Jimi Hendrix, “Both Sides of the Sky”
Both Sides of the Sky
The concluding release within a trilogy of unvaulted recordings, Both Sides of the Sky pulls together a series of explosive blues covers carrying all the distinct Jimi Hendrix motifs. From the heavenly opening falsetto wail in “Mannish Boy” to the relentless phased guitars that rain down from thunderclouds, it’s a step into Hendrix’s blues belly.
Unexpectedly, there are a few new tracks on this that bootleggers won’t have multiple versions of, and the collaborations with Stephen Stills are bittersweet. It’s fantastic to hear recordings made by the pair—and hearing Hendrix pound seven bells of funk out of a bass is pure joy, as he does in the Joni Mitchell–penned “Woodstock”—but the real cherry would have been hearing Hendrix sing. The gift to the world that is Stills’s voice cannot be underplayed; but in this instance, it’s difficult not to feel a little hard done by it.
And yet, the performances captured are awesome. “Mannish Boy” has such a quick pace that there are moments where bassist Billy Cox can be heard to slip in the speed—it’s that raw. The instrumental working draft of “Sweet Angel” (“Angel,” as released posthumously on The Cry of Love) is also spine-tingling, with vibraphones dripping, tear-like, in the chorus.
With tracks recorded in the two years after Electric Ladyland, there’s a sense these playful blues jams are an extended sigh following a creative symphony, a chance to throw the paints against the canvas and see what hits. As a result, Both Sides of the Sky offers a sense of exhilaration, but focuses on Jimi playing rather than Jimi composing, which will frustrate some and delight others. This is a valid input into the archive—if only just.