Album Of The Week – September 12, 2022

This week it’s a look at a 52 year old concert but one only released in full 2 years prior. It was an odd concert for a bad film and was also the second-to-last US performance of rock and roll’s preeminent guitar legend.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Live In Maui

Material originally recorded July 30, 1970

Set released November 20, 2020 via Experience Hendrix/Legacy Records

The Hendrix Maui sets have occupied a bit of lore and some scorn, not for Hendrix’s playing but for the reason he was in Maui filming. It was a full 50 years after the shows that a full, official live document was unveiled. And that document is audio only, though some snippets of video also exist (we’ll get to that).

Hendrix and a reformed Experience, with bassist Billy Cox in place of Noel Redding, were booked for Maui by manager Michael Jeffery. Jeffery had secured a film deal and had a bright idea to do a freeform visual exploration of the hippie/counterculture community of Hawaii. In order to actually try to convince anyone to watch the drivel, Jeffery got Hendrix to play two sets on the island for the purpose of anchoring the film.

The eventual film was called Rainbow Bridge and was a total failure in the marketplace. Any interest in it has been for the 17 minutes of live Hendrix footage. While the complete concert recordings existed and saw the light of day as bootlegs, it took a literal half a century to salvage the full recordings and present an official live package.

Instead of having bit performances in a film made by Jeffery, who at best can be called a shady motherfucker, we now have a full accounting of the Maui sets offered by Experience Hendrix, overseen by Janie Hendrix, Jimi’s sister. Hendrix studio collaborator Eddie Kramer also joined in on the restoration process.

Live In Maui presents a few difficult technical challenges for modern presentation – one, the concerts were recorded on an open field with wind blowing. It led to some re-recording for music used in Rainbow Bridge and some of the drum edits are found on this newer live set.

The official set does mostly triumph over the sound issues and present a worthwhile listening package. It’s by no means the best representation of live Hendrix, but it does a good job of capturing a long sought-after concert. It is evident on listening that sound wasn’t captured at its best but this isn’t a flimsy, barley audible bootleg offering – this is still full on live Jimi Hendrix.

I won’t bother going over all 20 songs in my usual AOTW format. Several of the standard Hendrix tunes are present here – Purple Haze, Foxey Lady, Fire, Red House, and a spirited finale of Stone Free at the finale, with a snippet of Hey Joe thrown in. I found Voodoo Child to be an early favorite on first listen, something about that song worked and stood out from the rest. Of course that might apply to the song in general, but that’s an argument for another time.

This live set is full of what would be unreleased songs at the time of Hendrix’s death a few months later. Cuts like Dolly Dagger and Hey Baby (New Rising Sun) were meant for the next album, to be called The Cry Of Love. The history of posthumous Hendrix releases before the family takeover of the catalog is too much of a task to get into here (or ever) so I’ll spare that but mention that many of these songs have been released in a variety of compilations and other live performances.

It’s nice to have some less familiar stuff aired out live along with the standards. The performance does seem to bog down a bit in the second set, as if maybe playing two shows in front a few hundred hippies out in an open field isn’t the greatest idea or something, I don’t know. But things turn around towards the second set’s conclusion.

Live In Maui is a nice live set to have in the collection. It’s been a pretty eagerly-sought after set in the more die-hard Hendrix circles. While we’re spoiled to have so many of his concerts available, the Maui sets were always lurking on the shelf in the back corner.

There is a video component to the release, as well. A well-done documentary gets into the nuts and bolts of why Hendrix was on Maui in the first place. There is also a video presentation of the concert – but, and this is a huge BUT – cameras weren’t rolling for the entire show. Many songs are only visually available in snippets, or not at all. A few do have full or mostly intact videos and a time or two more than one song runs, but this is not an optimal viewing experience. It is a “cool to have” thing as opposed to having no video at all, but it is weird and not fleshed out with enough video to be recommending viewing on its own.

In the end, Live In Maui fills a hole in official Hendrix collections that some thought would never see the light of day. It’s not something I’d necessarily recommend as a purchase for people who don’t have a ton of live Hendrix, there are far more worthwhile volumes out there. But for a more completionist approach, this fills a massive void and lets people skip the bootleg market. It’s a set with a lot of the unreleased in his lifetime songs on it and the story of why it even exists sets it apart from most concert releases.

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