Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix Live at the Isle of Wight

Feb 19, 2003 at 12:00 am

Thirty-two years after his untimely death at age 27, Jimi Hendrix remains one of the most prolific artists on the planet. Thanks to the keepers of the legendary guitarist’s estate — and record executives who stuff their own pockets — Hendrix’s legacy is alive and well, due in no small part to the nearly two dozen posthumous boxed sets, live albums and greatest-hits packages released since he choked to death in 1970.

Not that his legacy requires such zealous preservation. If anything, the Hendrix mystique could have survived the passage of time without MCA’s annual attempt to exploit his name. While remastered editions of his classic albums (Are You Experienced?) and unreleased gems (1989’s Radio One) serve as worthy additions to his ever-expanding catalog, lackluster collections (1991’s Lifelines: The Jimi Hendrix Story) and compilations of outtakes that should have probably stayed out (1995’s Voodoo Soup) seem superfluous.

The latest entry to Hendrix’s catalog, Blue Wild Angel, is a mixed bag, featuring scorching renditions of the guitar god’s concert staples (“All Along the Watchtower”) and a tantalizing 50-second snippet of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Still, a meandering 19-minute take on “Machine Gun” is compelling only to a point, and the sound quality, while good, doesn’t match the clarity of Hendrix’s finest live documents (Radio One, Live at Winterland).

The Aug. 30, 1970, show captured on Blue Wild Angel is a historic curiosity, of course, because it preceded his death by less than three weeks; it was one of Hendrix’s final performances, if not one of his most memorable. Certainly of immeasurable value to collectors, Blue Wild lacks the manic energy and sustained brilliance of his finest live recordings.

E-mail Rossiter Drake at [email protected].