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First Listen: Jimi Hendrix, 'People, Hell And Angels'

Jimi Hendrix's new album, <em>People, Hell and Angels</em>, comes out March 5.
Brian T. Colvil
/
Courtesy of the artist
Jimi Hendrix's new album, People, Hell and Angels, comes out March 5.

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Given that Jimi Hendrix has been dead for more than four decades, the visionary guitarist has remained awfully prolific: He left behind a formidable tape library, full of alternate takes, discarded ideas and collaborations of varying quality, and those materials have been mined in the making of far more albums and compilations than he churned out during his 27 years. That one such collection would produce a chart-topping single in 2013 is a testament to Hendrix's enduring appeal, not to mention technological advancements and the eternal struggle to maximize the commercial clout of a lucrative catalog.

Thankfully, the newest collection of Hendrixiana (titled People, Hell and Angels, out March 5) is a suitable addition to the guitar giant's large posthumous output, drawn from recordings he'd made between 1968 and 1970 with a variety of co-conspirators. (Stephen Stills even turns up to play bass in "Somewhere.") With producers and preservationists taking great pain to ensure that listeners never notice their work, these polished-up and previously unreleased recordings all shine a spotlight on Hendrix's considerable charisma; it's no fluke that "Somewhere" has already reached an audience well beyond diehards.

By definition, People, Hell and Angels can't advance Hendrix's legacy beyond where it already stood; we'll never hear the innovations, hairpin turns and creative dead ends he'd have followed had he lived to celebrate his 70th birthday at the end of this year. But the collection does do a fine job of preserving Hendrix's work in amber, while still polishing it up as good as new.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)