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CD REVIEW: JIMI HENDRIX – Machine Gun, The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/1969

| 29 November 2016 | Reply

CD REVIEW: JIMI HENDRIX – Machine Gun, The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/1969
October 2016
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar


It’s hard to believe how confused and unfocussed Jimi Hendrix was in late ’69. Even after the commercial and critical successes which laid a foundation for generations of guitar players and rock lore-ists to pore over, study and analyse, Hendrix still struggled to assemble a band which could match his vision.

Having played a fiery and historically important, but far from definitive Woodstock show with his Gypsy, Sun & Rainbows line-up including Billy Cox, Mitch Mitchell and others, he rapidly broke the band up in favour of a tighter trio – Army buddy Cox and Buddy Miles on bass.

Still under-rehearsed, and with constant drug use dimming his clarity, Hendrix agreed to play four New Year’s gigs at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East, and this release presents the first of those shows in its entirety.

Hendrix was sick of what he saw as selling out to the charts, so this was to be a brand new start for him and his brand new band: NO HITS!

Many at the gig didn’t understand: expecting the songs they knew, this funkier AND bluesier new direction confused them. Miles’s singing half the songs confused them. The absence of Hey Joe, Purple Haze and the like annoyed them so much that for the remaining three shows Hendrix included the likes of Foxy Lady, Fire and Purple Haze in their set.

But this first show captures Hendrix on a bold new path – the songs may be lesser-known amongst his catalogue but his performance and playing is incendiary, incandescent and irrepressible.

The Band Of Gypsies itself folded all too soon – not even a month later. A mere nine months after these shows Hendrix was dead, his life thrown away to misadventure, and the greatest talent the guitar world has ever seen lost forever.

Would that he had a chance and the professional and personal support to properly develop this band and follow through with his vision, but too many bad drugs, bad advice, and bad blues amid a business which neither new how to nurture its artists, nor cared, resulted in tragedy. Machine Gun may stand as the final pristine recorded moment of Hendrix’s stellar career, and as such it is a pivotal document in a fleeting career that changed the topography of the entire musical world.

Category: CD Reviews

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