Ok, so I'll admit that I procrastinated a whole lot on buying a copy West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology, but I had my reasons. A big part of that rationale was the simple space issues I was coping with in 2010 when this came out -- I was downsizing my collection, not looking to increase it by eight individual LPs and a lovely box with full color booklet.
Four years later, I'm settled down for the most part and still hadn't purchased the set, but I was at least THINKING that I needed to pick up the four CD set version of the album "one of these days...."
I wasn't even considering the LP incarnation...
Then the unlikely thing happened: an online store I frequented announced that it was going out of business and getting rid of back stock at drastically reduced prices. Checking their web store I came across the eight LP version of West Coast Seattle Boy on sale for ... wait for it... drum roll... here it comes: $53!
Everywhere I'd seen this it was easily upwards closer to $100 for the set. Anyhow, $53 was an absolute no brainer for me to order this from the first needle drop I am very happy with it. The sound is stellar, made off crisp master tapes boasting a rich spectrum with a glorious analog lilt. Despite being the king of electric guitar and feedback-drenched madness, Jimi's guitar tone was incredibly lush and warm.
This was never more apparent than the previously unreleased studio workouts of "Bolero" segued into a studio take of "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)." I've loved this song from the first time I heard it on the Rainbow Bridge soundtrack, but this version has added punch and immediacy, evidenced by the air pushing out my speakers from the drive of Mitch Mitchell's kick drum and the oh-so-alive feel of his tom toms,. Hearing Jimi ask the engineer if the mic is on just before he started to sing the song is just magical.
The side ends with a solo acoustic sketch recording of a previously unreleased song called "Suddenly November Morning" which is a beautiful way to end the side.
Think about it: solo acoustic Jimi Hendrix on dead quiet, perfectly centered 180-gram audiophile worthy vinyl.
There are more than 45 previously unreleased (or commercially unavailable) tracks on this set.
After playing disc eight, I jumped back to disc one and my jaw is still dropped as I hear for (arguably) the first time these early recordings of Jimi as a session player in great sound! Yes, so hear you hear Jimi Hendrix backing the likes of The Isley Brothers, Don Covay and Little Richard, among others. This is truly revelatory. The Experience Hendrix estate must be commended for clearly digging out very clean source material for this set, tracks dating back to 1964, in very nice true stereo and monaural sound.
Side four commences the archival work with The Jimi Hendrix Experience and from the get go it doesn't disappoint with tracks like the original pre-reduction mix of the basic track of an alternate recording of "Fire" from 1967 -- this means that now we get to hear all of Mitch Mitchell's drumming in stereo! This is followed by an open, atmospheric basic track of "Are You Experience?" and a really gorgeous alternate recording of "May This Be Love" with Jimi playing an effect that "sounded backwards" (according to the liner notes) but wasn't. It sounds like the sort of effect guitarists like Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew would use years later before the advent of digital stomp boxes that could automatically turn tracks around.
Very cool stuff here. This set goes on and on over the course of eight LPs, like this so I know it is going to be a fun one to explore.
There is some extra groovy (hey, it is Jimi!) news for those of you who -- like me -- overlooked this gem: West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology is still quite abundantly available and at very reasonable prices. I've found used copies on Amazon selling for as low as $40 and new from about $61. For eight beautifully pressed, 180-gram Hendrix LPs, that is a killer deal.
No need to wait anymore on this one, kids!
Mark Smotroff is a freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T and many others. www.smotroff.com Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine, Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, BigPictureBigSound.com, Sound+Vision Magazine and HomeTechTell.com. He is also a musician / composer whose songs have been used in TV shows such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films and documentaries. www.ingdom.com Mark is currently rolling out a new musical he's written: www.dialthemusical.com.