If 60’s Were 90’s
3 out of 5 stars
Videos by American Songwriter
Expanded reissues of marginal, long out of print albums seldom get more ambiguous than this oddity initially released in 1994.
The theory behind it is enticing. Alan Douglas, who was at the time in charge of the Jimi Hendrix catalog, gave the rights to sample any of the guitarist’s vocals and music to a group of UK Acid House DJ mixers who went under the moniker of Beautiful People. They created techno pieces over which 50-some snippets of Hendrix’s music, guitar solos, vocals and spoken words were sliced and diced. Live drums were added to bring a more organic atmosphere to the sound. The short-lived Beautiful People even toured the project, opening for such high profile acts as Oasis and Hawkwind. But everything crashed and burned when the act’s label, the tiny Continuum imprint, went bankrupt soon after the American disc was issued in 1994.
That might have been the end of an interesting, if not entirely successful venture. Yet now someone decided the time was right to not only reissue and remaster the initial nine-track, 45 minute disc, but add two more platters of remixes, a DVD and picture book for a deluxe version of a set few even knew existed.
Twenty-seven years later, it still feels remarkably fresh. Beautiful People generally worked impressive studio magic on these songs, adding loops of Hendrix’s playing, singing and talking, along with audio clips of Brian Jones, Mike Bloomfield and others, to their mostly programmed beat heavy techno. The yin and yang of the electronics against Hendrix’s often psychedelic guitar is usually thought-provoking, if not always inspired.
The opening “Rilly Groovy,” which borrows bits of “Wild Thing” and a guitar part from the rather obscure “Bleeding Heart,” actually made it to the dance charts at No. 1. The disc’s name is taken from Jimi’s classic “If 6 Was 9,” as Hendrix’s vocal plays an integral part in the title tune.
Hardcore Hendrix fans were, for the most part, not impressed, likely because this grave digging didn’t sit well with purists. But those more liberal about his legacy were open to the idea, giving the album 4 ½ stars on Amazon. It’s doesn’t all work; there are too many spoken parts, many repeated during a tune. But it’s never less than listenable and generally intriguing. Those who know Hendrix’s music intimately will have fun identifying which bits are borrowed from what songs (an easy to read chart is included to provide that info).
Far less necessary though are the additional two hours (!) of remixes by such notable names as Youth, PM Dawn and others tacked on. Perhaps these are effective on the dance floor, but having to wade through extended repetitious beats if you are not in a club, and possibly if you are, is an exercise in patience many just won’t have.
Still, it’s worthwhile to have this fascinating experiment back in print, especially since unfettered access to sample the Hendrix catalog, now that it has changed hands to a more corporate entity, is unlikely to be afforded again.
You may not need, or want, the extras to appreciate the concept. But for Hendrix followers with open minds, it’s surely worth exploring.