Sunday, January 12, 2014

Song Of The Week: 1/12/14

Song: "Hear My Train A Comin'"

Artist: Jimi Hendrix

Album: "Valleys Of Neptune"

Year: 2010

"Hear My Train A Comin'" is an epic blues number by legendary guitarist and performer Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix had been toying with this song from as far back as 1967 but the version I chose was a studio recording featuring the reunited Experience line-up with Jimi on guitar, Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums. This masterpiece was dusted off and released on the 2010 album "Valleys Of Neptune". The song itself appears to be about maybe being discarded or written off in your hometown as you're growing up, but then leaving that all behind, becoming huge and successful, then going back and proving that those people knew nothing, kind of like throwing it in their faces. Jimi Hendrix received his first guitar in the mid to late 50's and never looked back. As a teenager, he formed several bands before joining the Army. While in the Army, he met Billy Cox, a bass player, and the two had jammed several times. Cox would show up later on in Hendrix's career. After getting a discharge from the Army, Jimi began to make his main focus music. From 1963 till 1966, Jimi performed in many backup bands including those who worked with the likes of Wilson Pickett, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, The Isley Brothers and Little Richard. Chas Chandler, formerly of the band The Animals, saw Jimi perform live and decided he wanted to work with him. He felt Jimi's version of the song "Hey Joe" could be a huge hit. Chandler got Noel Redding to play bass and Mitch Mitchell to play drums and formed The Experience. "Hey Joe" was released as a single in 1966 and reached #6 on the U.K. charts. In 1967, Jimi and the Experience released "Purple Haze", reaching #3, and "The Wind Cries Mary", which peaked at #6. After working on several more songs, including "Are You Experienced", "Foxy Lady", "Red House", "Highway Chile" and "Fire", the band released their debut album, "Are You Experienced". This album peaked at #2 on the U.K. charts, only The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's" held them from the #1 spot. In the U.S., the album reached #5 on the Billboard 200 charts. In June of 1967, Hendrix appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival. This performance cemented him as an artist that would transcend the rest. He literally became a star after that performance, in the U.S. especially. In December of '67, The Experience released their second album, "Axis: Bold As Love". This album would reach #3 in the U.S., thanks in part to songs like "Spanish Castle Magic", "Wait Until Tomorrow", "Little Wing", "Castles Made Of Sand" and "Bold As Love". 1968 saw Jimi release his most successful album of his career, "Electric Ladyland". His cover of Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" became his highest selling single, so powerful that Dylan himself declared "Watchtower" Jimi's song! The album also featured such classics as "Crosstown Traffic", "Gypsy Eyes", "Burning Of The Midnight Lamp" and "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)". This album saw Hendrix really take control of the producing aspect of his music, a move that caused Chandler to sever his professional relationship with Jimi. Hendrix, along with the help of engineer Eddie Kramer, would handle all recording aspects of the album. In 1969, Noel Redding left the band after several conflicts with recording processes. Redding would be replaced by Jimi's old Army buddy Billy Cox. The newly formed band would now be called Band Of Gypsys and their first major event was headlining the historic Woodstock Festival in August of 1969. Shorly after that performance, Mitchell was replaced on drums by Buddy Miles. In 1970, the Band Of Gypsys were recorded on several nights at the legendary Fillmore East. Select recordings were put together as the live album "Band Of Gypsys". This album featured the epic "Machine Gun", one of Jimi's finest and most innovative performances. Shorly after that release, Jimi released the single "Stepping Stone", a single that he wasn't happy with production wise. By this time, the Band Of Gypsys had run their course and it was said that the original Experience would be getting back together. Mitchell was in, but Jimi informed Redding that he would not be a part of the band, choosing to stick with Billy Cox instead. The "new" Experience played their last show in the United States on August 1, 1970. The last time Jimi appeared on stage ever was at an appearance at Eric Burdon's new band War's concert. Burdon, of course, is most known as the lead singer of The Animals. It would be less than 48 hours after this small appearance that Jimi Hendrix would be dead. After spending the night with his girlfriend, she woke up to find Jimi breathing but unresponsive. He was rushed to the hospital where he died of what appears to have been a toxic combination of barbiturates and sleeping pills. At the young age of 27, Jimi Hendrix left this world as the greatest guitarist of all time. His innovations were legendary and his influence was staggering. His music still stands up today against anything that comes out. It's timeless. Luckily, Jimi left enough material, whether it was studio recordings or live material, that has seen the light of day in the years following his death. In 1971, "The Cry Of Love" and "Rainbow Bridge" were released and in 1972, "War Heroes" was released. All of these releases featured new material that Jimi had been working on prior to his death. Eddie Kramer was not happy about these releases because he wanted to put together the closest product of what would have been Jimi's next album. In 1997, Kramer got his wish when he produced "First Rays Of The New Rising Sun". This album is probably the best window into where Jimi was heading musically, even though Jimi felt that a lot of that material was unfinished or at least not up to his standards yet. In 2013, Experience Hendrix LCC, the family run estate that watches over the Jimi Hendrix brand, released "People, Hell & Angels", which was similar to "First Rays". In 2010, Experience Hendrix LCC in partnership with Sony Music's Legacy Recordings, released "Valleys Of Neptune", whose title track was one of the last remaining unreleased songs that Hendrix fans were yearning to have. Currently, it has been confirmed that Experience Hendrix LCC is in possession of several demos that Jimi had been working on in the months prior to his death for a concept project called "Black Gold". There has been no official release date for this material as of yet, nor any inkling as to what they are going to do with the material or how finished a product it is. Of course, anything new from Jimi will be well worth the wait!

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