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Category:    Home > Reviews > Concert > Rock > Jimi Hendrix - Live At Woodstock

Jimi Hendrix: Live at Woodstock


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: A-     Music: A



Upon seeing the entire Jimi Hendrix Live at Woodstock, something new and interesting dawned on me that never had before.  Being a long-time fan of Hendrix and guitar player what I realized is how radical he was and how much of a decline in music there has been since.  What I mean by radical is simply what he stood for as a African American playing psychedelic rock music like no one had heard before or since in such a passionate way that refined a generation to such a degree that it’s nearly impossible to think of the movement of rock without mentioning somewhere along the lines the influence of Hendrix and his abilities as a songwriter, artist, and musician to fuse together such an achievement before he died at the age of 27. 


What baffles me most now, looking back, is what the heck happened?  Where did music suddenly take a turn for the worst and most of all, the musicianship level has been turned sideways to the point that, even with all the various genres of music, everything now sounds like the same old tired music.  There have been very few artists that have truly left an impression like this, but more than that, if you look at what Hendrix stood for it was such a marvelous thing.  His music was raw, powerful, deep, rooted, and most of all it was evolving and changing.  His music stood for something more than just himself, but it stood for a generation of people that were fighting against a government, fighting against each other, fighting against Vietnam, fighting for just about everything, yet even amidst that there was the movement of peace that stemmed from music like this that basically took words like ‘freedom’ and made them mean something. 


This 2-Disc set contains as much of the performance from Woodstock for Jimi Hendrix as there is, this is from the Michael Wadleigh’s award winning film Woodstock, which is also available on DVD.  The DVD has a great insert that details some interested aspects Woodstock as well as the technical details since this was shot in 16mm color film, but also there was a Sony CV 1/2” video recorder, which captured some different angles of the performance, although at this time the primitive tape format could only get about 200 lines of resolution and in black & white, but all this footage is available on disc two in the set, plus it contains a missing track from the performance, which is the song Hear My Train a Comin’ and makes for a great comparison, plus a welcome addition! 


Performance-wise this is one of the more sought after ‘live’ recordings of Hendrix, mostly because of the infamous version of The Star Spangled Banner, but also because it features him doing live versions of songs that he did not perform elsewhere such as Izabella and Red House.  Here at this site we have covered quite a bit from Hendrix including Jimi Plays Berkeley as well as Jimi Hendrix-The Last 24 Hours, Classic Albums-The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland, and an incredibly thorough review of the The Monterey Pop Box Set released by The Criterion Collection.  Woodstock would be a performance with material that far outweighs what he was doing previously, but I prefer the presentation from The Monterey performances, while not necessarily the song choices.  His repertoire was expanding and by the time Woodstock rolled around Hendrix was at his pinnacle.  In raw form Hendrix puts on a show that would be the showcase of Woodstock. 


Set List:


Message to Love

Spanish Castle Magic

Red House

Lover Man

Foxey Lady

Jam Back at the House



Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

Star Spangled Banner

Purple Haze

Woodstock Improvisation

Villanova Junction

Hey Joe


The songs are not always spot-on as they could or should be and Hendrix tends to become a little chaotic at times and the songs get a little lost in the translation, but the opening of Voodoo Child is a terrific example of his ability to create the studio sound live, even on the guitar parts that utilize a great amount of feedback and other effects.  Izabella lacks some of the rhythmic needs that the song is designed around, but aside from that it’s a fairly good live version, while Purple Haze is awesome as is Hey Joe, while the rest are mostly mediocre in terms of their overall punch, but then again this is compared to the studio versions, if such exists.  Similar to the audio options with the Monterey Box I reviewed elsewhere on this site, this 2-Disc set from Universal Music includes 2.0 Dolby Digital, 5.1 Dolby Digital, and 5.1 DTS, which give the listener some choices, although the DTS track is much preferred as usual.  The quality here varies and this live recording always had some trouble, even in CD form.  The main reason behind that would of course be the fact that Hendrix was not a perfectionist when it came to his live playing and it was mostly improvisational and spur of the moment.  Sounds were furious and loud, making it difficult to get a good clean channel of sound.  In short, Hendrix live is not nearly as polished as in the studio, but there are often little nuances that are added live, plus the energy of his live work is amazing.  Not only that, but having the DVD allows you to see the performance rather than just hear it. 


The DTS 5.1 mix sounds far more ‘lively’ and brings in some more of the performance than the two Dolby options.  It brings the music to a more expanded feel and gives some of the approximations of being there as it were really happening.  This mix seems to have been fairly cleaned up and the original audio source seems to have survived well.  The 1.33 X 1 full-frame image looks decent as well, although it shows the limitations of 16mm film and the lighting is not always that spectacular as well, despite being during the daytime.  


While just having this entire performance on DVD is essential the fun only begins there.  Added to this is a documentary called The Road to Woodstock, which features some performance footage of Hendrix, but also interviews with Woodstock promoters Michael Lang as well as Hendrix band members Billy Cox, Larry Lee, and Juma Sultan, which make up the core rhythm and groove of the Hendrix experience.  There is also a Press Conference section that is taken 2 weeks after Woodstock as Hendrix recalls his rendition and memorable version of The Star Spangled Banner.  There are other interviews with Larry Lee and Billy Cox that detail more of the relationship with Hendrix in general and famed recording engineer Eddie Kramer gives insights into mastering this production from a sound point of view. 


Universal Music has gone to great extents to make this release as awesome as possible and really makes a terrific collectors item and a must-have for Hendrix junkies.  It would be great to have a new edition of Woodstock the film remastered onto DVD in it’s full glory and with the inclusion of DTS 5.1 as the case here, so perhaps this is the start for something like that.  In the meantime be sure to pick this winner up along with the Monterey Set, which is equally impressive, although being a 3-disc set from Criterion it’s a hard package to beat.



-   Nate Goss


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