Noel Redding

The Experience Sessions

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Well, let's be honest here. Noel Redding's position in rock history is cemented by virtue of having been the bass player for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. But the fact is that he was not actually a bass player, but a converted guitar player who was hired, at least in part, because Jimi liked his hair! By the time of Electric Ladyland, Redding was feeling creatively frustrated in the group, which basically led to the breakup of the Experience. He did, however, get two of his songs recorded by the Experience: "She's So Fine" on Axis: Bold As Love and "Little Miss Strange" on Electric Ladyland. Both are pleasant enough little tunes, but they do pale in comparison to Hendrix's songwriting abilities. Redding's later bands, Fat Mattress and the Noel Redding Band, were commercial duds with little to recommend them. So The Experience Sessions has been offered up by Experience Hendrix to fill out Noel's legacy. Unfortunately, there isn't really much to fill out. When you take out the live version of "Red House" by the Experience and the two cuts each of "She's So Fine" and "Little Miss Strange" (the album version and an alternate for both), you're left with only seven tracks, and two of those are alternates of the same tune. That's not much of a legacy. "There Ain't Nothing Wrong" has been available for years in bootleg circles, the difference here being cleaner sound and a vocal track that had never been heard because Noel cut the vocals for it in 1988! The best tunes here are nice psychedelic pop ditties much like "Little Miss Strange": "Walking Through the Garden," "Dream," and "Little, Little Girl," all of which demonstrate the fact that Noel Redding was not a particularly gifted lyricist. There are some nice touches, like the phased vocals on "Little, Little Girl" or Jimi's bass playing on "Dream," but they aren't especially remarkable. "How Can I Live" sounds unfinished, lacking a bass track, and "Noel's Tune" is a pretty loose jam, redeemed only by Jimi's soloing. The alternate version doesn't even have Hendrix, and suffers in comparison. The alternate take of "She's So Fine" is quite interesting stripped of both the lead and backing vocals, but the alternate of "Little Miss Strange" is rendered pretty uninteresting by removing all the stuff Jimi added, primarily the guitar leads. The live version of "Red House" from 1968 is nice, featuring Noel on rhythm guitar instead of bass, but again, does little to enhance Redding's legacy. Basically, any interest here -- outside of Noel Redding's family members -- is in these little-known performances of Jimi Hendrix, who plays guitar and/or bass on eight of the 12 tracks and percussion on one more. There are no major revelations, and it's pretty apparent that Noel Redding is not the great unsung hero of rock who was overshadowed by his flamboyant bandmate. He was an adequate bass player who was in the right place at the right time. He'd have been better off accepting that rather than carping about not getting his due and trying to denigrate Hendrix posthumously out of bitterness (which he did repeatedly). If you're a Hendrix freak, there are just a couple tasty items here. If you're hoping to discover that Noel Redding was actually a big part of the Experience sound, you'll probably be disappointed.

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