Jimi Hendrix – Rainbow Bridge (review)

Jimi Hendrix – Rainbow Bridge (Experience Hendrix / Legacy) review

Long out of print Hendrix albums available in their original form

Little known Hendrix fact: Besides being an amazing guitar player, Jimi Hendrix was also an avid record collector. What better way to hear Hendrix’s music than the way he would’ve wanted you to hear it – on high-quality vinyl. Experience Hendrix & Sony Legacy have just issued two classic Hendrix albums, The Cry of Love & The Rainbow Bridge Soundtrack, and both are available on mp3, CD, and most importantly, good ol’ vinyl.

After Hendrix’s untimely passing in 1970, a barrage of archival releases hit the market, all trying to capitalize on his death, and most with no regard his artistic vision.  As time went on, these releases got even more dubious, with unfinished Hendrix tracks released featuring newly-recorded musicians.  Finally in 1995, the Hendrix estate gained control of his music and began releasing these tracks in the context that they originally were intended.

All of the tracks from Rainbow Bridge are now available elsewhere.  However, the original album holds up surprisingly well.  “Dolly Dagger” takes one of the riffs from “Purple Haze” and surrounds it with a funky groove, while “Earth Blues” is driven by a descending guitar line and features a surprisingly, gospel-tinged bridge. “Pali Gap” is one of the guitarist’s best instrumentals – even at five minutes in length, it never drags. “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)” has a melody that is very close to his take on “All Along the Watchtower.”  Like a lot of the material here, it was unfinished – you can hear Hendrix ask “is the microphone on”?

“Room Full of Mirrors” features heavily-effected guitars, which is a shame – what could’ve been a great song is hopelessly dated.  Also missing the mark is a studio take on “The Star Spangled Banner,” which pushed him to prominence as the closing of the Woodstock Festival.  In studio form, it’s all spaced-out trickery, lacking the muscle and energy of the live performance.  There’s also a searing live version of “Hear My Train a Comin’” actually recorded at Berkeley and not at the Rainbow Bridge concert, which clocks in at over eleven minutes.

A note on the vinyl – the album jacket features a gatefold cover featuring some great photos of Hendrix in concert.  The vinyl itself is high-quality, 180 gram weight, and is full of warmth.  There’s something about playing Hendrix’s music on vinyl that makes him seem closer in this format.

Incidentally, the original Rainbow Bridge movie is a complete disaster (it is readily available on Youtube).  The plotless film centers around Maui hippies – getting stoned, surfing and talking about aliens.  There is even about five minutes of a very intoxicated Hendrix being interviewed – not flattering at all.

Although the tracks on Rainbow Bridge have all been reissued on better compilations, the original album stands up pretty well as a good collection of Hendrix’s last recordings.  —Tony Peters