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Change was in the air when the Jimi Hendrix Experience took the stage for the concert captured on Los Angeles Forum: April 26, 1969. Two years after the singular guitarist and his bandmates Mitch Mitchell (drums) and Noel Redding (bass) upended rock’n’roll, Hendrix was straining at the limitations of success. While the 80-minute Forum performance includes solid versions of such requisite “hits” as “Purple Haze” and “Foxey Lady,” Hendrix opens the evening with “Tax Free,” a meandering, 15-minute instrumental akin to an athlete’s pre-game warmup, hardly fodder for fans anticipating a fiery rock show. Elsewhere, a 12-minute “Spanish Castle Magic” finds him bending and twisting the song in search of new dimensions. A brief rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” which Hendrix calls “a song we was all brainwashed with,” predates the epic version he delivered later that summer at Woodstock, when he fronted an expanded band. Hendrix caps the evening with an extended medley of his own “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love,” delivering thrilling pyrotechnics as he makes his usual head-spinning magic. Redding would soon be out of the band and Hendrix would continue seeking fresh ways of expression, making this a compelling record of a pivotal moment in his evolution – and a haunting reminder of how much was lost when he died the next year.
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