There have been almost countless posthumous Hendrix releases since his death in 1970, and Both Sides Of The Sky is the latest compilation album that features previously unheard outtakes. There are people who complain every time one of these is released and I do understand why, but for a completist like myself, hearing new takes of songs doesn’t get old in the slightest. Hendrix is Hendrix. He wasn’t around for very long so anything new that comes out I’m going to instantly love. This is no different.
The opening track is a cover of the Muddy Waters song Mannish Boy which features Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums. The three of them together were the Band Of Gypsys that didn’t last long, but this is an exceptional take from that period of Hendrix’s career. It’s followed by Lover Man which is an interesting inclusion considering another version was included on the 2010 posthumous release Valleys Of Neptune. Still, it’s a different take and it does sound good. The same can be said for the next two songs, Hear My Train a Comin’ and Stepping Stone. Both of these songs have been released numerous times over the years and I’m sure there are countless more recordings of them that remain untouched in a vault somewhere. On one hand I can understand why people get frustrated by this, but on the other this is Jimi Hendrix and one take is completely different from another. This is why I love these releases so much.
- Mannish Boy
- Lover Man
- Hear My Train a Comin’
- Stepping Stone
- $20 Fine
- Power Of Soul
- Things I Used To Do
- Georgia Blues
- Sweet Angel
- Send My Love To Linda
- Cherokee Mist
The fifth song on the album is $20 Fine which is by Stephen Stills and features him on vocals, the first of two songs on this album to do so. It’s an enjoyable song to listen to and from a music point of view it’s good but in terms of a Hendrix release I’m a little bit confused as to why it was included. I’m sure if they tried, the Hendrix estate could release a separate album of songs that Hendrix featured on that weren’t penned by him. This song would have fitted better on that kind of album. Thankfully things return to normal with Power Of Soul. This is probably one of my favourite tracks on the whole album. It’s a song the Band Of Gypsys played at Fillmore East on New Years Eve 1969/New Years Day 1970 so hearing a studio version of this quality is essential listening. With Cox on bass and Miles on drums this song really showcases Hendrix’s abilities to inject a heavy dose of funk into his music. And the result is spectacular. Jungle follows which is a purely instrumental number. The guitar on this one is absolutely gorgeous even though at the time of recording there’s no doubting that it was a work in progress. Still, as a Hendrix fan I love hearing different stages of songs. Especially considering that this one had never been released before.
Things I Used To Do is a really special track in my opinion, as it features the late great Johnny Winter on slide guitar. Having him alongside Hendrix seriously sets the bar high for the rest of the album and makes you wonder what could have been. A joint album at some point in the early 1970’s would have been exceptional. Sadly that wasn’t to be, but we’re blessed to have tracks like this instead. Georgia Blues is a Lonnie Youngblood number, who Hendrix played with before the Experience, and features him on lead vocals. It’s a great track and at just short of 8 minutes in length, the longest song on the album. Sweet Angel follows which is a previously unreleased jam and an early version of his song Angel. It’s a beautiful recording with no vocals and really gives you an insight into how the song evolved. Moments like this are why I love these Hendrix releases so much.
Stephen Stills returns on Woodstock which features Hendrix on bass. It’s another interesting choice of songs to make the album and even though it’s enjoyable to listen to, does it warrant being included just because Hendrix is on bass? I personally don’t think so. I find it hard to accept that there weren’t any other songs that could have been included instead. Send My Love To Linda follows, which is the second to last track and the best song on the whole album. Half of the song features just Hendrix singing with guitar accompaniment before the rest of the band come in and launch the song into space. Good god, what a song. I’m unsure if this would have been the final completed version that would have ended up on an album at some point, but that doesn’t matter. What we have here is a song that is up there with the best tracks Hendrix ever wrote and recorded. It is incredible. It’s followed by Cherokee Mist which finishes the album off nicely although I think that Send My Love To Linda would have been a better album closer. Still, I’m not complaining.
Overall Both Sides Of The Sky is a very good Hendrix album that manages to capture some fine moments in his recording career. I personally would have left off the Stephen Stills songs and included something better but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is an extremely enjoyable collection of songs to listen to. It may not be as good as 2010’s Valleys Of Neptune but it’s a must have for all Hendrix fans.