How did they create those posthumous Jimi Hendrix albums?

Dear Cecil:

I'm a Jimi Hendrix freak. To this day I think his genius has seldom if ever been equalled. What I'd like to know is, what did Alan Douglas have to do in order to be able to strip down and remix the tapes for the posthumous Hendrix album Crash Landing? What kind of legal proceedings took place? Could Douglas have been stopped from doctoring up the tapes? Maybe I'm just being overly touchy, but I think the tapes should have been issued as they were found, or not at all.

Cecil replies:

The tapes from which Crash Landing was culled were owned by Hendrix’s family (hereinafter referred to as “the estate”), which had been supplying Warner Brothers with the material used for the first posthumous albums, which are generally regarded as having been of pretty poor quality. When Warner rejected the final offering, it suggested the estate hire Alan Douglas, who had produced sessions for the live Jimi Hendrix, to review a collection of tapes warehoused in New Jersey to see what he could make of them. Douglas and his compatriots listened to the unmixed multi-track recordings with everything but Hendrix’s voice and guitar tracks “potted down.” After some four months of reviewing the sessions, which totalled about 500 hours, they selected the numbers that “stood up off the tapes” as superior Hendrix performances, edited them down to eliminate miscues, meanderings, and musical tangents, and then hired a crew of session musicians (only one of whom had ever met Hendrix) to record new rhythm tracks for them.

The problem, as I understand it, was that Hendrix was given to recording with almost anyone. The rhythm tracks on some of those tapes were abysmal, and–while admitting to being somewhat spooked by the prospect–the producers have pointed out that their decision to re-record them does not stray very far from the recording practices used and accepted by live musicians.

In any case, the effort was pretty successful commercially, which, in the music business, is pretty close to successful period. The critics–although they, too, were spooked a little–agreed that Crash Landing was far superior to the earlier posthumous Hendrix releases, which Warner subsequently withdrew from the market. Several other remixed albums were released later.

Jimi Hendrix isn’t the only 60s superstar to have experienced a posthumous revival. You may remember the renewed interest in Jim Morrison during the 80s, and just the other day I saw a cable TV special on Janis Joplin. Sure, these people were all pretty hot in their day. But who’d have thought they’d still be hot 30 years later?

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