This run of Jimi Hendrix concerts at Winterland, with Dino Valenti and then Buddy Miles Express opening, are some of the most interesting Hendrix sets ever recorded. In mid 1968, as Hendrix had just released his monumental Electric Ladyland album, he began actively pursuing opportunities to jam with other musicians. He became more open to his improvisational abilities than at any other time in his all too brief career. These shows capture Hendrix at his most exploratory, expanding the boundaries of his music and adding other musicians to the mix - in this case with no rehearsals. This new approach would eventually spell the demise of the Jimi Hendrix Experience as a band, but for a brief time, would open up inspiring new possibilities within the music. These sets illustrate the new, improvisational approach that Hendrix was beginning to explore. Without a doubt, these Winterland sets offer fascinating glimpses into Hendrix's thought process and the new approach he was bringing to his music in 1968.
The first night's late show is an altogether more experimental affair than the early show. They begin with "Tax Free," an aggressive piece written by Bo Hansson & Jan Carlsson that Hendrix was developing at the time. Highly improvisational and full of surprising guitar ideas and remarkable drumming, this bone-crushing version smokes for almost 16 minutes.
After this initial workout, the band lightens it up with a perfunctory attempt at "Lover Man." It's fairly obvious that the tune is still in its early, formative stages, but it shows promise. Hendrix's friends in Cream had recently announced their retirement, so the group plays "Sunshine Of Your Love" in tribute. This song would surface quite a bit during Hendrix Experience shows over the next year, usually as a tease on the familiar opening riff, but here they actually play the entire song
Next up, Jefferson Airplane bassist, Jack Casady (who had recently played on some of the Electric Ladyland album sessions) joins the fray, with Noel Redding taking on a rare rhythm guitarist role in the band. They soar into an outstanding version of "Killing Floor," with Hendrix taking no prisoners. Casady's bass playing sends Hendrix off into areas never explored in this tune before; a fascinating performance. The "Hey Joe" that follows is surprisingly conventional, considering the musicians, but does include greatly expanded Hendrix solos that are no less than captivating.
Casady exits after "Hey Joe" and, as with the previous show, Hendrix ends the set with his new, experimental sonic collage, "This Is America" into "Purple Haze. Another excellent set with blistering performances.
-Written by Alan Bershaw