I first heard this record when I borrowed it from Norwich City Library (the one that burnt down) when I discovered Hendrix at the age of 15 or 16 and tried to get my hands on anything I could to hear more of his amazing playing. I recorded it onto tape cassette, as you do when you’re that age and don’t have the means of buying your own copies. Even if I had, I wouldn’t have been able to find it, it wasn’t repressed after its original release in 1972, and was only made available on CD with an extended tracklisting in 2011. There have been so many posthumous releases of Hendrix’s live performances, demos and studio outtakes that this might seem like another of those and should sport a ‘buyer beware’ sticker. This is not one of those. This is a gauntlet-throwing sublime piece of guitar mastery.
So when I had a major spring clean of possessions a few years back and decided to throw away and replace most of my tape cassettes, my much-loved much-played 20 year-old-tape recording had to be replaced. The primary motivation was not the live versions of God Save The Queen or Voodoo Chile or Little Wing, they could be found on various compilations, the elusive holy grail with which I could not live without is Hendrix’s epic and glorious 13 minute version of Red House. I was damn well near obsessed with it when I first heard it 30 years ago, I still am now. Eventually I tracked down this original gatefold vinyl release on eBay. The long wait was well worth it.
The record showcases performances from the Royal Albert Hall and the San Diego Sports Arena in 1969, and the Berkeley Community Theatre and his famous Isle of Wight concert in 1970. Hendrix’s take on God Save The Queen segueing into Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is from the latter, and it was a thrill for little fifteen-year-old me to even think that Hendrix had graced the shores of Blighty. Before asking the audience if the amps are too loud – answered by a resounding no! – Jimi, Mitch and Noel/Billy kick off with a fierce and fiery Johnny B. Goode, followed by Blue Suede Shoes with Voodoo Chile closing side one with a fiery crescendo. The way he wraps his guitar around those distinctive chugging choppy chords then takes an incendiary leap before divebombing is something else. However, that’s still not why we’re here.
The B Side (allowing for the fact that the sleeve track-listing and the actual disc order are different) starts off with Jimi’s jovial and witty intro to “The Queen” followed by a quick tribute to The Beatles, then a lovely Little Wing, and finally the moment we’ve all been waiting for, or at least I have: an utterly sublime, beautifully rendered Red House. It’s so perfect, I could cry. As he says before launching into this thing of wonder: “This is what we call the blues.”
Best Bits: Red House. Over and over again.
Genre: Guitar God
Like This, Try This: Jimi playing “electric church music” in Stockholm in 1969