobody could mix the backing vocals too low, as is the case on other versions. Here they're right up front, emphasizing the ragged soul underpinnings of Jimi's music in this period. It sounds, in other words, like a band performance, like three friends making music together. That it all collapses at the end into a bunch of Pigmeat Markham and Moms Mabley impressions just makes it that much more fun. All this and jokes, too.