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Published: 2011/06/20
by Brian Robbins

Jimi Hendrix - Band Of Gypsys

Experience Hendrix LLC

The Band Of Gypsys were a sonic way station for Jimi Hendrix’ musical travels during the last year of his life. Bass player Billy Cox (an old Army buddy who held down the bottom end for Hendrix’ Gypsy Sun and Rainbows at Woodstock) and powerhouse drummer/vocalist Buddy Miles provided a unique funk/rock/R&B platform for Hendrix to experiment with for a few months.

The Band Of Gypsys began jamming together as a trio in September of 1969; their first public performance was on New Year’s Eve; a month later, they were no more; and by September of 1970, Jimi Hendrix was dead. Other than the memories held by those who witnessed the trio in action, the only document of their output as a performing unit were the live recordings and video captured during their performances at the Fillmore East on 12/31/69 and 1/1/70 and a few studio tracks.

The original Band Of Gypsys video has been out there for some time now. The documentary portion (directed by Bob Smeaton) does a nice job of capturing the short history of the Hendrix/Cox/Miles trio, weaving live footage from the Fillmore with both vintage Hendrix interviews and present-day conversations with everyone from Cox and Miles (who passed away in 2008) to Hendrix’ trusted studio wizard Eddie Kramer and next-generation pickers such as Slash and Lenny Kravitz.

What will make the newly re-released Band Of Gypsys DVD appealing even to those who have one of the earlier versions is the remix of the live portion’s sound by Kramer. Clocking in at just under an hour, we are treated to the BOG in action at the Fillmore on 1/1/70: the slinky funk of “Who Knows”; the crawling-through-the rice-paddy terror of “Machine Gun”; the joyous soul romp of “Them Changes”. Kramer’s audio work on the eight tracks included in the DVD’s live portion is fantastic.

Make no mistake about it: the Fillmore concert footage captured here is not hi-def, boys and girls. This is vintage black-and-white stuff shot with handhelds typical of the era; any motion by the camera (or Jimi’s body) leaves a momentary trail of ghost images and focus is a challenge at times. But no matter; the newly re-mixed sound more than makes up for some of the video inadequacies … and there’s a certain pleasant psychedelic weirdness to some of the visuals. Turn it up and ride it out.

Guitar heads, ready yourselves: even with close to an hour of raw, live footage here, there are still plenty of moments of, “Yeah, I saw him do it … but … how did he do it?”

May it always be that way.

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