Clapton Contributes Track To New Hendrix Tribute CD, “Power Of Soul”


Jimi Hendrix’s uncanny musical abilities are without question. He catapulted into the spotlight with his stunning debut release, Are You Experienced in early 1967, earning himself the moniker as "The Wild Man From Borneo" thanks to such roaring classics as "Purple Haze." Through it all, he remained closely vigilant in embracing his musical past. Although he only ever looked forward when it came to playing his own music, because he had grown up as a flamboyant part of both the Chitlin’ Circuit and the well-traveled R&B/Soul revues of the early 1960s, his flair for fusing rock `n’ roll, R&B, jazz, soul, and blues helped solidify his mark as one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century, and along the way, influencing everyone from Stevie Wonder to Jonny Lang.

As a young boy growing up in Seattle, Jimi listened to scores of records from all the popular musicians of the time including Fats Domino and James Brown to Elvis Presley and Little Richard. Music was his lifeblood. As his interest in music piqued, his father, James "Al" Hendrix gave Jimi a guitar-a simple gift of music that, unbeknownst at the time, would be the foundation for one of the most celebrated musical careers in history.

While modern news media branded Hendrix as the psychedelic wild man, his music was deeply rooted in the richly expressive sounds of blues, soul, and R&B. After his discharge from the 101st Airborne (Screaming Eagles) in the early 1960s, Hendrix began his unsuspecting career as a traveling guitarist with many of the big rhythm and blues tours. Over the course of the next four years, Hendrix would be an active touring member of such acts as The Isley Brothers (1964), Gorgeous George And The Odells (1964), Sam Cooke (1964), Little Richard (1964/65), Ike And Tina Turner Review (1965), Curtis Knight (1965), and finally King Curtis (1966) before splitting off to form his own band, Jimmy James & The Blue Flames which saw Hendrix settle down in New York. And that’s where history would be made.

Discovered by ex-Animals bassist, Chas Chandler in the heart of Greenwich Village, Chandler whisked Hendrix away to London, changed the guitarist’s first name from Jimmy to Jimi, paired him with drummer, Mitch Mitchell and guitarist-turned-bassist, Noel Redding and formed The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Over the course of the coming four years, Hendrix would record three incredibly influential albums, Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland and forge the foundations for First Rays Of The New Rising Sun and a wealth of, as yet, unreleased hidden studio gems. Along the way he created new musical ensembles such as Gypsy, Sun And Rainbows for the Woodstock festival in 1969 and the monumental all-black trio, the Band Of Gypsys whose 1970 self-titled release has since been regarded as one of the earliest examples of the evolving sounds of Funk.

As a result of Jimi’s trailblazing approach to creating new sounds and music styles, his songs remain an influential catalyst for today’s musicians regardless of their background or heritage. As a celebration of Jimi’s musical output, Experience Hendrix is teaming with some of today’s hottest musicians to produce Power Of Soul: A Tribute To Jimi Hendrix, a spectacular 16-track album set to debut on May 4, 2004 on compact and limited edition vinyl.

Originally geared as an all out R&B/Soul inspired tribute disc, once word hit the street that Experience Hendrix, led by album co-producer Janie Hendrix, was preparing a new Jimi Hendrix tribute project, the phone literally rang off the hook from artists from all musical genres calling to see if they too, could be a part of this special project. Much in the traditional sentiment of Jimi Hendrix himself, where he always wished for wide inclusion and participation, Janie opened the project to participation from artists in other fields.

The result of the growing collaboration is this hotly anticipated release co-produced by Janie Hendrix, ex-Earth, Wind & Fire guitarist Sheldon Reynolds and John McDermott. Explaining the album’s mission, Hendrix says [Power Of Soul] reflects Jimi’s philosophy about life and music. Jimi was a consummate musician who loved music from many, seemingly diverse and disparate genres. I think that, being that he played first and foremost as a means of expressing and pleasing himself, he was not overly concerned about limiting himself by doing only what was expected of him. We have approached this album from the same perspective."

"Compiling an album such as this has long been a dream for our family. We are deeply grateful that the power of Jimi’s appeal continues to inspire new generations of musicians to perform and record his music. We have welcomed many tributes to Jimi’s genius over the years, but with Power Of Soul, we have created our very own celebration of his special gifts. To honor Jimi’s enduring legacy, we choose to feature contributions that encompassed rock, R&B, blues, and funk. Each of these artists bears witness to Hendrix’s imprint on their music. From the contemporary R&B styling of Musiq to the deep country blues of John Lee Hooker, Jimi’s creative spirit-the pure inventive freedom he drew upon to originate these signature songs-stands undiminished."

Earlier this month, Experience Hendrix put the finishing touches on the new release during mastering sessions at New York’s famed Sterling Sound where long-time Experience Hendrix collaborator George Marino served over the mastering process.

Similar to 1993’s, Stone Free: A Tribute To Jimi Hendrix, which was also co-produced by John McDermott, Power Of Soul will carry a similar background theme where the proceeds from the sale of the release will help fund the United Negro College Fund. "Established with the royalties gathered from Stone Free," explains Hendrix. "All of the producers and participating artists embraced our commitment to continue supporting the scholarship fund in Jimi Hendrix’s name at the United Negro College Fund. Since the fund’s inception, monies generated in the past have already begun to make the dreams of many students bear fruit at thirty-nine UNCF affiliated schools across the United States."

Contributing artist Kenny Olson (lead guitarist for Kid Rock) applauds the funding of the UNCF saying, "Jimi had such a major impact on all walks of life, musically, more so that anybody else. It’s just amazing what he what he’s done for the world of music himself. The guy wasn’t a taker he was a giver with everything that he did."

Power Of Soul kicks off with a few words of "Gratitude" (0:18) by Jimi’s father, James "Al" Hendrix to help set the project’s tone. Platinum selling singer/songwriter Musiq contributes Hendrix’s debut anthem "Are You Experienced?" (4:23) as the album’s second track. Recorded during a break in production on his own album release – Soulstar – Musiq explained his involvement with the project to Rolling Stone magazine last year. "When I do remakes, I try to identify with the point the artist was trying to make instead of just doing the song over," he says. "Why did this person make this song? Why did they do it the way that they did? It’s about the artist and paying homage, but after awhile it tries to go past the artist and get to what the artist was trying to get to. I had a whole lot of fun with it."

Long time Hendrix-family supporter Carlos Santana contributes the album’s second song "Spanish Castle Magic" (4:09) featuring Corey Glover on vocals, Stanley Clarke on bass and the late Tony Williams on drums.

Music superstar Prince joins Power Of Soul with a special rendition of Hendrix’s blues standard, "Red House" which he’s recast into "Purple House" (3:39) complete with alternate lyric and musical arrangements. Prince has long been recognized for his incorporation of numerous elements from Hendrix’s own repertoire to help create a style, sound and presence that can only be defined as uniquely Prince. Joining Prince is Sly Stone alumnus Larry Graham on bass.

Just as Hendrix left his indelible mark on the lights of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and a host of others, Jimi’s incendiary musicianship also had a long lasting effect on Sting. Having previously recorded "Little Wing" for his own Nothing Like The Sun album in 1987, here Sting contributes "The Wind Cries Mary" (4:31), a track he recorded in 1995 with former Miles Davis and Mahavishnu Orchestra guitarist John McLaughlin.

Earth Wind & Fire, lead by founding member Maurice White contribute "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" (3:38) to Power Of Soul. The group is joined by EWF alumnus and project co-producer Sheldon Reynolds (lead guitar) along with the likes of Ricky Lawson and Verdine White to make for a super R&B and funk-fused tribute.

Legendary funk and R&B bass player Bootsy Collins (AKA "Bootzilla") joins the foray with fitting representation of Funk music’s debt Jimi Hendrix. Their rendition of "Power Of Soul" (4:48) also features Parliament-Funkadelic founder George Clinton plus a host of musicians from the P-Funk mob including Ron Jennings, Chris Walker, "Catfish" Collins, Garry Shider and many others.

The story of Hendrix going to London with ex-Animals bassist Chas Chandler simply on the promise that he’d get to meet Eric Clapton is one of the most fabled stories in the annals of rock history. True to his word, Chandler did get Hendrix and Clapton together and the two fostered a lasting friendship through to Hendrix’s passing. Shortly following one of Cream’s performances in 1967, Clapton spoke of Hendrix afterwards explaining, "[Jimi had] been here for about six months, and he played this gig that was just blinding . I knew what the guy was capable of from the minute I met him. It was the complete embodiment of the different aspects of rock & roll guitar rolled up into one. I could sense it coming off the guy." Their warm friendship and shared love of blues luminaries such as Muddy Waters, Elmore James and others comes through in Clapton’s excellent interpretation of "Burning Of The Midnight Lamp" (4:23).

Another revolutionary artist who follows the inspirational works of Hendrix is guitarist Lenny Kravitz. For years Kravitz has shied away from paying tribute to Hendrix musically through cover songs, but he’s always pointed to Hendrix as strong influence on his own style. " Jimi Hendrix was just so fluid. His hands were connected to his soul, you know? His playing was just so emotional. You could feel the fire. You could feel the blues. You could feel the sadness. It’s unbelievable." And when asked what he picked up from Hendrix, he quickly quips, "What you can do with an electric guitar! And how to blend rock & roll and blues all together in songs."

"I didn’t really get into Hendrix until I moved to California from New York and I was about twelve or thirteen. I moved to L.A. and heard Smash Hits. It was unbelievable. It was everything: It was psychedelic, it was funk, it was blues, it was rock."

For his involvement in Power Of Soul, Kravitz contributes his favorite Hendrix song "Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)" (3:08). "It’s just so soulful, so electric," says Kravitz. "It’s like floating in water!"

Power Of Soul’s impressive roster yields another R&B/soul interpretation of Hendrix’s music with the album’s ninth track "Who Knows" (3:16). Performed by Devoted Spirits, an all-star R&B collaboration featuring Reynolds, keyboardists George Duke and Larry Dunn, Ricky Lawson and Morris Pleasure.

One of music’s brightest young stars – Robert Randolph & The Family Band – join the Power Of Soul lineup with an intense, fiery rendition of "Purple Haze" (4:37). Hendrix fans may remember Randolph’s stunning live version of "Purple Haze" at the 2002 San Diego’s Street Scene festival. This new studio recording incorporates Robert’s trademark pedal steel guitar along with the accompaniment of Danyel Morgan (bass), brother Marcus Randolph (drums) and Jason Crosby (keyboards).

An all too brief recording "Going Home" (0:43) by one of Jimi’s close friends Velvert Turner is featured on the album and includes organ accompaniment by Sheldon Reynolds. Sadly Turner passed away in December 2000 before further recordings could be completed.

"Power Of Soul began with R&B legend Chaka Khan," explains Janie Hendrix. "Long a favorite of Jimi’s father Al Hendrix. Her forceful rendition of "Little Wing," framed by the stinging guitar of Kid Rock’s Kenny Olson, jump started a multi-year effort to create this album." The Chaka Khan/Kenny Olson rendition of "Little Wing" (3:40) shows how Hendrix’s influence can crosses different musical boundaries. "Jimi was way ahead of everyone else," says Olson. "This guy was about creating great music and I think this album will show how influential that music was. I think the record will shine a lot more on his various music styles and how these different artists were influenced by them."

The renowned vocal ensemble Sounds Of Blackness are joined by Reynolds and keyboardist Derek Clark on an upbeat gospel/R&B fused rendition of "Castles Made Of Sand" (3:06). Reynolds, long an admirer of Hendrix explains Jimi’s influence saying, "he was so true and free to push the bounds of expression. I often feel if many artists were allowed to express who they really are we would have many more who touch like Jimi. He was the flagship of what happens when an artist is able to give us the power of their soul."

The hard driving, power-chord filled work of Eric Gales comes to the forefront on his fiery rendition of "May This Be Love" (4:26). A fellow left-handed guitarist, Gales has in recent years been keenly associated with the Hendrix legacy after he was signed to the family’s Rock label – Hendrix Records in 2000. His label debut That’s What I Am caught the attention of guitar enthusiasts around the country particularly on his gritty rendition of "Foxey Lady."

Cee-Lo Green joins the production of Power Of Soul with his unique interpretation of "Foxey Lady" (3:40) by blending rock and R&B in musical twist that mirrors the Rap and neo-soul styling for which that this one-time Goodie Mob member has become highly touted.

Blues legend John Lee Hooker who called Hendrix, "a great, great blues man," will make an appearance on Power Of Soul with a stunning interpretation of Hendrix’s classic "Red House" (4:04) "Although I wanted to meet Hendrix," says Hooker "I never did, but I loved his music, oh yeah!" For the ageless blues wonder, John Lee Hooker, paying tribute to Hendrix is an inspiring musical opportunity, "Music is a healer. When I’m down and feeling blue and lonely, I have my guitar and my songs, and I play a little bit and it heals me. It heals my mind from that low feeling you got about your loved ones."

It was through Carlos Santana that the Hendrix family met and became good friends with John Lee Hooker. Each the legendary guitarist visited Seattle an invitation to Al Hendrix to come and enjoy the show was extended. "The two shared an instant bond and would come to share many laughs," explains Janie Hendrix. "John Lee often spoke of his love for Jimi’s playing and regretted that he never had the opportunity to work with him. He had hoped to contribute a new recording to Power Of Soul, but his death came before those plans could be realized. In recognition of his admiration for Jimi and support for this project, we have included John Lee’s dark, moody treatment of "Red House" first issued as part of his Don’t Look Back album."

Power Of Soul is rounded out with a blazing musical inferno by Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble. This previously unreleased recording taped on October 20, 1983 by the King Biscuit Flower Hour at Ripley’s Music Hall in Philadelphia, PA pits Vaughan in front of Chris Layton (drums) and Tommy Shannon (bass) for a spectacular rendition of "Little Wing / Third Stone From The Sun" (12:28).

Stevie Ray’s admiration for Hendrix has manifested in numerous interpretations of his songs and inclusion in almost every live concert appearance and several studio albums. "Beyond simply revealing Stevie Ray’s enormous admiration for Jimi," says Janie Hendrix. "This performance remains a compelling and passionate example of Stevie Ray’s extraordinary ability."

Power Of Soul: A Tribute To Jimi Hendrix is set for release on May 4, 2004 by Experience Hendrix/Image Entertainment. Power Of Soul will also see a simultaneous release on limited edition, high-grade vinyl through Classic Records. The LP version will include a previously unreleased recording of "The Wind Cries Mary" by Seal.

Essay By: Steven C. Pesant

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