Jimi Hendrix's strong connection to the blues is hardly news (see MCA's 1994 Jimi Hendrix: Blues compilation), so enlisting a collection of blues-oriented players to interpret his songs should be a natural concept. There was a breakdown between concept and execution here, however, because the end result on Blue Haze is at best inconsistent and occasionally lapses into unintentional parody. The problems start out quickly as the album's opening track, "Angel," performed by singer Eric Bibb, is sincere, yet the cocktail-piano accompaniment would be more appropriate for a lounge happy hour than a blues-based album. Things improve substantially as a trio of seasoned blues-rock guitarists (Walter Trout, Popa Chubby, and Jimmy Thackery) tear through Band of Gypsys' "Who Knows," swapping vocals with a power and intensity all too rare for this patchy disc. Also on the plus side is Alvin Youngblood Hart, a veteran of tribute albums, digging into a gritty "Remember," Eric Gales and Trudy Lynn burning on a particularly swampy "Voodoo Chile," and -- interestingly -- Michelle Shocked, not necessarily known for her blues work, arguably turning in the album's most passionate performance as she swings through "House Burning Down" with a full, and oddly uncredited, horn section. But elsewhere the album either never catches fire, or completely stumbles. Walter Trout, who not surprisingly also records for Ruf, does nothing with "Hey Joe" that the bar band down your street couldn't do just as well; ex-Hendrix bandmember Buddy Miles sleepwalks through a competent but hardly thrilling "The Wind Cries Mary," and bluesman Bernard Allison unplugs for a carbon copy of Hendrix's acoustic "Hear My Train Comin'" without a fraction of the original's heartfelt emotion. Far more problematic are ex-Animals Eric Burdon's contributions, which provide the singer a forum for his free-form poetry as a proto-metal band bangs out turgid versions of "I Don't Live Today" and "Third Stone from the Sun." Obscure artists like Friend N Fellow, Aynsley Lister, and Ana Popovic turn in able but ultimately either uninspiring or oddly arranged performances of "Purple Haze," "Little Wing," and "Belly Button Window," respectively, which won't have you asking to hear more from them. Even the usually dependable Taj Mahal sounds sadly lost on a reggae-tinged "All Along the Watchtower" -- complete with fusion sax -- this is one of the album's most obvious missteps, proving that an intelligently conceived idea like Blue Haze still needs more than good intentions to succeed.
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AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz