One of the serious downsides of CD technology has been the mountain of faltoo ‘repackages’. You never had old wine in new, hip flasks trumpeted as ‘remasters’, ‘alternate tracks’ or ‘unreleased demo takes’ of, say, Deep Purple or Velvet Underground tracks until CDs came popping out of the ground. (You had one LP or a cassette of the Beatles’ Let It Be and bought another one for ‘wear and tear’ reasons.) Catching on to this racket has been just one of the many reasons why we are seeing the swift demise of the shiny disc thing.
And yet, this single CD anthology, for a change, makes total sense — despite pretty much all the tracks being there in some album or other collection. Why? Well, for starters, to hear Jimi Hendrix’s rare version of Dylan and the Band’s shimmering ‘Tears of rage’ (from The Basement Tapes) is worth every penny spent. Hendrix somehow (how?) retains the folksy, slacker hangdog charm of the original music by Richard Manuel and yet infuses it and Dylan's words with a nuclear, brooding core. Guitar and man speak-sing this classic and turns it into the sound of sadness of a Delta bluesman. This was recorded in 1986 in Hendrix’s hotel room with little else but a ‘Do not disturb’ sign on the door.
West Coast Seattle Boy catches Hendrix at his peak between 1967 and 1970. For Jimi Junkies, the variations in the ‘previously unreleased recordings’ will provide good hours of playing track against track. I took out my CD of Are You Experienced and played its title track against the version here. The signature guitar shuffle is cleaner and the voice enters the song promptly in the ‘original’. In the 1967 session take on this CD, the feel is ‘mid-jam’, the guitar lines dirtier and no voice is allowed to enter, the job being done by a haunting, electric guitar line. It’s the old song; and yet, and yet... it’s a new track.
Tracks like ‘Mr Bad Luck’ (in the 2010 released album Valleys of Neptune reviewed earlier in this column), the ‘previously unreleased alternate recording’ of ‘Fire’, ‘Love or confusion’ and other songs are pretty standard versions. The gorgeous ‘May this be love’ (aka ‘Waterfall’) can be savoured in any money-making new compilation and I savour it yet again — especially the floating, curling solo.
Barring the one track (‘Tears of rage’), this album provides more of a confirmation and reminder of Hendrix’s powers rather than being a new treasure trove. But every number and guitar lick defy time, sounding as if the tracks were cut yesterday for today’s ears. For the newcomer, West Coast Seattle Boy should be the second collection of Hendrix’s music in his possession — after one of the many straightforward ‘Best of...’s out there, and before he hopefully ventures out of the ‘anthology’ zone to pick up or download all the Jimi Hendrix albums.
Gentle loose t-shirts
There is a theory that the Plain White T’s 2007 track ‘Hey there Delilah’ must be playing all the time in some Starbuck outlet or the other. The croony indie latte flavour continues in the Chicago band’s sixth album Wonders of the Younger. Green Day must have been playing in the tour bus, considering that the opening track ‘Irrational anthem’ is pretty much a song from a Diet American Idiot.
‘Boomerang’ is a tuneful happy love song — not to be confused with dark ditties about love on a rebound. ‘Rhythm of love’ starts with “My head is stuck in the clouds/ she begs me to come down” and ends somewhere closeby. Yes, it is a song to be shared on the iPod one earpod per head preferably with the young couple’s legs swinging from a tree house. I come to ‘Body parts’, where vocalist Tom Higgenson does a high school rendition of John Donne while the album potters along. Ah, youth. It’s so wasted on the young.