Les extraits qui suivent proviennent de mes chroniques de "Rainbow Bridge" et de "War Heroes" :
"Earth Blues" : Le basic track a été enregistré le 19 décembre 1969 au Record Plant : c'est donc à l'origine un titre du Band Of Gypsys, même s'il ne subsiste ici de la prestation de Buddy Miles que les choeurs qu'il a enregistré ("Everybody !"). Selon le site officiel, c'est le 26 juin 1970 que Mitch Mitchell l'aurait remplacé à la batterie : le jeu de toms de l'introduction est toutefois directement inspiré du style de Buddy Miles.
"Stepping Stone" : Contrairement au single avorté de 1970, c'est ici Mitch Mitchell qui est derrière son kit : de même que pour "Earth Blues" et "Izabella", Hendrix aurait préféré la frappe de son batteur habituel. L'utilisation du conditionnel n'est pas anodine : il n'est pas à exclure une séance post mortem, même si le site officiel indique le contraire.
"War Heroes" se clôt avec "Izabella", dans une version différente de la face B du Single avorté du Band Of Gypsys (avec Mitch Mitchell aux baguettes... et les mêmes interrogations que pour "Stepping Stone"). Je trouve le résultat assez mitigé : carré, professionnel... mais manquant de l'urgence qui transfigure la version jouée à Woodstock. La plupart des versions de travail antérieures fonctionnent mieux rythmiquement : la section rythmique manque terriblement de punch, et les voix sont sans doute trop en avant... Le final est peut-être trop chargé, noyant au final la puissance indéniable des riffs de la composition.
Je viens de découvrir dans les archives du forum de Steve Hoffman, un sujet reprenant mes interrogations (Hendrix "Earth Blues" mystery) dont j'ai trouvé la lecture édifiante :
Une fois de plus, la prestation de Mitch Mitchell sur ces trois titres est très critiquée, mais ce n'est pas là l'essentiel. En effet, le post de GMDuss du 03-29-2005, 06:34 AM est particulièrement intéressant - ses observations étant, de mémoire, largement confirmées par les bandes auxquelles il fait référence :
Mitchell replaced the drum parts to the following Hendrix tunes:
Stepping Stone - certainly done posthumously
Drifting - certainly done posthumously
Angel (which he also double-tracked) - certainly done posthumously
Earth Blues - I believe posthumously, but the dates on the liner-notes don't agree
Bleeding Heart (War Heroes) - certainly done posthumously
Freedom - Just a posthumous double-tracking job
Tax Free (War Heroes) - certainly done posthumously
In every one of these cases I have in my collection several rough mixes of the songs in progress.
One mix of Freedom contains an entire instrumental section that was edited out, a very prominent piano overdub, and single tracked drums.
I have at least a half-dozen rough mixes of Stepping Stone, including one that is just the basic tracks (Buddy's drums, one live guitar, a different bass-track and a very raw live vocal.)
Of Earth Blues, I have four different unissued mixes, one raw like Stepping Stone, and others with different guitar tracks. All contain Buddy's drumming.
Of Drifting I have rough mixes of two different takes, one very long and sloppy, more of a rundown, and one with a different drum track, preceeded by Jimi saying "Lemme get some sea-sounds."
Of Tax Free I have a circa 1968 rough mix of the track as it stood during the Ladyland sessions. It contains an entirely different drum track (one fill of which is used in the War Heroes / South Saturn mix). That great Mitchell fill at the intro isn't there, and his entry is pretty weak.
Of Angel I have a rough mix of the raw track as well as one containing the fabled "toms being played with malletts" overdub that was later wiped when Mitch double-tracked the drums. There is a load of gratuitous reverb on it, and it's frankly not too great. The mix is sort of lacking in context.
Of Bleeding Heart, I have one rough mix with a completely different drum track, but with all the other elements there, including a bit of guitar noodling after the cold ending.
I do also have a couple of rough mixes of In From The Storm, but none of them are anything to shout about. I also have roughs of Message To Love (with the "I am what I am, thank God" section which was literally cut out of the multitrack by Mr. Douglas and Tony B. in the '70s), rough mixes of Ezy Ryder with different guitars and vocals, and a several roughs of Power of Soul, including one that absolutely SMOKES the one on South Saturn. (More on that later). Obviously, all contain Buddy's drums.
I wasn't there, and I don't know any of the parties involved, but I do have a ridiculously extensive collection of Hendrix tapes and whatnot, more than I'll probably ever have time to really sit and listen to.
After all of this, I admit I have a hard time believing that Mitch did any drum-track replacing during Hendrix's life time. Hendrix was definately not pleased with the drum sound or the mix on Room Full, but the mix that is out there is the closest thing to a final that was performed in his lifetime. There are no documented remarks where Hendrix expresses reservations about Buddy's drumming or the sounds on any of the other tracks mentioned here. Certainly, to my ears, the recording of Buddy's drums on all the tracks barring Room Full is quite satisfactory. I actually don't care for the sound of Mitch's drum-tracks on First Rays / Cry Of Love.
You also have to ask why Hendrix would want to wipe Buddy off of all those tumes, but keep him on Ezy Ryder. And we KNOW he planned on keeping Buddy on that one, because we have Hendrix's approved final mix from just a week or so before he left the states for good.
Another issue I have with the dates and claims in the liner notes of various EH releases regards Power Of Soul on South Saturn. The liner notes say "The version featured on this compilation discards the posthumous additions, restoring the full-length version with all of it's regal glory intact."
That is a lie. Several of the edits made by Douglas are still there, because Douglas unashamedly cut-up the multitracks. EVERY rough mix I have runs substantially longer, and I'm not talking about longer fades or cold-endings. There are lyrics missing.
One edit at 3:00 removes the words, "Come on back down to earth, my friend..." Another at around 4:20 removes the words "Yeah but he's been floating around so easy and so slack, he don't have a bone in his jelly-back, is that the way you wanna be brother? Check it out..." Check your copies of Crash Landing and you'll hear the same edits. In fact the only difference between SSD and CL's mixes are that on SSD the intro and endings are left basically intact, and there are some different guitar tracks. Regarding the guitar tracks, the CL mix is actually closer to the roughs Hendrix made than SSD.
The liners further state that in August of 1970, the song was "treated to a new rough mix resulting in the unique delay effect heard during the song's opening." So if that effect was applied during a 1970 rough mix, what is it doing here on a July 16, 1997 remix featuring Douglas' edits?? (I'll leave aside that fact that that delay effect is annoying as hell to me.)
I could go on for six hours with stuff like this, because there are dozens more discrepancies where EH's date-claims can be called into doubt. In a few areas EH has done nearly as much tinkering as Douglas did. They simply haven't added new musicians.
A propos de "Freedom", et du fait que les notes de pochette font référence à un mixage effectué le 24 juillet 1970, il précise ensuite :
Thats what the liner notes say, but in Kramers own book he talks about mixing that song after Jimi died. See, I don't think anyone really knows anymore where those tapes were or when. Im basing my claims on the rough mixes, so I certainly could be wrong. Its just that the more I read and hear, the less I believe that Hendrix went about replacing drum tracks.
Si les overdubs effectués sur "Drifting" et "Angel" sont avérées, et confirmés officiellement, il va sans dire que leur cas est fort différent de celui des trois titres cités en introduction : Mitch Mitchell se contentait en effet de réenregistrer ses propres pistes. Sur "Earth Blues" et "Stepping Stone" se pose le problème de savoir si les overdubs de Mitch ont été faits sous le contrôle de Jimi Hendrix... ou non.