First off, a huge apology to Christy for taking so long to do this review, and so many other people who are also waiting for my reviews to go online, life has been particularly busy since the Edinburgh Film Festival began, and so all my reviews have fallen by the wayside.
However, I’m on the way back, and this first one is a remastered DVD release of a 1973 documentary about Jimi Hendrix.
The documentary is very interesting, and not just for guitar players like myself, I’m a big acoustic guitar fan not electric at all. It concentrates solely on who the man was and his amazing playing, it doesn’t get distracted and bogged down with stories of drugs, mismanagement and the circumstances concerning his death. It really does give a sense of the person and the passion behind Jimi Hendrix and his music.
The film comprises of a series of a series of performances, some very rare and some considered classic, interspersed with clips of interviews of Eric Clapton, Pete Townsend, Little Richard, Lou Reed, Mick Jagger, Hendrix himself and the all important ones, from his friends and family.
The interviews are very frank and relaxed, and when interviewing friends you get a sense of sitting chatting with someone rather than the usual interrogation that half hearted interviews can become. With the interviews with other famous stars of the time, and indeed other amazing guitarists like Clapton, there is a real feeling of respect and admiration. They don’t hold back about how good or influential he was and there doesn’t seem to be any back stabbing or slapping, just genuine conversation and respect.
These aspects are something you can’t just make in a documentary, and they enrich the interviews so much making them thoroughly engaging and make for much better documentary.
One of the most interesting parts for me were the live performances, they are excellent to listen to and some are pretty amazing just to watch his performance. These are absolute classic performances and should be watched by any aspiring guitar player, I certainly had a huge desire to grab my guitar and start playing…just don’t set it alight!
My favourite piece was Hendrix playing a beautiful twelve string, I love the acoustic guitar and strive to find as many recordings of unusual songs and artists playing their songs acoustically, and this is undoubtedly the pinnacle of that search. It’s amazing to see him play, and particularly interesting to see how nervous he was when he makes a mistake (like I heard!) and asks if he can start again. When he steams into the second play you can see he wasn’t just an electric virtuoso. His talent is unmistakable and these performances have been selected to really show off his best playing.
The picture quality is very good with a lot of restored and remastered footage. Still some sections show their age and that’s not taking into account the hairstyles and clothes! Overall though, it’s excellent quality for remastered 1973 footage and some of the older and more worn performances.
The interviews are perhaps the highest picture quality, however here it’s the words that matter more than anything, and in the performances it’s the music.
Presented: English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0
Subtitles: English and French
I didn’t quite understand this one, presenting the film in DD5.1 seemed a waste of channels without a proper remix to bring you into the performances, or let you feel you’re sitting in the studio, park or stage that the interviewees were. It doesn’t add anything to the experience over the DD2.0 track. The sound sticks firmly at the front, although at times it does spread wider, but just as much is achieved with the DD2.0.
Some of the older performance footage does sound old with cracks, clicks and hiss. Yet this achieved something else, like that feeling with vinyl, it just adds to the atmosphere and performance.
Presented: From the Uklele to the Strat (63:00), The making of Dolly Dagger and Stone Free performance
From the Uklele to the Strat provides you with what appears to be the full interviews that were used to cut together to make the documentary. Although I did start to find this hard going, it really does provide a level of authenticity and would appeal to the hard bent Hendrix fan. The interviews are wide and extensive, and considering the purchase base for this I would think that there will be many Hendrix fans watching this.
The making of Dolly Dagger is a superb and very insightful feature into the recording process for any song, never mind one of Hendix’s. Sitting with the Producer\Engineer from the recording, Eddie Kramer, we’re treated to a break down of the track, how it was recorded, insights into the process, and even sections that never made it to the final cut. This was fascinating.
Finally there’s a performance of Stone Free from the Atlanta Pop Festival in 1970 on July the 4th, apparently never seen before. This is a blistering watch, and much like the rest of his performances, amazing and very entertaining. Watching his guitar work just astounds me, and listening to how easily he produces the music fills you with envy. Roughly shot, but it again adds to the raw feel of the performance.
I think this is an excellent documentary for fans of Hendrix and of the guitar. It’s an insightful film which doesn’t get hung up on any of the contentious issues of the man’s life, and instead tells us from his friends, co-workers and peers who he really was and how dedicated to his music he was.
However, if you’re not a Hendrix or guitar fan, I think you might find this much harder going. I’d have preferred a more expansive DD5.1 track, or just sticking to the DD2.0, and some more intimate performances would have added to the overall attraction.
A good purchase for the performances, and in particular the acoustic performance, but add the interviews and the making of featurette, and you have a classic DVD for the fan.
Straight from Warner Brothers online for $14.95.