Searching For Jimi Hendrix

Various Artists

The Right Stuff Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


So I'm listening to the "soundtrack" to the latest documentary from director D.A. Pennebacker, Searching For Jimi Hendrix, and I think to myself, "Do we really need another Hendrix cover album?"

After all, it has only been about eight years since Stone Free came out and did a respectable job of presenting the music of the legendary guitarist in a whole new light. (There was something satisfying about hearing artists like The Cure cover "Purple Haze".)

But Searching For Jimi Hendrix does something that Stone Free didn't: It presents a more diverse group of artists, including some that you might never have heard of prior to this album. And while I can't say that all the translations are great, I'd like to think that the artists' hearts were in the right place.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

First, a warning: If you pick this disc up expecting to hear close-to-the-bone renditions of the songs, you're gonna be real disappointed. Of course, this was not the overall goal for the album; each artist got their own chance to interpret a Hendrix song - not necessarily a well-known one either - in their own manner.

Some of these work well. Taylor Dayne's electronica-laden version of "The Wind Cries Mary" is surprisingly good, as is Laurie Anderson's rendition of "1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)" - and frankly, I don't like Anderson's work in general, so this has to be a kick-ass version.

Artists who you'd never expect to be listening to, much less playing, Hendrix pull off the most convincing shockers on Searching For Jimi Hendrix. Rosanne Cash's version of "Manic Depression" isn't perfect, but it's an interesting take. Likewise, Mark Isham possibly captures the jazziness of Hednrix's songwriting and playing the best with his cover of "Stone Free". And, quite possibly, we see the torch of Latin rock pass from Los Lobos ("Are You Experienced") to Los Illegals ("Little Wing").

But there are disappointments on this disc as well. Charlie Musselwhite tries to keep "Here My Train A-Comin'" close to the blues roots, but it comes off sounding incredibly antiquated. Likewise, Five Blind Boys From Alabama don't quite pull it off with their a capella version of "Drifting," though I really wanted to hear their contribution to this project. And Chuck D.'s "Hendrix-inspired" rap on "Free At The Edge Of An Answer" - well, I'm sorry, but this just doesn't feel like it belongs on the project. (If I had to pick a song for Chuck to have done, I'd have selected "Crosstown Traffic".)

Searching For Jimi Hendrix has highs and lows like any tribute album, but it does hold its own weight well - and shows me that the world was indeed ready for another Hendrix tribute disc.

Rating: B

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of The Right Stuff Records, and is used for informational purposes only.