A new album by someone who is deceased, who is no more, etc., for 42 and a half years, still stirs up some excitement. An album that enters top 10 in the charts. After recording 'Electric ladyland' in 1968, Jimi Hendrix recorded just about every fart he made/his guitar made, without ever releasing a new record in his lifetime again. With the result that first his former manager and since the mid-90s his estate releases new albums by the truckload. The estate does so more sparingly and aimes at quality more than quantity. The enormous Hendrix 4 cd box in its beautiful purple coat, 'New rays of the rising sun', which replaced 1970's 'Cry for love', 'Valleys of Neptune' all could be seen as good additions to Jimi's oeuvre and pass this test. The same goes for People, hell and angels. Below I'll explain why.
A premise must be, that we would never have heard these versions had Jimi Hendrix lived. People, hell and angels contains studies, sketches, parts of these studies, like drawings from sketchbooks of famous artists that are displayed in museums next to the paintings. Like these sketches they were not meant to be heard beyond the inner circle around Hendrix. (Some artists have released "Anthology" boxes since the 90s of course.) Some songs are clearly not finished or perhaps what really happened next, is not for our ears, so faded out. Others, mere jams given a title, e.g. 'Easy blues'. Hence most songs are known in slightly different versions or under a different title.
People, hell and angels is so much fun because it shows how relaxed Jimi could play the blues, the versatility of his playing, but most of all the at times brilliant course his solos take, in an unexpected direction, flowing beautifully, in short the hand of genius. There are several of these moments on this record that make its release totally justified.
I have always claimed that Hendrix is a better performer and guitar player than composer. Yes, I did get some verbal hidings for that. This is proven for example in the brilliant covers he played and the ease with which he adapted new songs from others to his own signature sound overnight. And yes, he has several very worthwhile compositions himself, of course. But also, several quite mediocre compositions with great guitar playing on them. E.g. 'Izabella' is nothing special. It's the ease with which he sings the song and when he takes off on his Strat that makes 'Izabella' stand out. 'Crash landing' obviously is a weak song.
On the other hand People, hell and angels offers us a utterly brilliant version of 'Hear my train a comin''. Hendrix totally rocks out in this version, showing a level of proficiency that's almost scary. Robert Johnson and Jimi Hendrix both must have sold their souls to the devil at the crossroad and the crosstown road respectively. 'Hey, gypsy boy' has this Hendrix ballad, psychedelic quality in which he does not go over the edge, but colours the composition in brilliantly. His playing is so subtle, with the right effects to make it very interesting. The other major surprise is 'Mojo man', which I can't remember hearing before. Hendrix plays out the song in overdrive, in a band setting, as a serving lead guitarist. The song has such beautifully flowing moments, that it utterly surprised me. If we add a great version of 'Earth blues', 'Somewhere' and 'Inside out', it's clear that People, hell and angels is a straightforward addition to the Jimi Hendrix catalogue. I can imagine that this might sound strange to many, but People, hell and angels may become my favourite Hendrix album right after 'Electric ladyland'. How about that?
You can order People, hell and angels here