Jimi Hendrix: ‘Los Angeles Forum’ Review: An unforgettable return for an icon’s 80th

Although Jimi Hendrix passed away in September 1970, he has remained an everpresent fixture of culture owing to the gravitas of his talent and how markedly he reformulated rock ‘n’ roll. From the moment the axe entered his hands, the guitar wasn’t just an instrument; it was a weapon for changing the world. The six-string became a means of extracting one’s deepest emotions and moulding them into a profound sonic package.

Given that Hendrix passed away 52 years ago, the finite nature of information about the Seattle native is becoming increasingly evident. Still, luckily for us, a new album has been released, courtesy of Sony Music. This isn’t just any album, though. This is the storied Los Angeles Forum – April 26th, 1969, a live opus wherein we get to hear the man doing what he did best: perform to an audience. A remarkable sounding record for one that has sat dormant for 53 years, the record makes a solid case to be the definitive Hendrix live album. The fact it was remixed by longtime Hendrix producer Eddie Kramer just adds maximum effect.

Interestingly, the performance was recorded in the spring of 1969, a time when the original – and best – iteration of The Jimi Hendrix Experience was just about to fizzle out. Backed by drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding, the audio has never been released in its entirety, which is understandable, as Kramer’s treatment was worth waiting for.

Augmenting the excellence is that the band is as tight as we’ve ever heard them, with Mitchell and Redding’s rhythm section dynamic and thunderous, giving Hendrix the ballast he needed to dazzle the sold-out audience. There are extended versions of ‘Tax Free’, ‘Spanish Castle Magic’ and ‘Voodoo Child’, with the essence of a countercultural jam coursing throughout, whisking us back to the time when flower power was en vogue. There’s also a rumbling cover of Cream’s ‘Sunshine of your Love’, with Hendrix usurping the original.

At points, crowd control becomes a concern. Between some of the songs, we hear Hendrix’s attempts to plead with the audience to chill, to stop rushing onto the stage. As this was a period of great social turmoil, there was also a heavy police presence, with Hendrix changing the lyrics for ‘Purple Haze’ to “‘scuse me while I kiss that policeman” and dedicating ‘Spanish Castle Magic’ to “the plainclothes police out there and other goofballs”. This, added to the free-flowing nature of the performance, makes it one of the most immersive live albums I’ve ever heard.

Other cuts that feature are ‘Foxey Lady’, ‘Red House’ and ‘Star Spangled Banner’. Hendrix introduces the latter with “here’s a song we was all brainwashed with,” which was to be made iconic with his performance at Woodstock only four months later. Duly, from the sustained energy of the performance, you get the sense that this was an artist at the top of the game, and for this reason, all Hendrix fans need to hear it. It’s more authentic than any of his studio albums, with these versions of the songs just astounding.

The album is being released to precede what would have been Jimi Hendrix’s 80th birthday later this month, on Sunday, November 27th.

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