A Bad Experience

The new Jimi Hendrix box offers too much of a not-so-great thing

Listening to the box, one gets the sense that Hendrix wasn't necessarily a demanding perfectionist, cutting tracks dozens of times trying to get it right, but more of a restless traveler, recording and re-recording a single song because he could never find what he was looking for. The versions of “Purple Haze” or “Sweet Angel” aren't necessarily better or worse than their final, formal releases; they're just different, bending at different angles and burning at different places. To say that even his tossoffs are invaluable is an overstatement (“Astro Man,” his ode to cartoon superheroes, is funny enough, even with that line about “that faggot Superman,” but dispensable), but there is something revelatory about even his most buried treasure. Yes, he was all the things they said of him -- genius, guru, giant, god -- but every now and then something like this comes along to remind you he was one more thing: a sad, funny guy who took his guitar wherever he went (even to the bathroom, because he liked the echo) and made magic, even when taking a shit.

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