Jimi Hendrix - Jimi Plays Berkeley [VHS/DVD/Blu-Ray] (Live Recording/+DVD)

Release Date: 09 July 2012
Artist: Jimi Hendrix
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Remastered for its 2003 reissue, this is not a feature-length documentary of the two performances from the Berkeley Community Center on Saturday, May 30, 1970. It is a 50-minute mishmash of some of the songs from those shows mixed with extraneous snippets of various student demonstrations of the time. Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer remixed the sound in 5.1 surround for both of the evenings' shows. The entire later gig is available on a separate CD and as a 67-minute audio-only addition to this DVD. Unfortunately, the movie is a botched job, with only half of each show recorded, and most songs not in their entirety. Originally recorded on 16mm for about $22,000 -- and it looks it -- the movie is grainy and amateurishly shot, even though there was a four-camera crew. Its turbulent history is detailed in the DVD's booklet, but suffice it to say that although there are some magnificent moments, this was nowhere near Hendrix at his best. Certainly the finished project's quality -- even spiffed up for DVD release by the Experience Hendrix organization -- is unprofessional at best. No need taking hallucinogens before pushing play; the shaky, out-of-focus camera work that circles, flips, and twirls unexpectedly will make you feel like you dropped bad acid. Hendrix, working without a set list as usual during shows in the last part of his life (and changing outfits from black leather pants to a rather embarrassing powder-blue jumpsuit between gigs), is meandering but intense and improves throughout the concert. He plows through a hasty "Lover Man," "The Star Spangled Banner," and a perfunctory "Johnny B. Goode," but puts more thought and emotion into an abbreviated seven-minute "Machine Gun" and especially a taut "Hear My Train a Comin'." The final "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" (shot primarily and frustratingly from behind (i.e., no visuals of his guitar playing) reveals Hendrix finally finding his groove, playing with his teeth and under his leg as bassist Billy Cox and drummer Mitch Mitchell -- both practically MIA throughout -- hang on for the ride. Although the video shortcomings nearly derail the flick, the 5.1 sound is terrific: clear and live with just enough audience ambience. Far from the best Hendrix footage available, there are still enough moments here to justify the short film's existence and hardcore fans will want to jump aboard. But anyone expecting something better than an unfinished, at times barely watchable, document of an average Hendrix set will be sorely disappointed. ~ Hal Horowitz
Release Date: 09 July 2012
Artist: Jimi Hendrix

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Catalogue No: 88691993319