Sessions from Scorpio gathers rehearsals, live cuts and a few studio sessions surrounding two of Hendrix's most historic performances. The Gypsy Sun and Rainbows was the first project assembled after the departure of Noel Redding and was rather hastily put together for Jimi's Woodstock performance. Later on that year the Band Of Gypsys would play the New Years Eve shows at the Fillmore East in New York . These Fillmore shows would be recorded for a live album to resolve a previous obligation Jimi had with Capital Records.
Most of discs one and two are rehearsals from Baggy's with the Band Of Gypsys featuring Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums. Baggy's was an old warehouse located in Manhatten and opened by former Soft Machine road manager, Tom Edmonston, for the purpose of rehearsing a full band without time or volume restrictions and at a more affordable price than an expensive recording studio. Some of these rehearsals were recorded using a two track reel to reel machine fed from the soundboard. It's really cool to hear them working out the arrangements for the tracks that would be part of the Fillmore shows and hearing these rehearsals is like actually being there.
"Message To Love" is played at a much slower tempo to start and it'ss not until track six where it starts to come together and becomes more upbeat. The exact nights that these tracks come from isn't clear but "Burning Desire" and "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man" come from December 18, 1969 and were featured on Polydors' Loose Ends, released in 1974, and since deleted. These two tracks can now be found on the Dagger Records title Baggy's Rehearsal Sessions released in 2002 from Experience Hendrix.
Among some of the tracks on disc one are two takes of "Little Drummer Boy". The first is a longer medley containing "Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne" recorded at Baggy's and the second version is an edit from that take with choir overdubs probably added at the Record Plant at a later time. Disc one also contains an early version of "Earth Blues" recorded at the Record Plant on December 19, 1969 .
Disc two starts with the band running through several attempts at "Who Knows" including an introduction not featured in the Fillmore arrangements. The last attempt is by far the longest and features some incredible playing from Jimi. Some of these Baggy's rehearsals tracks are found on Whoopy Cats' Band Of Gypsys Rehearsals and copied on the no label release of the same title. Scorpio offers more of the "Message To Love" tracks than featured on these two titles and the first version of "Ezy Rider" is complete, being 45 seconds longer than the no label version. Scorpio's "Who Knows" is also in stereo and mastered to be less harsh as opposed to the no label version which is in mono.
To fill out disc two, Scorpio uses live tracks from the early show on December 31, 1969 with only "Machine Gun" being from the second set. "Paper Airplanes", or "Power Of Soul", as it is now referred to, was the opening song and goes right into "Lover Man", not listed or indexed on the box set. The previous three tracks are all from the soundboard source. "Peoples, Peoples, Peoples (Blues in C#)", "Earth Blues", and "Burning Desire" are the closing tracks from the first shows and are from the audience source. All of these live tracks were most recently featured on Watch Towers' The Band Of Gypsys Archives from 2003 and with the exception of "Machine Gun", have never been available officially. The soundboard portions sound almost identical to Watch Tower but the audience source is a bit louder and brighter on Sessions.
Disc three opens with Jimi's first appearance on the Dick Cavett Show where he plays one of the strangest versions of "Getting My Heart Back Together Again". The upbeat funky arrangement is almost unfitting for the blues lyrics but certainly a curiosity. The rest of this disc is from Hendrix's rented house in Shokan, New York where we hear preparations for the upcoming Woodstock performance. Jimi had good intentions for the Gypsy Sun and Rainbows project but Larry Lee was no match for Hendrix and two conga players were a bit overkill. This is probably the least interesting disc of the set but it's still Jimi and that alone is worth the listen. When compared with The Woodstock Rehearsals 1969 on Midnight Beat, I found that Scorpio boosted the levels which brought out a lot of the tape hiss. Midnight Beat also has a track labeled "Sundance" which is not included on Sessions.
The Shokan rehearsals continue on disc four and although Scorpio has an extra take of "Lover Man", they run way too fast. There are also a few selected tracks from the Woodstock performance here starting with an audience source for "Message To Love" and a guy explaining how he stood on the stage with a hand held microphone. We hear where the title for this disc comes from as someone near the taper yells "Jimi, are you high?" "Getting My Heart Back Together", "Mastermind", and "Gypsy Woman" come from the soundboard source with the latter two tracks featuring Larry Lee on lead vocals. These tracks were sadly overlooked and omitted from the official Live At Woodstock release. Even though the songs are average it still has some sweet guitar playing from Hendrix and we can hope that someday maybe Dagger Records will issue them. Following the Woodstock tracks is Hendrix's press conference for the United Black Association and his second appearance from the Dick Cavett Show. Both Dick Cavett appearances are also officially available on the Experience Hendrix DVD Jimi Hendrix: The Dick Cavett Show.
Disc five takes us to The Hit Factory in New York on August 29, 1969 for a recording session with Gypsy Sun and Rainbows. "Izabella" and "Machine Gun" are the focus tonight with the final "Machine Gun" containing percussion overdubs. These tracks, with the exception of the second "Machine Gun", can be found on After Woodstock on Dandelion. Scorpio mastered these to bring out more of the lower frequencies but both titles sound excellent so it is once again a matter of one's taste. Rounding out the final disc of the set is Hendrix's jam with The Buddy Miles Express from Mercury Studios in March of 1969 with two takes of "Blue Window". An edited version of this jam was featured as part of Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: Jimi Hendrix released on the Experience Hendrix label in 2003 in superior quality and at the correct speed. This unedited take from Sessions is about six minutes longer and is a very cool jam that is a perfect end to this awesome box set.
Sessions And You'll Never Hear...Surf Music Again from Scorpio is a great and convenient way to obtain this material and even if a lot of it has been issued unofficially before, there are some sound quality upgrades as well as some longer outtakes. This set comes highly recommended.