Archived Story

What is the limit of a re-release?

Published 10:34am Saturday, September 24, 2011

Though he died more than 40 years ago, “new” Jimi Hendrix albums keep coming.

The latest release — a live box set from a 1968 Winterland Ballroom performance — raises the question of how many releases and re-releases are enough.

During his lifetime, Jimi Hendrix released three studio albums, two live albums, two compilation albums and twelve singles. Since he died at age 27 in 1970, there have been nine studio albums, 28 compilations and 19 live albums.

How many re-releases, bootlegs, rare recordings and live recordings does it take to fill listeners’ robust appetites?

It would appear the music-buying public is still hungry, since they keep buying such albums. Likewise, record companies are still more than willing to take the money.

The intoxicating thing about “new” Hendrix material is the frequent rumor and talk of rare, never before heard songs tied up by legal trouble. If such a collection were released, it’d probably be worth the buy. Without unreleased songs, record companies are expecting listeners to continually purchase the same core songs over and over.

Don’t get me wrong, the singles version of the new “Winterland” box set is a great listen that plays like a live greatest hits.

It’s Hendrix at his prime, playing his A material. He cover Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” with ferocious precision. His soulful rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” shows why no one can quite cover Dylan like Hendrix.

The album offers a glimpse into the man behind the legend. Clips of the performance reveal a laid back Jimi chatting up the crowd before playing “Manic Depression” as workers fix a blown amplifier.

But again, this isn’t the first live Hendrix album. In fact, “Live At Winterland” was already released in 1987, albeit as one album and not a multi-disc compilation.

Another example is the famed Hendrix performance at Woodstock. There are at least two live Hendrix albums from the show, plus a vast collection of compilations. Two live albums were released from the famed Monterey Pop Festival Performance where Hendrix burned his guitar to upstage The Who.

To many, the Hendrix and other posthumous releases have turned excessive.

Take Jim Morrison of The Doors, who also died at 27. The rest of the band recorded “An American Prayer” using recordings of his poetry after his death.

But Doors material has been relatively quiet since, right?

Wrong.

More than 11 compilation albums and box sets have been released since 2000, including a “Best of the Doors” and two separate albums titled “The Very Best of the Doors.”

Excessive? You be the judge. Fans and record companies need to learn to let their legends rest in peace.

Bootlegs and other rare recordings are legitimate favorites to a wide variety of fans. They give a unique insight into almost all well-loved musicians, not just Hendrix.

Bob Dylan is perhaps the best example with nine volumes of his famed bootlegs. Unlike Hendrix, Dylan — whose career has spanned five decades — is known for vastly different takes of songs (to the chagrin of many fans).

There’s a hair-thin line between legitimate rare material and re-releases, which often are just a record company’s next paycheck.

“Winterland” proves there is no questioning Hendrix’s greatness. But, there is room to question how many releases are necessary. How many times do people want to buy “Purple Haze” and Voodoo Child?”

The music itself reveals the answer. The performance reveals the rare skill that keeps listeners coming back for more — even if it’s more of the same.

Ultimately, the choice is up to the listeners.

The intoxicating thing about “new” Hendrix material is the frequent rumor and talk of rare, never before heard songs tied up by legal trouble. If such a collection were released, it’d probably be worth the buy. Without unreleased songs, record companies are expecting listeners to continually purchase the same core songs over and over.

Don’t get me wrong, the singles version of the new “Winterland” box set is a great listen that plays like a live greatest hits.

It’s Hendrix at his prime, playing his A material. He cover Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” with ferocious precision. His soulful rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” shows why no one can quite cover Dylan like Hendrix.

The album offers a glimpse into the man behind the legend. Clips of the performance reveal a laid back Jimi chatting up the crowd before playing “Manic Depression” as workers fix a blown amplifier.

But again, this isn’t the first live Hendrix album. In fact, “Live At Winterland” was already released in 1987, albeit as one album and not a multi-disc compilation.

Another example is the famed Hendrix performance at Woodstock. There are at least two live Hendrix albums from the show, plus a vast collection of compilations. Two live albums were released from the famed Monterey Pop Festival Performance where Hendrix burned his guitar to upstage The Who.

To many, the Hendrix and other posthumous releases have turned excessive.

Take Jim Morrison of The Doors, who also died at 27. The rest of the band recorded “An American Prayer” using recordings of his poetry after his death.

But Doors material has been relatively quiet since, right?

Wrong.

More than 11 compilation albums and box sets have been released since 2000, including a “Best of the Doors” and two separate albums titled “The Very Best of the Doors.”

Excessive? You be the judge. Fans and record companies need to learn to let their legends rest in peace.

Bootlegs and other rare recordings are legitimate favorites to a wide variety of fans. They give a unique insight into almost all well-loved musicians, not just Hendrix.

Bob Dylan is perhaps the best example with nine volumes of his famed bootlegs. Unlike Hendrix, Dylan — whose career has spanned five decades — is known for vastly different takes of songs (to the chagrin of many fans).

There’s a hair-thin line between legitimate rare material and re-releases, which often are just a record company’s next paycheck.

“Winterland” proves there is no questioning Hendrix’s greatness. But, there is room to question how many releases are necessary. How many times do people want to buy “Purple Haze” and Voodoo Child?”

The music itself reveals the answer. The performance reveals the rare skill that keeps listeners coming back for more — even if it’s more of the same.

Ultimately, the choice is up to the listeners.


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