Released in 1990 as part of the Lifelines: The Jimi Hendrix Story boxed set, the concert presented on The L.A. Forum Concert has long been the best live recording of The Jimi Hendrix Experience from their Electric Ladyland tour. And now it’s even better thanks to Los Angeles Forum: April 26, 1969 (CD, digital, vinyl), a remastered, more readily available, and (more importantly) complete recording of that excellent show.
Photo Credit: © Don Klein / Authentic Hendrix
Recorded six months after Electric Ladyland‘s release,
this show, like many of the Experience’s concerts, opened with an announcer welcoming the band to the stage, followed by Jimi saying hello while he tunes his guitar (something he does again, later in the show). Not sure why Jimi never hired himself a good guitar tech, but given how many of his live albums have moments like this, he should’ve. But whatever.
What’s different about this moment on Los Angeles Forum: April 26, 1969 is that, unlike The L.A. Forum Concert, 1969 is presented as a separate (and thus easily skipped) track, for those not concerned with concert collections being so complete. For those of us who want this show to be uncut, warts and all, though, its inclusion is both essential and welcome.
Either way, the show presented on The L.A. Forum Concert, Los Angeles Forum: April 26, 1969 really kicks off in earnest with its second track, a blistering cover of Hansson & Karlsson’s “Tax Free,” which comes complete with a short but frantic drum solo by Mitch Mitchell. It’s not only a good opener for this show, but a fitting one, given how most of this show could also be called “blistering” — if it didn’t make this review so redundant.
Next, The Jimi Hendrix Experience launched into Are You Experienced‘s “Foxey Lady,” a track left off The L.A. Forum Concert because it had already been released on the 1982 compilation The Jimi Hendrix Concerts. Thankfully, the person who made that terrible decision apparently wasn’t involved in Los Angeles Forum: April 26, 1969, and its inclusion here not only makes this concert complete, but it also presents one of the most energetic renderings of a tune that’s rather energetic to begin with.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience then slowed things down with another track from the British version of Are You Experienced, the slow-burning blues tune “Red House.” Jammed out for eleven minutes (up from the original’s just shy of four), the version on The L.A. Forum Concert, Los Angeles Forum: April 26, 1969 has the group slowly but steadily building up to something blistering, with Jimi playing some rather intricate licks while Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding set up a solid rhythmic base.
Things then got back to blistering (there’s that word again) for a rip-roaring and rather extended version of Axis: Bold As Love‘s “Spanish Castle Magic.” As with “Red House,” the extensive jamming on this track turns a three-minute blast into an eleven minute epic, one that really gets chugging in the middle, and not a moment is wasted or extraneous.
Jimi next slowly eased into a scathing version of the “The Star-Spangled Banner,” complete with the kind of guitar-as-sound-effects as when he played it five months later during Woodstock.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience use our national anthem as something of an intro for their next song on Los Angeles Forum: April 26, 1969, “Purple Haze.” It’s yet another tune that the band effortlessly jammed until it was twice its length, a description that applies equally to the next track (and another classic from Are You Experienced), “I Don’t Live Today.”
It is then, and only then, that The Jimi Hendrix Experience finally get down to the business of playing a song from their new album, Electric Ladyland: “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” Except unlike the version on other live albums from this era, during which it came unadorned, here the trio launch into a blistering take on Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love” in the middle (on San Diego, they did Cream’s tune as part of “Spanish Castle Magic”), and an instrumental reprise of “Spanish Castle Magic” at the end.
What’s curious (and not entirely understandable), is why the people who assembled Los Angeles Forum: April 26, 1969 — y’know, the same people who restored the missing “Foxey Lady” and made the opening announcements their own skippable track — chose to split this lengthy jam into three parts. Which may not seem like a big deal…until you listen to it on a system that sticks a moment of silence between every track of an album.
This, thankfully, is the only real issue I had with Los Angeles Forum: April 26, 1969. Well, with the way it presents this excellent live show, anyway. If I’m going to nit-pick (and that is the job), I’d have to say I wish The Jimi Hendrix Experience had played more from Electric Ladyland. Sure, trying to top the studio version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” would be a fool’s errand, but hearing such Ladyland tunes as “Crosstown Traffic,” “Gypsy Eyes,” and “Burning Of The Midnight Lamp” on a night such as this, when they were firing on all cylinders, would’ve been epic.
As for how Los Angeles Forum: April 26, 1969 compares to other live albums from that tour, well, as I said, it’s the best of them. While the show from the Hollywood Bowl included in the Electric Ladyland: Deluxe Edition 50th Anniversary boxed set is good, it’s also annoyingly incomplete. And the same can be said for the ones in both the original Live At Winterland album and the Winterland boxed set, both of which have equally impressive versions of these classic songs, but are not complete shows, and also mix songs from various shows together.
Then there’s the San Diego 69 disc from the sadly out-of-print Stages boxed set, which is a great show in its own right — and a rather different one, making it a good companion to Forum. While “Red House,” “Purple Haze,” “I Don’t Live Today,” “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” and “Spanish Castle Magic” were played both nights, Diego has “Fire” and “Hey Joe” instead of “Tax Free” and “Foxey Lady,” while, as I mentioned, Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love” paired with “Spanish Castle Magic” instead of with “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” (though both work equally well).
In the end,
Los Angeles Forum: April 26, 1969 is both a great live album, and a welcome correction. Granted, it shouldn’t have taken 32 years to get it right, but now that they have, let’s hope they do the same for some other shows from that tour.