So here's what you do. You take "Let Me Move You" from People, Hell And Angels, "Georgia Blues" and "Blue Window" from Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues, and "Jimi/Jimmy Jam" from Hear My Music and you put them all together in that order. What you've got is a good forty-five minute look at Jimi Hendrix in non-Experience musical settings in the final weeks of the Experience. Jimi with horns and another singer, Jimi with another guitarist. And, right, it's all brilliant.
I love Jimi enough to have collected almost everything that's been released. But there are issues, man... One is that the official releases, although they've mostly been pretty conscientious in the last couple of decades in how they treat the individual recordings, have been real chaotic in how they compile them. You never get anything like an orderly look at any given set of studio sessions or period of his career - it's always just thrown together. And only part of this is the record companies' fault: after he broke with Chas Chandler, Jimi's studio work itself was chaotic. As everybody knows he spent two years trying to come up with a follow-up to Electric Ladyland, and instead came up with a mountain of semi-finished, or maybe over-finished, recordings. He worked so much on a lot of it that it gets hard to figure out where one song ends and another begins. It's all good, but it's all real confusing.
Every once in a while I dive back in and try to make sense of it again. Right now my strategy is to break it down into manageable clusters of recordings, not only dating from the same general period but maybe linked by some secondary factor, like what might have been on an album if he'd been forced to submit one that month, or something like that.
Anyway, that's how I arrived at putting these four tunes together. In early '69 he was still working with Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding as the Experience, but he was getting restless. He'd dissolve the group in June, but in fact early/mid April saw their last studio sessions together. In late April and May he'd be recording with Mitchell and Billy Cox, rather than Redding: a different bag. But as these four recordings show, Jimi was already taking tentative steps outside the experience in March.
"Let Me Move You" and "Georgia Blues" see Jimi reunited with R&B singer Lonnie Youngblood, with whom he had recorded as a sideman back in 1966. Youngblood and his band, as evidenced by these recordings, were tight, professional, and very soulful. The first track is a driving, up-tempo hard soul number, and Youngblood's Otis Redding-ish vocals prove a good match for Jimi's juiced-up R&B guitar. Lonnie's saxophone and John Winfield's organ keep things much tighter than the average Experience recording from this period, and to good effect. Jimi reveled in freedom, but a few musical restrictions often seem to have focused his playing in salutary ways. This is a great record and it's hard to believe it stayed in the vaults for over forty years. "Georgia Blues" is slightly less revelatory, if only because this kind of slow blues is familiar to Hendrix fans, but it's just as masterful. Again the crowded musical setting forces Jimi to focus his playing, and he sounds like a comfortable and authoritative member of a strong ensemble here. In both cases Jimi is credited as the songwriter, which suggests that he had something in mind with these sessions, rather than that he just dropped in on old friend. Wonder what kept him from pursuing this direction.
"Blue Window" was recorded with the Buddy Miles Express, minus their guitarist. Jimi sings on this one, another original; Buddy scats a little late in the jam. Once again it's a big band performance: this time multiple horn players, plus keyboards and a very assertive drummer. Miles would of course go on to play a big part in Jimi's music over the next few months (and Jimi had already played producer for him), but always in a trio format. This revue-style thing was not something Jimi would revisit. But this record is wonderful. It's a beautiful groove they lay down, and Jimi sounds comfortable and, again, like part of the band. Even though it's a totally different lineup, this complements the two Youngblood tracks nicely.
The last one is a slight change of pace: no horns, no keyboards. It's a jam between Jimi, Mitch, bassist Dave Holland, and Buddy Miles's guitarist Jim McCarty (not the Yardbird of the same name). It's much looser, unsurprisingly much more of a jam, but still really interesting. It cycles through several different moods and grooves, and both Holland and (more surprisingly) McCarty are wonderfully assertive. McCarty takes a long, satisfying solo late in the recording, and his tone and moods are wonderfully different from Jimi's - nice contrast, and technically able to stand in the same room as Jimi, if not on the same platform. They even do some dual-guitar lines near the end, conjuring up shades of the Allmans.
There's more from this session, and no doubt it'll be released in some form someday, but I don't find it nearly as interesting. Both the McLaughlin/Hendrix jam and the "Jimi/Jimmy" jam meander, but whereas I find the latter consistently interesting, always changing, and always going somewhere (even if it is at a pretty leisurely pace), the McLaughlin one seems pretty repetitive to me.
Thus, these four tracks. They work well together. There's your Jimi for the afternoon.