Embarrassingly enough, my first actual Jimi Hendrix album purchase was not one of the certified classics — not Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love, or Electric Ladyland — and not even the two posthumous albums compiled from the songs Hendrix had mostly completed just before his untimely death — The Cry of Love, Rainbow Bridge — but Crash Landing, the first of two 1975 albums cobbled together by producer Alan Douglas from the huge backlog of Hendrix work tapes. The releases scandalized Hendrix fans because Douglas had peeled off the backing instrumentation and re-recorded the tracks using anonymously competent studio pros. Douglas claimed the existing versions were unreleasable, but fans and critics noted that the move also allowed Douglas to grab co-songwriting credits on two very lucrative albums. The result was that Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning were the only two Hendrix albums to appear in record-store cutout bins, which is where I found them. I’d been meaning to check out this Hendrix guy for a while, and to my teenaged brain this seemed like a low-cost way to do it.
So I listened, and heard some great guitar playing, but hardly the kind of thing to justify the John-the-Baptist imitations that happened whenever critics mentioned Hendrix. Forgive me, people, I was young and ignorant. The only Crash Landing track that offered a glimmer of understanding was “Peace in Mississippi,” a dose of feedback heaven that riveted my attention.
Compare the Crash Landing version with the untampered-with version at the top of this post, and you’ll hear the subtle differences. Eventually I found my way to the original Hendrix albums, and I understood what I’d been missing. And decades later, the Hendrix family managed to wrest their late son’s legacy from the hands of the vandals, and the Hendrix legacy was properly released.
Ironically, both Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning — long deleted and out of print — have become collector’s items. What I assume are bootleg CDs go for upwards of forty bucks. If you’re the sort of completist who must have everything the man played in every conceivable configuration, that price might seem worthwhile. But believe me, the two bucks I paid for them in the late Seventies was just the right price — even more so today.