If the video has been deleted or moved, please Google Jimi Hendrix Red House, Live in Stockholm, January 9, 1969 or search for it on Youtube or other video fora:
This is not a performance, but a clinic in classic blues done in psychedelic slow-mo. (Boys don’t try this at home.) From the first few lines – cool as a cucumber ‘neath a sycamore tree, Hendrix hews to a retro, yet iconoclastic vibe inspired by his own supreme mastery of the art. This should be required listening for all aspiring blues guitarists, from jump blues movers-’n-shakers to Malmsteen-esque shredders. Hendrix the master of rock psychedelia comes back from the jagged edge to redefine the genre that had fed his muse the way underground streams feed the wells we drink from.
This is not blues guitar as an Olympic sport, but blues as an organic art informed by the human voice. Hendrix showcases the inventive minimalism of a master at the top of his game by breaking down blues to their elemental memes. The result is as heady as an upper laced with a downer. “I want to cry” is the most common refrain of Youtubers who hear it. “Thank you for posting this,” say the fans stunned by Hendrix’s iconoclastic “swagga.”
One of the first things you notice is that there is no frenzy here. Flop-house pyros need not apply. Fretboard fireworks, which Hendrix was perfectly capable of at this stage in his career, took a distant back seat to deliberate story telling. Hendrix’s singing voice is sure and his playing more finely nuanced than than anything ever put on celluloid.
The meter and rhyme of Hendrix’s playing - languid phrases that belie the seriousness of his intent – are evident from the very first bar. These are not blues for dilletantes or frizzly-haired poseurs. No, these are blues for grown men or enchanted boys with old souls. Hendrix’s guitar hacks back to T-Bone Walker and B.B. King and the height of his powers. It prefigures the advent of soul as a shibboleth of feeling that cannot be faked.
The extended solo intro recalls B.B. King in “How Blue Can You Get,” Live at the Cook County Jail (1971); that unsung blues classic that stood the genre’s form convention on its head and still came out smokin’. (The inventive virtuosity of the younger B.B. King still stuns the mind: The pentatonic runs that veer off into jazzy territory and the mildly driven tone that still sounds fresh and daring after all these years. It is doubtful that B.B. King’s fretboard chops ever surpassed the form displayed here.) But we digress.
The sound in this “Red House” clip shows why Jimi Hendrix ultimately chose Fenders over Gibsons. While weight, and iconoclastic style may have figured into it the equation, the first few lines of this song show why Hendrix’s voice was channeled more by Fenders, than by Gibsons. The first coupla lines on the Gibson SG neck pickup sound dead and uninspired, Hendrix’s intent to start on a mellow vibe notwithstanding. He soon switches to the bridge pickup and the “Burstbucker-esque” pep and effervescence begins to mimic the fender sound. The first ripple of emotion begins to register on Hendrix’s face.
While the Fender vs Gibson debate will never die, this much we know: Some artists are Gibsonsesque and others are Fenderersque. Hendrix was a Fenderesque to his psychedelic core.
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