Jimi Hendrix, ‘People, Hell & Angels’ – Album Review
If we’re to believe ‘People, Hell & Angels,’ the latest in a long string of posthumous albums by Jimi Hendrix, its dozen previously unreleased tracks were the building blocks to the late guitarist’s follow-up to ‘Electric Ladyland,’ his final album with the Experience.
But we’ve heard this claim many times before, from ‘First Rays of the New Rising Sun,’ the 1997 LP that reconstructs the album Hendrix was working on when he died, to various albums, box sets and compilations that feature leftovers from the era.
There’s not even much that’s entirely new on ‘People, Hell & Angels’; most of the tracks have been released in one form or another on posthumous projects over the years – from ‘Earth Blues’ (first released on 1971’s ‘Rainbow Bridge’ in a more fleshed-out take) to ‘Inside Out’ (which would evolve into the bootleg fave ‘Ezy Ryder’).
Recorded in 1968 and 1969 with primarily Billy Cox and Buddy Miles, who would make up Hendrix’s post-Experience trio Band of Gypsys, the cuts on ‘People, Hell & Angels,’ like so many albums that have been released since his death in 1970, are more skeletal frames of songs than actual songs. There’s plenty of fancy guitar work and creative ideas planted here, but few tracks boast the mind-bending studio tricks Hendrix experimented so wildly with on ‘Axis: Bold As Love’ and ‘Electric Ladyland.’
Still, completists will dig some of the album’s offerings. The stripped-down ‘Earth Blues’ reflects its title. ‘Let Me Love’ features a saxophonist. A cover of Elmore James’ ‘Bleeding Heart’ comes from Hendrix’s first session with Cox and Miles. And ‘Izabella’ was recorded with the band Hendrix played with at Woodstock.
But ‘People, Hell & Angels’ isn’t revealing like ‘First Rays of the New Rising Sun,’ ‘South Saturn Delta’ and ‘Valleys of Neptune,’ the best posthumous Hendrix albums. Hendrix is basically being Hendrix on the 12 tracks, effortlessly tearing through guitar solos and working up bluesy shuffles that most likely would have been discarded or altered by the time he was finished with them. This is mostly the guitar legend finding his post-Experience footing.