Out of a foreshortened lifeline and a relatively small body of work, it seems there is no end to the many miracles wrought by Jimi Hendrix to feed our insatiable hunger to hear every lick he played. For someone who did his fair share of burning the candle at both ends, as well as in the middle, he never lost sight of his work ethic and fascination with music’s byways — ceaselessly experimenting, recording and jamming with his peers. With People, Hell and Angels, there is still more to discover, savor and put in the context of his time on this Earth.
Despite the fact that Hendrix owns the spotlight, the hook of the album is collaboration — his readying to take a step into his next music, the one that we can only tantalizingly hear in these tracks. He entwines easily with his rhythm section, whether it be the straightforward and propulsive Buddy Miles, whose mighty whack on the snare goes with his insistent right foot; or Mitch Mitchell, always the most airy and spatial of drummers, skittering around the kit. Hendrix mostly relies on his old army buddy Billy Cox to underpin the bass, when he’s not assuming the low frequencies himself. Others who drop by are Steven Stills, saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood, and his percussive Woodstock “band,” Gypsy Sun and Rainbows. No matter whom he’s interacting with, Jimi doesn’t change so much as usher the chosen players into his spatial universe.
Some of it is remarkably straightforward and at other times the seams show, but People, Hell and Angels is a listenable and fascinating tour of Jimi’s thought processes in the last years of his life.