In Part 1 of my review of The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live In Maui we explored the three album vinyl portion of the set. If you missed that, please click here to jump to it as it provides much important background on the underlying concert.
In the included Blu-ray, we get to see The Jimi Hendrix Experience performing live on Maui in Hawaii just over a month before his death. It is a remarkable performance not only from how Hendrix and the band were playing but also just the fact that anything was recorded at all! The filming and production was plagued by electrical problems, technical glitches and 30-40 mile per hour winds!
So don’t be surprised when you see the microphones on stage wrapped up in foam (reportedly pulled out of their guitar cases) to act as wind screens. Producer/Engineer Eddie Kramer deserves much kudos for making these recordings sound as good as they do, pulling out as much of the band’s instrumentation and fidelity as possible, capturing that essence of live concert sound without the blustery wind swept madness that you see on screen in some of the film footage.
Because there were at times problems with the signals going to the drums, back in the day drummer Mitch Mitchell remarkably re-recorded his performance — playing to “rushes” of the film in the studio! For this new definitive edition, Kramer was able to repair and restore more of the original drum tracks. If you listen real closely to the Stereo version you can sort of make out when the ambiance changes a little bit. But he did such a good job that it is not easy.
When you watch the performances and listen in 5.1 surround sound (in DTS HD Master Audio, for those of you who are curious) you can hear those sonic changes a bit more easily. I am guessing here, but it seems that as the three dimensional sound field for the different tracks come into focus, the audio seems to move around you a bit as portions of music change from live tracks to studio replacements. It isn’t bad and in fact I found it quite fascinating as it became a kind of aural cue that some change was afoot.
More noticeable are those moments where Mitch Mitchell wasn’t able to recreate exactly his live performance in the studio, so there are times when what you see happening on screen doesn’t match up with what you are hearing.
Once you get accustomed to this incongruity, it is not really a big deal. Ultimately The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live In Maui is about the music which is sublime here!
The only significant quirk to be aware of is that the film footage is incomplete. There were times when the power went out for the cameras while the band and the eight-channel multi-track recorder kept cooking along.
So don’t be surprised when you periodically see still images on screen including some that say “All Cameras Stopped.” Really! It is weird, but it is also kind of cool, enhancing the sort of archival, archeological dig vibe that we get in a package like this.
Consider it kind of like when you go to a museum and you see the bones of a dinosaur — your mind, inspired by artist drawings and decades of science fiction films from Godzilla to Jurassic Park, fleshes them out so you can imagine their ferocious beauty.
And so it goes with The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live In Maui.
The documentary — Music, Money, Madness… — included on the Blu-ray is both interesting and frustrating. In its attempt to tell the story of how the Rainbow Bridge film project came about in the first place, and why The Jimi Hendrix Experience got roped into being in it, the documentary itself gets plenty convoluted. Almost as convoluted, I suspect, as the actual film which is not on this disc!
Personally, I’m am curious to see the actual Rainbow Bridge film as it sounds like a fascinating hippie train wreck — apparently the original four hour epic was whittled down to an hour and a half for commercial considerations and still it failed miserably as a cinematic experience.
Perhaps it is better in the long run that the film is not included in this collection, keeping the focus on the music which is really all that matters at the end of the day.
If you like Hendrix and the material he was working on on just before his death, you’ll need to own The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live In Maui. The vinyl sounds great all things considered and the available live concert footage on the Blu-ray Disc is wonderful. Selling commonly for under $50, this is a no brainer to pick up.