Jimi Hendrix

Kiss the Sky

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At the start of the 1980s, it dawned on somebody in charge of Jimi Hendrix's musical legacy that a whole generation of new listeners had come of age since the guitarist's demise. That meant it was time for a fresh raid on the vaults and a fresh, authorized album release to fly the flag of the Hendrix estate, amid the steady stream of bootleg, gray market, and other unauthorized collections of his early work starting to fill up record store bins and browsers. Kiss the Sky did not just resurrect and recycle old familiar recordings, but included a pair of tracks that were new to most listeners and had a lot of meaning for serious fans. The album walked a fine line, emphasizing the more challenging side of Hendrix's work without ignoring some key elements of his mass appeal. The first side was the more daring, forcing the neophyte listener to plunge headfirst into tracks such as "Are You Experienced?" and "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)." The radio-friendly "Purple Haze" and "All Along the Watchtower" didn't show up until the second side of the original LP, while the rest represented some of his more far-out excursions. The latter fit in perfectly with what new listeners had likely heard and seen of him (mostly the clip of "The Star Spangled Banner" from Woodstock). Actually, the resulting album is surprisingly strong, even getting in enough material based on traditional blues -- embodied most notably in the previously unissued live rendition of Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor" from the Monterey Pop Festival -- so that most of the major facets of his work were touched upon. And "Killing Floor" and the unedited version of "Red House" also made this an essential acquisition for veteran fans. Heard 25 years on, the CD edition has held up amazingly well, despite the numerous compilations that have supplanted this release. The audio quality is still impressive, and the music speaks for itself, very boldly.

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