Popa Chubby

Electric Chubbyland, Vol. 2

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The second of two deceptively similar looking discs of Popa Chubby churning out live Hendrix covers (originally a double set on the Dixiefrog label before Blind Pig released them separately) recorded over a two-night stand in February 2006 features a few of Hendrix's hits but generally sticks with his more obscure material. It also contains one Chubby original, a 16-minute instrumental, heavily inspired by Hendrix, titled "San Catri." As in volume one, some tunes are extended to lengths that push the limits of plausibility, not to mention Chubby's abilities to keep them interesting. In particular the jazzy "Up from the Skies," a song that originally ran barely three minutes as a somewhat tossed off opener to Axis: Bold as Love, drags out to nearly eight minutes as Chubby works overtime on his trusty wah-wah pedal. Even then it seems to be artificially chopped off. Similarly "Little Wing" stretches to over nine minutes and Earl King's "Come On" tips the scales at six-and-a-half minutes. This wouldn't be a detriment if Chubby had the voice and chops to make these tunes distinctive or shapeshift them into a personal statement. But without the concert environment to pump up the energy, these longer versions seem bloated and occasionally even lackluster. Chubby closes with a searing version of "Fire" which only shows the missed opportunities as he charges through the tune without forcing it into the often directionless jams that sink other tracks. However, why it fades out just as things are getting interesting isn't explained. Chubby digs into the Hendrix catalog for the lesser known "Isabella" (performed as an instrumental) and "I Don't Live Today," and kicks off the set with a funky, spirited and often searing "Who Knows" from the short-lived Band of Gypsys. The backing bass and drums are adequate but display nowhere near the tension and release of any of Hendrix's musicians and the music suffers for it. There's nothing embarrassing here, but likewise nothing transcends its source material. As usual, experiencing the gig live was likely more appealing then listening to it after the fact.

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