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Reviewed by R. David Smola
his is the 40-minute set that blasted Jimi Hendrix into the American consciousness. After being introduced by the Stones’ Brian Jones, Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell proceeded to blow away the 200,000 in attendance -- and create a legend -- by delivering scorching versions of “Hey Joe,” “Purple Haze,” and Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” Having already created a stir in England, Hendrix returned to the States to try and conquer his homeland. The festival was the right place (Monterey, California) and occurred at the right time (June, 1967) to launch Hendrix into the stratosphere.
The picture quality looks great, considering this was transferred from 16mm film to high-def specs. The sound is excellent, but it’s Hendrix’s charm and talent that makes this an essential purchase. After hammering away at the Troggs’ “Wild Thing,” Jimi sacrifices his guitar by burning it onstage and then destroying it. This is one of the most defining and iconic moments in rock history, and it is captured magnificently in this format.
The performance is preceded by 20 minutes of interviews and discussions, both recent and archival, with the likes of John and Michelle Phillips from the Mamas and the Papas, rock journalists, label executives, Mitch Mitchell, and Noel Redding. The discussion focuses on the establishment of the festival and Hendrix’s history leading up to his appearance. Tidbits like Paul McCartney’s influence in getting Hendrix and the Who to the festival are shared, as are the genesis of Mitchell and Redding joining Hendrix to form the Experience. These pieces are cool, but the performance is breathtakingly important. Hendrix was a mercurial shooting star that burned brighter than most before imploding much too young. This performance displays the ridiculous power of his talent at a time when rock music was evolving at light speed.
The bonuses are decent, including a nine-minute discussion with Lou Adler (the co-founder of the festival) about creating the movie. Two Hendrix Experience tunes recorded live in Chelmsford England, “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Stone Free,” are also included but the sound quality on the black & white footage is poor. The DVD also includes multiple angles of several of the songs, allowing the viewer to switch points of view. But it isn’t these bonuses that sell this DVD, it is The Hendrix Experience erupting for 40 magical minutes right before your very eyes.