The Cry of Love LP cover artwork by Nancy Beth Reiner

When Jimi Hendrix died at 27 years of age, he was working on a fourth studio album, of which we can only speculate the contents or even the title.
History has now affirmed itself— as it often does — in the idea that it would have been a double LP called “First Rays of a New Rising Sun”.

Jimi had been heralding a sort of mystical rebirth for some time, hidden in interviews, lyrics and banter on stage. In the aftermath of a widely covered drug charge, a shameful appearance at Madison Square Garden, so much weird 70’s shady manager shit happened that nobody can tell enemy from friend, but in the end, the final form of The Experience was formed, something which was I can guess at least one ray of a new rising sun.
With Billy Cox on bass and Mitch Mitchell back on drums, the road was set for whatever new music they were going to make.

Jimi, Billy and Mitch two weeks before his death, at their final concert

There’s a soothingly romantic edge to the re-marriage of the voodoo child with Mitchell, the jolly English rock/jazz/funk drummer who was never seen not smiling, and old army pal Cox seemingly chuting back from the heavens into Jimi’s shrunken circle of trustees.
It’s impossible to tell what was really moving below the surface though. While this form of The Experience did have a lot of fun — visible from f.i. their concert at Maui — it wasn’t a fully positive rebirth for Jimi, at least not yet. In one of their final concerts at Isle of Wight, two weeks before his death, there were moments where you could almost see him throw in the towel, angry with just about every bit of the massive crowd, and having visibly lost a lot of weight.
Playing Red House there, he changes the lyrics to “because my Linda doesn’t live here no more”, referencing his 1966 sweetheart, Linda Keith, and what seems to be, the love of his life, in a way that does not feel blue but rather dark. There’s a lot of stories about him and Linda, and the wrong kinds kind of pile up toward the end of his life.

Regardless, these three did show a type of camaraderie that does not spend a lot of time questioning itself. Let’s not forget these men were boys, dragged through the world at a pace we simply cannot fathom; on tour they could get close to three hundred shows per year.

Eddie Kramer, Jimi and Michael Jeffrey (Jimi’s manager)

A couple of months after Jimi’s death, Mitch Mitchell and their long-time producer, Eddie Kramer, took to release some of the music Jimi was finalising at the time, under the form of two separate single LP’s: “The Cry of Love”, and “Rainbow Bridge”. Michael Jeffrey, Jimi’s manager, probably was going to have this done either way, so it’s a good thing they were the ones to do it.

As for the title of the first collection, the only thing I can say is that it seems unlikely that Jimi would have added the “The” in front, and he would have rather used “Cry of Love”, if anything.

For the content, I’d like to say both are definitely albums by Eddie Kramer as much as they are by Jimi Hendrix. Again, there is too much speculation here to bother going into and after all good producers are always fundamentally composers.

The Album

The Cry of Love is not a master-piece. Jimi Hendrix did not make master-pieces — this entire thing has a big IMO stamp obviously.

All of his albums are uneven efforts to compile sets of songs and they require repeated attentive listening to be fully appreciated, with their flaws and their sometimes lack of “flow”. His fourth album would probably not have been any different.

While Jimi did spend time perfecting things in and out of the studio, he did not take the time required to compose songs the way some other artists get. There was just no time for anything!
Some perfectionist bands spend thousands of rehearsal hours crafting songs, the narrative cohesion between songs, and the mastering and packaging of the final product. The comparison is not as much unfair as it is nonsensical. The listener should be aware of this, I feel, when listening.
Jimi was a young, fantastic guitar player, born out of a world of 12-bar blues, and trying to create a new type of music, over the course of less than four years, while playing thousands of shows. He left an insane amount of material behind and influenced millions of musicians with his legacy in just the period between two FIFA World Cup tournaments.

One inherent problem with The Cry of Love is that it suffers a little from “overworked” material. Some songs are just not that intrinsically strong, structurally, and need a lot of crazy guitar playing and layering to keep from falling off their plateau of energy. This cuts both ways, as the band often manages it and creates something interesting out of that process, but it is a problem of material that has always been there in Jimi’s portfolio, and is more apparent with unfinished things.
Someone like Neil Young displayed that rare talent of simply breathing out perfectly structured songs, only needing a sparse arrangement to convey their essence. Jimi did not have that talent, and neither do a lot of good musicians. People like Neil Young, Prince, Aretha Franklin, Roy Orbison…and many others, possessed a rare talent in that regard. But Jimi had other talents aside those and was a clever musician, with an innovative urgency to tell his stories in a way you can keep discovering new details in them. I just wish the world could have given him more time, both in his short life, and in extending it.

Jimi in the studio, playing bass

There are real gems here as in all of his music. Utterly fantastic moments of unparalleled guitar playing, sound-scaping and world-building.
I like The Cry of Love. It is an album I started listening to when I was 16 years of age, and I keep listening to it. It was fun listening to it with more attentive ears for the sake of this review.
In terms of scoring I would give the album a high score of 8 out of 10. And I certainly recommend anyone to listen to it, I feel it is a good intro into the more modern form of Jimi’s music.

The Tracks

01. Freedom

A great complex rock song, there’s no better opener for the album. It reveals the new Experience “style” of rock music, with a ton of layering, and a diversion from typical harmonies. It’s kind of hard to label it with any category, which does tend to make for less easy listening.
This is definitely Jimi’s own master mix here, and probably one of the few songs on the album that would not have changed a lot if being released by him. There’s also backing vocals and a conga player.
This is one of two songs that refer to a really shady master groupie called Devon Wilson, who supplied Jimi with drugs, women, and things we’ll never know. It seems like he’s done with her in this song, and there’s no blues-like turnaround on that either.
Wilson died not too long after Jimi, either having fallen from a Chelsea Hotel room window, or lying on the street, with a needle in her arm telling the story. The 70’s are very confusing.

The guitar and drum playing is well, great obviously. But it’s really layered quite interestingly, in a very crafted song.

02. Drifting

I love this. The sparse lyrics are so very corny but everything about the music just carries them into a world where all of that corniness is perfectly allowed. A world I would like to live in.

The vibraphone was added in overdub. I’m not sure about the drums, they almost sound too good not to have been added later by Mitchell, but apparently they were done earlier. I think Eddie Kramer had some work on the final mix, as the layering is quite complex, although Jimi already overlaid most of the guitar tracks. The part where the guitar goes into feedback while another guitar track is playing backwards is rather delicately put together and there’s only one person who could have recorded that.

03. Ezy Rider

There’s a lot of history behind this one. It is a mesh of several riffs that happened spontaneously during improvisations and just stuck around for the past two years, evolving slowly into this ultimate form.
It was finally recorded a number of times with Buddy Miles on drums. I feel the version on this album is very close to the final thing, although the vocals would probably have changed a little. While it is slightly overworked I think it’s also a real tour de force. There’s a lot of music here, and it all comes together quite well.
The only thing I almost end up having problems with is Buddy Miles concrete drumming, which drives the song forward with no sense of swing and ends on a gorilla chest beating, DAM DAM DAM…, I’m relieved he gets hushed by the fade-out.

04. Night Bird Flying

Mitch is back, with a softer touch. Another super complex layered song, with a new kind of sound. You have this sound partially re-appearing on Room Full of Mirrors, and I think this was definitely a keeper. Obviously the lyrics probably needed some work, but it does feel like the instrumental part was mostly done. The solo is one of those narrative ones that have guitar players slowly shrug— a little like the ‘All Along the Watchtower’ solo, this time with a country music part in it. Mitch Mitchell somehow feels his way around all of this, what an excellent drummer.
This is an era, almost 50 years old, where songs could still be just songs, without a lot of worry about producing a recognisable sound. There’s not really any song that sounds like this.

05. My Friend

An older 1968 song that was strangely included in the Cry of Love. It’s one of my favourite songs on the album. I remember as a kid just trying to figure out the chords being played, which are very awkward, and I thought Jimi was just a wizard. Apparently most of that guitar playing is a guitarist called Ken Pine, playing jazzy (‘diminished’) chords on a 12-string guitar. The rest of the band are also non-standard band members.
I always assumed Jimi just made up the words, because they don’t make a lot of sense — except for the chorus, which is actually quite an eloquent way of portraying loneliness. However, there are multiple takes of this song, one of them a demo by Jimi in his appartment room, singing the words off papers that you can hear him turn.

Obviously this is a Bob Dylanesque song, it even reminds me of some of his nonsensical lyrics — Nobel-prize notwithstanding. One of my favourite Dylan songs is Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts, which has a similarly “hey.. what?” feel to the lyrics, they don’t make any sense but then again they might and you’re just missing the point.

06. Straight Ahead

This is an unfinished manifesto song. As far as manifestos go, it’s actually rather good. It has some apt lyrics.

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

Even though the song went through a lot of recording sessions, it doesn’t sound ready for publishing. I like the roughness of the whole thing, the harshness of the guitar wah, and there is a certain sadness to the beginning and reprise — “hello, my friend…” – but it needs either more work, or less work to be polished. There’s at least one moment where he accidentally steps in too early with the vocals, so that part at least was temporary.

07. Astro Man

Jimi had a mysterious side project called Black Gold for which he recorded a bunch of demos. There’s a funny story here as he gave the one master cassette tape to Mitch Mitchell to examine shortly before his death, and Mitch ended up forgetting about it for 22 years, until someone brought up the missing project in an interview with him.
There’s only a couple of people on earth who have ever heard it since, and the “Hendrix Estate” is probably going to release it next year at Jimi’s 50th death anniversary. At least, I hope so.
Anyway, Astro Man is one song that’s part of this, what seems to be, autobiographical project.

Well, this is just a funny rock song with surf elements, that’s mostly Jimi fooling around in the studio, in a very professional focused way. Mitch Mitchell again knows exactly what to do on this song, which is incredible if you think about it.
The bridge section especially shows the synergy between all three band members — and a guest percussionist. On any 2LP album, there is some less serious filler and I think this would have made the project.

08. Angel

A fan-favourite but I regret the band wasn’t able to finish it. I think it’s just a little overworked in terms of effects the way it’s done here, and the lyrics don’t sound finished — there’s some clumsy poetry at the end.
The demo versions called “Sweet Angel” with Jimi just recording this song on a drum machine, in a tour bus, are so much sweeter than this bombastic treatment.
The “ascending” ending is quite special, although a little cheeky. Mitch Mitchell sure plays a lot of drums on a ballad, and I wonder if he didn’t sneakily add the additional outro while mixing the song for this release.

09. In From The Storm

Another one of those non-rock rock songs, with a unique sound to it. I’ve come to find most people who do not know Jimi Hendrix’ music do not enjoy this song, it’s too non-descript. I think I can agree it is a little messy, especially the vocal part, but there’s more to it. It’s the kind of song Queen or Meatloaf would have loved to write.
It’s rather incredible how accomplished the guitar and drum parts are already done compared to the rest of the music, I’m not sure what production process is part of that and I’d like to think it’s Jimi visiting the studio by himself and doing overdubs.

10. Belly Button Window

At the end of the album, this little gem twinkles on forever.
A short tale from the eyes of a foetus inside of a womb. It talks about being reincarnated, and quite explicit for current times, about abortion. It’s a perfect closer. I remember, as a 18 year old, letting my father hear this song and he told me the guitar sounded like amniotic fluid. I’d never have thought about that, and I’ll never forget it.

There, that’s it for this lengthy review of The Cry of Love. I wrote this mostly because I wanted to write something tonight, and with the 49th anniversary of Jimi’s death coming up (which sounds completely surreal), I felt like giving him a small tribute.
The Cry of Love is not my favourite album, and it doesn’t have any of my really favourite Hendrix moments, but I still think it’s a very special release. There is something very honest about these songs being hand-picked by Eddie Kramer and Mitch Mitchell (may he too rest in peace), not long after their friend died. I think that love shines through in this sparse selection, more than with any posthumous release. Hope you can enjoy it too, or learn a little more about this magician on the guitar and altogether very sensitive person.

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Dad, nerd, runner.

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