Jimi Hendrix – Miami Pop Festival (review)

Jimi Hendrix Experience – Miami Pop Festival (Experience Hendrix / Sony Legacy) review

Newly-discovered tapes offer some of the best document of Hendrix in his element

So, you’re probably thinking: “wait, another Hendrix live album – aren’t we scraping the bottom of the barrel”?  The answer is, an emphatic NO.  In fact, Miami Pop Festival may turn out to be one of the finest documents of the cosmically-talented guitarist’s short career.

If it’s that good, why wasn’t it released until now?  Well, these tapes were thought to be long lost, so better late than never, right?

Organized by Michael Lang, who would famously put together Woodstock a year later, the Miami Pop Festival was the first outdoor rock festival on the East coast.  Thrown together in a month, the promoters lucked out when Jimi Hendrix said “yes” to an invitation to play.  He had wowed the audience at Monterey the year before with his flaming guitar, and since then, he was the biggest concert attraction around.

What sets Miami Pop apart from other Hendrix live albums is that this one sounds really good. While even Winterland, for all its greatness (see our review) is kind of sludgy in the mix of instruments, Miami Pop is really crisp.  A lot of the credit goes to engineer Eddie Kramer, who was asked to record the concert while on hiatus from helming Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland LP.   He was also brought back in to remix these tracks 45 years later.

The disc opens with an introduction which features something unbelievable: Hendrix, one of the greatest guitarists of all time, having to tune his own guitar.  Certainly, you’d think he’d have a guitar tech standing by to do that!  As was tradition, this is followed by a long jam, which encompasses the beginning of “Hey Joe.”  As the actual song begins, marvel at the frenetic kick pedal of drummer Mitch Mitchell.

“Tax Free” gives Hendrix a chance to work out the wah wah pedal, while “Fire” is played at lightning speed.  Things slow down for an intense version of the blues standard “Red House.”

The booklet comes with an excellent essay giving background to the event.  Plus, there’s some fantastic photos, showing Hendrix with his signature hat in place.

There’s excellent video footage from this show in the new Hendrix documentary Hear My Train a Comin (read our review).  Seeing Hendrix and band perched on a makeshift stage made of flatbed trucks, makes you appreciate just how good this material sounds, despite the conditions.  In a long line of Jimi Hendrix live albums, Miami Pop Festival stands as one of the all-time best.  —Tony Peters