How ‘Purple Box’ Threw Jimi Hendrix’s Vaults Wide Open
Despite his relatively short career, Jimi Hendrix managed to commit quite a bit of music to tape. Whether live or in the studio, the guitarist was a machine without an off-switch.
In fact, to this day, it seems a new release of unheard music regularly hits the market. On Sept. 12, 2000, however, the absolute cream of the crop – the best stuff that was left on the cutting room floor – was assembled together for a boxed set simply called The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Comprised of 60 individual tracks and spanning nearly four-and-a-half hours, the “Purple Box” as fans have taken to calling it, went the farthest in supplementing Hendrix’s official releases. The recordings here represent the near totality of Hendrix’s career, from his breakout first performance with Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding on bass at the Olympia Theater in Paris, France on Oct. 13, 1966, until his death in London on Sept. 18, 1970.
“The box set starts at about 1966; it covers the four-year period from about ’66 to ‘70," Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer has said. "All of the tracks that have been issued on this box set are either takes that are just before the master take or are alternative versions of that song, slower versions of that song with different overdubs [with] maybe different musicians sometimes.”
Journalist Dave Marsh described listening to this collection as akin to “having Jimi’s musical life flash before your ears once again, in all its feisty brilliance and tragic glory," he said in the box's liner notes. "The new Experience [box set] does provide us a variety of fascinating new angles from which to appraise his achievements as a guitarist, composer, lyricist, bandleader, studio experimentalist, live performer – the full gamut from sex idol to serious artist.”
Though the Purple Box would by no means be the last of Hendrix’s multi-disc posthumous compilations – and the set itself was updated five years later to include a bonus DVD with a documentary titled Hendrix and the Blues – it represents the perfect starting point for those looking to dig a little bit deeper past his canonical three studio albums and the live record Hendrix put together with the Band of Gypsys.
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