It’s hard to imagine there’s much in the Hendrix family archives that’s worth hearing or seeing at this point, but Jimi Hendrix — Hear My Train A Comin’, which airs on PBS’ acclaimed American Masters series tonight, certainly fits the bill.
While the ancient Jimi Hendrix documentary is, well, ancient, and the Jimi Hendrix Voodoo Child film (narrated by Bootsy Collins as Hendrix) from last year was disappointing, Hear My Train A Comin' is a first-class addition to the Hendrix catalog.
Hear My Train tells Hendrix’s story, likely familiar to any Guitar World reader, in an intimate and refreshing way. All the key players — Mitch Mitchell, Noel Redding, Chas Chandler, Eddie Kramer, Steve Winwood, Fayne Pridgeon, Linda Keith, and so forth — are shown in new interviews or archival pieces that are either unfamiliar or used in new and interesting ways.
While Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton are notably absent, that’s more than made up for by a wonderful, relaxed interview with Paul McCartney. There’s also loads of newly discovered audio and video, and what we have heard and seen before looks and sounds better than ever.
Even better than the American Masters version of Hear My Train A Comin’ is the expanded Blu-ray/DVD version. Everything looks and sounds fantastic, especially in the 5.1 DTS mix on the Blu-ray version. And the bonus features — near-complete versions of 1968's Miami Pop Festival, 1970's New York Pop Festival and newly discovered archival footage from Hendrix’s appearance at 1970's Love & Peace Festival in Germany synched to a cleaned-up amateur recording of the performance, along with his legendary 1967 Top of the Pops appearance — are worth the price of the home video version alone.
There’s also a CD and limited-edition vinyl version of Hendrix’s Miami Pop Festival performance out today from Experience Hendrix on Sony/Legacy. Hendrix and the Experience are, as ever, on fire throughout. Long sought after by collectors, this is definitely one to add to your Hendrix library.
To say Hendrix was probably the most exciting, gifted and sensual rock guitarist ever is an understatement. If you disagree, look no further than the footage in Hear My Train A Comin’ or the performance on Miami Pop Festival. Hendrix truly had no peers, which makes these releases — and his long absence from our lives — all the more bittersweet.
Jeff Slate is a NYC-based solo singer-songwriter and music journalist. He founded and fronted the band the Badge for 15 years beginning in 1997 and has worked with Pete Townshend, Earl Slick, Carlos Alomar, Steve Holley, Laurence Juber and countless others. He has interviewed and written about everyone from the Beatles and Kiss to Monty Python and rock musicals on Broadway. He is an avid collector of rock and roll books and bootlegs and has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Dylan and the Beatles. For more information, visit jeffslate.net.