Jimi Hendrix

Isle of Wight '70

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It's rather unsettling to watch Jimi Hendrix's Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 knowing that he died 19 days after this August 30, 1970, performance. He seemed mostly tired and indifferent during this U.K. festival appearance, on which he was backed by Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell and Band of Gypsies bass guitarist Billy Cox. Personal problems, business pressures, and exhaustion were finally catching up to Hendrix. Despite it all, the best moments of Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 show that Hendrix's playing occasionally seemed effortless and natural. (Guitar fanatics will be fascinated by watching Hendrix play a Gibson Flying V on a handful of songs instead of his trademark, upside-down Fender Stratocaster.) Hendrix playfully noodles around with brief bits of "God Save the Queen" and the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" before launching into "Spanish Castle Magic." Hendrix's definitive interpretation of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" sounds good here, but it lacks the extra sonic polish of the studio version. "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" features a crisp, biting solo and a soft, clean-sounding middle section. After the song, Hendrix makes his first cryptic reference to "technical difficulties," which agitate him as the set progresses. The life-and-death intensity of "Machine Gun" is followed by the playfully funky "Dolly Dagger." "Red House" closes with Hendrix's absolutely wicked blues shredding. After "In from the Storm," Hendrix half-heartedly thanks the audience for its patience before dropping his guitar on the stage in disgust. Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 offers a handful of decent moments, but it serves mostly as a sad reminder of what the world would soon lose.

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