Jimi Hendrix returns on March 5, with the release of People, Hell and Angels, billed as the first compilation of previously unreleased Hendrix material since 1997’s First Days of the New Rising Sun. Of course, “unreleased” is a phrase that can slickly be used to mean “alternate versions of songs that have been released more than once before.” That’s the case with “Earth Blues.”
A studio version of “Earth Blues,” featuring the Ronettes (!!!), appeared on 1971’s Rainbow Bridge soundtrack. Another studio version, still with those “love, love, love” backing vocals, surfaced on that 1997 First Days release. A live version has also been released from the storied sessions at New York’s Fillmore East that spawned the 1970 Band of Gypsys live album.
This latest “Earth Blues” doesn’t have much to add. If you’re new to Jimi, the hippie-cliché lyrics and somewhat tentative vocals here certainly aren’t your best introduction; if you own all the bootlegs, well, here’s another trinket to add to your completists’ collection, but don’t expect any revelations.
All that said, we come not to bury Hendrix but to praise him — and to suggest his discography deserves better than having second-tier material unearthed again and again, to the point that it’s understandable if younger generations want to resist his legend altogether. That would be their mistake, but they wouldn’t be the only ones in the wrong.
Listen to “Earth Blues” over at NME.