Hendrix at his incendiary best...
This DVD is an essential purchase which charts one of the pivotal moments of rock history, when Jimi Hendrix exploded into America's consciousness with his ground breaking appearance at the fledgling Monterey Rock Festival.
As a series of talking heads knowledgably confirm, Hendrix's rise was meteoric. Keith Altman for example, makes the point that little more than 12 months before this festival appearance, Hendrix had been an unknown playing tiny clubs in New York, while Mitch Mitchell recalls that before Monterey 99% of the crowd didn't know who Jimi or The Experience were.
Rarely can any rock act have made such an impact on the back of a festival. There were other such moments of course such as Ritchie Havens and John Sebastian at Woodstock while Paul Butterfield, Otis Redding, The Who and Janis Joplin all left their mark at Monterey, but Hendrix's headline appearance marked a seismic social and cultural change.
What makes this DVD an essential purchase is both the excellent packaging, the reminiscences of Mitch Mitchell and Keith Altman in the liner notes and the superb editing, remastering and of course the newly filmed interviews, all of which are lucid and to the point.
And finally when you consider the Hendrix footage was culled from film of the actual festival, you realise the painstaking amount of work that has gone into this laudable project. And production credits aside, there is Hendrix himself a whirl of pink feather boa's and big medallion looking exactly like the psychedelic warrior he was.
And while much has been made about the vibe leading into this gig, and about how Hendrix was the new kid in town, the film really does capture the actual moments of Jimi launching all his nervous energy on his stunned American audience, close up.
He teeters on the brink of going out of tune, throws great spontaneous shapes above his head while playing, and offers cute psycho babble in between songs, but above all he redefines the whole of the rock and blues scene in little over 45 minutes.
To infuse a couple of old blues songs like 'Killing Floor and 'Rock Me Baby' with a new psychedelic vibrancy and sense of urgency was something only Hendrix could have done. You can both feel the sense of anticipation and awe before he launches into 'Foxy Lady'.
Hendrix further mesmerises the crowd with his rendition of Dylan's 'Like a Rollin Stone'. In fact it could be argued that the defining point in Hendrix's career comes at the the conclusion of 'Killing Floor' - featuring Jimi playing his guitar with his teeth - when the audience give him a raucous response.
Certainly the antics got more outrageous as the set progressed and this provides a curious counterpoint to the seated crowd who were more used to folk rock acts. And yet there is room for light and shade as Jimi almost relaxes and plays beautifully on the plaintive 'Wind Cries Mary'.
The violent end to the set although almost a carbon copy of The Who's earlier efforts, seemed out of place at the time, especially with Hendrix's Peace and Love image. But combined with the Keith Altman's idea of setting fire to his guitar and given the benefit of history, it is Hendrix' climactic finish that people remember most.
'Hendrix at Monterey' superbly captures the context of the times and with added stereo surround sound by Eddie Kramer and a high definition digital transfer, this DVD is as close as you will ever get to understanding what Hendrix was about and the impact he had at the time.
The additional excellent bonus material includes footage of a 1967 UK Chelmsford date and an interview with festival organiser Lou Adler and both further emphasize the seismic change that Hendrix was ushering in. Fascinating stuff! *****
The CD version of 'Live at Monterey' concentrates the mind as albums used to do before the advent of DVD's, as you can hear the impact Hendrix has on his audience. The set builds up a unique head of steam as Jimi all but envelops the crowd. And while the smashing of the amps sequence on the closing 'Wild Thing' doesn't make much of a pleasurable audio experience, the emcee's belated shout of 'Jim Hendrix' does give you a sense shock.
The CD comes complete with a fully annotated 12 page booklet including the late Derek Taylor's press releases, festival line-up information and glossy pics. Of course all self respecting Hendrix fans will have all the music, but the CD is as classy as it is a timely release to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Hendrix's ground breaking Monterey festival appearance.
Review by Pete Feenstra