Saturday, 14 March 2015

Jimi Hendrix - Atlanta International Pop Festival [1970]

Sounds of Hendrix in the South

I watched and enjoyed very much Reginald D Hunter's recent BBC music documentary Sounds of the South. Having left his home in Georgia many years ago to live in England, there are very thin links to my own expatriate experience, but so thin I won't be making any more of that.

What impressed was obviously the music - the blues and all its southern variants - the scenery and palpable sense of heat for viewers [Reginald sweated for his return], and Hunter's intelligent, thoughtfully reflective commentary. There were far too many stand-out performances/interviews to name them all, but three I particularly liked were Arrested Development's alfresco jam, the interview with a consummately laid-back Tony Joe White, and the interview with the father of bluegrass music, Del McCoury, who told us how much he had grown to hate the song he made famous, Blue Moon of Kentucky.

The Deep South of the 60s and 70s was very much the backdrop for Hunter's reflections on his homeland historically and culturally, and that is a backdrop those of my generation know about well [though I only ever visited Kentucky once in the mid 70s - but I saw enough even in that brief time to tell me the history and culture of racism was still rife]. Imagine then what it was like for Atlanta, Georgia to not only host a rock concert full of hippies [commies] but also where Jimi Hendrix played. He performed apparently at around midnight on the 4th July, and gave a rendition of his version of The Star Spangled Banner [and wonderful to hear on this album]. I will never forget hearing and seeing that for the first time on the Woodstock film where, like many teenagers emerging in political opposition to the Viet Nam war and so much of American culture, I was so deeply affected and moved. Sounds rather overwrought, but it is true. Naturally, there will have been many in that Atlanta crowd in tune with Hendrix's psychedelia and the sentiments of that version - much deeper in meaning than simply being anti-war - but there will have been many too for whom having a black guy performing and politicising, if just briefly here, was a shock.

This is a brilliant performance from Hendrix and band, and the recording is incredibly crisp and as loud as one can make it! Best tracks? All of them.

Click to enlarge and read

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