The Class of 1971: Jimi Hendrix — ‘The Cry of Love’
I’ve made many mistakes in my life, some very bad, some just annoying. One mistake closer to the annoying side was when I announced that I would not see Jimi Hendrix at the Baltimore Civic Center June 13, 1970, because we would see him in New York in the fall. He split before fall arrived. And that Baltimore show was incendiary, listening to the tapes. (However, I was fortunate to see him at Merriweather Post Pavilion August 16, 1968.)
Everyone I knew was totally crushed when he left us, although few of us were surprised. The Cry of Love was a lovely parting gift to us. Of course, we had no idea at the time about the tsunami of brilliant studio, live, and bootleg recordings which would continue to wash over us to this day. (And will somebody PLEASE issue Hendrix at the L.A. Forum April 25, 1970 in the U.S.? PLEASE? Yes, the stream is available, but I want to hold it in my hot little hands.)
The Cry of Love was the first posthumous release of music of Jimi Hendrix. What class do you put it in? The album contains material recorded from March of 1968 through August of 1970. He went back to his home planet on September 18, 1970. And the album was released in the U.S. and the U.K. on March 5, 1971.
Was The Cry of Love the album Hendrix intended to release? Obviously not. There were numerous hands involved in the production of the album and songs that were probably intended to be part of this album not included — was it to be a single album or a double? — and some that were not intended which are. For instance, according to Ultimate Hendrix, “Straight Ahead” and “My Friend” were not originally part of the project. They were included for the album release when “Dolly Dagger” and “Room Full of Mirrors” were held instead for what would become the second posthumous release, Rainbow Bridge.
Later on, attempts were made to estimate what Hendrix might have released, leading to the 1995 album Voodoo Soup (60 minutes) and then to the 1997 issue First Rays of the New Rising Sun (69 minutes). The original album ran 40 minutes, about standard for vinyl in that time period.
The core trio for the majority of the recording were: Jimi Hendrix, lead vocals, guitar, backing vocals on “In from the Storm,” piano on “Freedom”; Billy Cox, bass guitar on all tracks (except “My Friend”, “Belly Button Window”); and Mitch Mitchell, drums on all tracks (except “Ezy Ryder”, “My Friend”, “Belly Button Window”).
For “Ezy Rider,” add: Buddy Miles, drums; Billy Armstrong, percussion; Stevie Winwood, backing vocals; and Chris Wood, backing vocals.
For “My Friend,” add: Noel Redding, bass guitar; Kenny Pine, 12-string guitar; Jimmy Mayes, drums; Stephen Stills, piano; and Paul Caruso a.k.a. Gers, harmonica.
Additional musicians: Juma Sultan, percussion on “Freedom,” “Astro Man”; The Ghetto Fighters a.k.a. Arthur and Albert Allen, backing vocals on “Freedom”; Buzzy Linhart, vibraphone on “Drifting”; and Emeretta Marks, backing vocals on “In from the Storm.”
Production team: Jimi Hendrix, production, mixing on “Freedom”, “Nightbird Flying”, “Ezy Ryder”, “Astro Man”, “Belly Button Window”; Michael Jeffery, executive production; Eddie Kramer, posthumous production, engineering on all tracks (except “Ezy Ryder,” “My Friend”), mixing on all tracks; Jack Abrams, engineering on “Ezy Ryder” (1969); Bob Hughes, engineering on “Ezy Ryder” (1970); Mitch Mitchell, posthumous production, mixing on “Angel”; Nancy Reiner, cover art; and Victor Kahn-Sunshine, photography, graphic design.
The Cry of Love
“Freedom” (3:24) is a clear indication of where Hendrix was going. That opening guitar and his excellent solo, Cox’s driving bass and Mitchell’s matching drums, and those fine backing vocals from The Ghetto Fighters gave this song great lift. Live versions of this song are superb. Hendrix also plays piano here.
Hendrix recorded “Drifting” (3:46), a lovely ballad. The trippy guitars swirl around Buzzy Linhart’s beautiful vibes work.
Buddy Miles gives “Ezy Rider” (4:09) a nasty kick as multiple guitars again soar and dive, swooping in and out. These songs are short, taut, and immensely powerful. And how about Winwood and Wood from Traffic on backing vocals! Cox’s bass lines are pure dynamite.
“Night Bird Flying” (3:50) is an interesting mid-tempo tune. There is debate about whether Hendrix’s vocals: was he a great singer, mediocre singer, what? All I know is that his voice seemed perfect for every song he sang. Fine bass and drums once again.
“My Friend” (4:40) is a song laid on top of a drunken party someplace. It is a variation on the classic blues form. This one goes far enough back to include Noel Redding on bass. Harmonica courtesy of Paul Caruso a.k.a. Gers, with Stills on piano.
Confession: as a side-ist, I know Side one of this album much better than the second side. Are you now or have you ever been a side-ist?
“Straight Ahead” (4:42) is another of Hendrix’s strong messages plus more superb guitar and great drumming from Mitchell. Lyrics, in part:
Have you heard baby
What the wind’s blowin’ round
Have you heard baby
A whole lot a people’s coming right on down
Communication, yeah, is coming on strong
I don’t give a damn baby
If your hair is short or long
I said get out of your grave
Oh, everybody is dancing in the street
Do what you know
Do not be slow
You got to practice what you preach
Yeah, because it is time for you and me
Come to face reality
Forget about the past baby
Things ain’t what they used to be
Keep on straight ahead
Keep on straight ahead
We got to stand side by side
We got to stand together and organize
Send power to the people, that’s what they’re screaming
Freedom of the soul
Pass it on, pass it on, to the young and the old
You got to tell the children the truth
They don’t need a whole lot of lies
Because one of these days, baby
They’ll be running things
So when you give them love
You better give it right
Woman and child, man and wife
The best love to have is the Love Of Life
When you start a song with the Mighty Mouse theme (“Here I come to save the day!”), you know “Astro Man” (3:37) is going to be great. Cox and Mitchell have this one floored, and the guitars zing back and forth in your headphones.
“Angel” (4:25) is another gorgeous ballad. It continues to boggle the mind about what he might have accomplished with another 50 years.
From ballad to power trio, “In From the Storm” (3:42) is an excellent transition from “Angel,” with Emeretta Marks joining Hendrix on backing vocals. His funky-chunky guitar and mesmerizing wah-wah work send this track over the top.
The album closes with another very mellow blues tune, “Belly Button Window” (3:34). This one is all Hendrix, vocals center, guitar chords left, wah-wah showcase right.
Our mourning for Hendrix was certainly The Cry of Love, but we are fortunate that his legacy continues along with more great recordings, including the recent Live in Maui, the concert performed in conjunction with the making of Rainbow Bridge.