One of the most underrated music stories of 2018 so far has been the release of new Jimi Hendrix material. The album, called “Both Sides Of The Sky,” was announced late last year and features 13 studio recordings made between 1968 and 1970, including 10 tracks that had never before been released to the public. Really the album is an extraordinary development given that Hendrix has now been gone for almost 50 years, and famously passed away too young to produce as much music as droves of rock fans would have loved to hear from him.
It could well be that news of the album simply blended into what has ultimately been a fairly active couple of years for Hendrix news and tributes. Whether because he simply always seems to remain relevant or because there’s a bit of buzz approaching the 50th anniversary of his passing in 2020, tributes do indeed seem to have ramped up.
Multiple major cities have honored the artist of late, most notably New York and Seattle. In New York, there has been an active effort to get a street in Greenwich Village named after Hendrix. The artist had a profound impact on this neighborhood in Manhattan, which some locals see as slowly losing its charm, and some even believe Hendrix briefly lived in a cottage there. In Seattle, meanwhile, a park has been opened in Hendrix’s name, both providing a public space for locals to relax outside and encouraging young people to play music. It’s actually a surprisingly simple park, but one full of little touches honoring Hendrix in his hometown.
Hendrix was also given the bizarre but neat honor of headlining an online video game as part of a series of similar games with rock star themes. These games actually come from NetEnt, a company known for producing easy to use, functional interfaces in the increasingly crowded online slot machine genre. However, it’s far from a generic slot. Rather, it’s an arcade game that plays the artist’s biggest hits and produces all kinds of symbols and background imagery reminiscent of his style.
And just recently, the internet has been alive with recognition for the 50-year anniversary of “Electric Ladyland.” Retro reviews and commentary have sprung up all over the place, and Rolling Stone published 10 things you didn’t know take on the LP that included some fascinating nuggets. None of this is particularly surprising, but it does illustrate that subtle feeling that for whatever reason Hendrix interest is peaking of late.
Even in the midst of all of this, however, “Both Sides Of The Sky” should have been a bigger story than it has been. It’s just not often that we get a solid 10 tracks of newly released material from a legitimate legend – let alone one who’s missed even by rock fans who weren’t alive when he was – even if there have been several sporadic posthumous Hendrix releases before. And if you’ve read this far looking for a verdict on the album, one can be offered in two simple words: it’s good.
One of the most positive reviews out there – and there are a lot of them – called “Both Sides Of The Sky” the first great Hendrix album in almost two-and-a-half decades following 1994’s “Blues” outtakes release. Incidentally “Both Sides Of The Sky” has also been compared to “Blues,” right down to the fact that it contains a similar cover of “Mannish Boy” by Muddy Waters (which is one of the highlights). The album also stands up on its own, however, as a thrilling mix of classic Hendrix riffs and contributions from assorted old guests and bandmates. If you like Jimi Hendrix or even have an appreciation for rock ’n’ roll in general, you ought to give it a listen.