Few musicians operate at Jimi Hendrix’s degree of efficiency in terms of sheer financial success. Hendrix may be the finest guitarist to have ever lived, despite having a professional career that lasted less than half a decade. Hendrix was fully developed from the beginning; all he had to do was keep releasing records for his reputation to expand rapidly.
However, compared to his contemporaries, Hendrix’s song catalog is relatively smaller. Hendrix only put out three studio albums and one live album throughout his lifetime. The only albums that Jimi Hendrix ever saw officially published before his passing in 1970 are another greatest hits collection (Smash Hits) and a split LP between him and Otis Redding including highlights from their respective performances at the Monterey Pop Festival.
Hendrix’s main beef with any of the albums was Band of Gypsys. The live LP, which was recorded on January 1st, 1970, features Jimi Hendrix performing at the Fillmore East in New York City with drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox. With Band of Gypsys, Hendrix makes a modest departure from his usual bluesy psychedelic rock and employs more overt R&B and funk influences. The CD also represents Jimi Hendrix’s closest experience to being in a real band, with Miles frequently taking the lead vocals throughout the recording.
Miles’ excitement reportedly began to wear on Hendrix as he was mixing the album, according to engineer Eddie Kramer. Kramer claimed in the book Ultimate Hendrix, “It was like Jimi was really almost pressured into doing it. Hearing Buddy’s [vamping or musical improvisation] seemed to bother him. We were sitting there and he was like. ‘Oh man, I wish Buddy would shut the f*** up.”
He added, “He would listen to him and say, ‘Can we cut some of those parts out?’, I ended up editing a lot of Buddy’s quote-unquote ‘jamming’, where he would go off and sing a lot.”
Even though only Cox remained from Hendrix’s Woodstock band, the Band of Gypsys was a logical progression of that ensemble. The band’s performances at the Fillmore East were a contractual requirement just as much as the formation of a new band, and at some point, Hendrix just accepted the recordings as they were to satisfy his need to create another album.
Hendrix said in 1970, “I wasn’t too satisfied with the album. If it had been up to me, I never would have put it out, From a musician’s point of view, it was not a good recording and I was out of tune on a few things … not enough preparation went into it and it came out a bit ‘grizzly’. The thing was, we owed the record company an album and they were pushing us, so here it is.”
Kramer claimed, “I don’t know that Jimi felt that these concerts were his best performances, but there were parts of them that he was really happy with. Certainly, ‘Machine Gun’ and tracks like ‘Message to Love’ sounded pretty good. At the time he didn’t want to include new songs that he wanted to finish in Electric Lady [Hendrix’s new custom-built recording studio]. Jimi was kind of resigned to the fact that here we are, we have to mix this, we got to give it to Capitol, it wasn’t a Warner’s record [his official record company], let’s do the best we can with it”