Today(March 25) marks the 45th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s live album, Band of Gypsys. It was the first album recorded without his original group, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and the last full-length album released before his death. While it’s one of the least acclaimed Hendrix records, it still features possibly the greatest and most influential guitarist of all time, and it was a major precursor to the funk rock music that would soon follow.
Band of Gypsys was recorded on January 1, 1970 at the Fillmore East in New York City and features Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums. It infuses funk and R&B in with the traditional hard rock jams of Hendrix’s earlier work. This amalgam of styles led to what came to be the funk rock of the 70’s. The album is cited as an influence for acts like Parliament-Funkadelic, Cameo, Chic, Slash, Lenny Kravitz, and even Ice-T.
The album itself was put out as kind of a kiss-off to the label. Hendrix owed the label an album, and this ended up being it. Jimi felt that the live performances weren’t his best, and the tuning was off in some places, but the label was pushing for it, so it just had to get done.
The highlight of the album is “Machine Gun”, which by the time of recording had grown into an extended guitar improvisational piece that really showed off Hendrix’s chops, sometimes compared to those of John Coltrane. The song is about the realities of war as guitarist Vernon Reid describes “it’s like a movie about war without the visuals. It had everything-the lyrics, the humanism of it, the drama of it, the violence of it, the eeriness of it, and the unpredictability of it.”
All in all, while it’s not an all-time classic at the level of Electric Ladyland or Are You Experienced?, it’s still a pretty solid live record, and still just as influential on the music that came after it.
Listen: Jimi Hendrix “Machine Gun”
Listen: Jimi Hendrix “Changes”
Listen: Jimi Hendrix “Power of Soul”
This week in Indie is a weekly series focused on record releases that had a great effect on the indie rock landscape.B