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New box set marks 40th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix's death

By Chris Kokenes, CNN
  • Hendrix has sold more than 40 million records worldwide and continues to be popular
  • "West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology" will be released in November
  • The 4-CD and single-DVD set has previously unreleased studio and live recordings
  • The set includes Hendrix's never-before-heard version of Bob Dylan's "Tears of Rage"

New York (CNN) -- Have you experienced Jimi Hendrix lately?

You probably have, considering that the rock guitarist, who has sold more than 40 million records worldwide, continues to be a popular fixture and fan favorite on commercial radio.

Now, on the 40th anniversary of his death, audiences will have an opportunity to understand the evolution of an artist who's still enthralling listeners.

The new set of four CDs and a single DVD is titled "West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology" and will be released in November. It looks at his journey from a rhythm-and-blues sideman to international acclaim. The collection features four hours of previously unreleased and commercially unavailable studio and live recordings.

Hendrix's sister Janie Hendrix, president and CEO of Experience Hendrix L.L.C., was recently in New York to promote the project. She told CNN, "It's a must-have for any collector, but for someone wanting to know Jimi's life span in music, it's a great reflection of that."

The new compilation is not a collection of his three existing studio albums but a gold mine of 45 unreleased live and studio recordings, including demos and alternative versions of songs from "Are You Experienced," "Axis: Bold as Love" and "Electric Ladyland."

"West Coast Seattle Boy" also includes Hendrix's never-before-heard version of Bob Dylan's "Tears of Rage," what some are calling the missing link or Holy Grail in any Hendrix collection.

There are solo acoustic recordings of "Electric Ladyland" favorites, never-before-heard live performances from Berkeley and the legendary 1969 New Year's Eve performance by the Band Of Gypsys at the acclaimed rock venue, the Fillmore East.

The career-spanning box set covers Hendrix's recording career from 1964, including performances with the Isley Brothers and Little Richard until 1970, when Hendrix was embarking on a new style.

Rolling Stone magazine Deputy Managing Editor John Dioso is looking forward to the new release and is not surprised by the continuing popularity of the left-handed guitarist, whom the magazine once hailed as the most influential guitarist of all time.

Hard-core fans look to these "unofficial" recordings for a hint of what may have been if he had lived and gone on to a long career.
--John Dioso, Rolling Stone magazine deputy managing editor

"Hendrix combined the soulful playing of an acoustic bluesman and married with the latest technology available to him to create some of the most spaced-out, heavy, psychedelic and beautiful music of all time," Dioso said. "Hendrix recorded incessantly, often recording songs that have already been released, and much of that music has dribbled out in various forms, including bootlegs over the years.

Dioso adds, "Hard-core fans look to these 'unofficial' recordings for a hint of what may have been if he had lived and gone on to a long career."

In 1970, Hendrix brought drummer Mitch Mitchell back to the group, and together with Billy Cox on bass, this new trio once again formed The Jimi Hendrix Experience. In the studio, the group recorded several tracks for another two-LP set, tentatively titled "First Rays Of The New Rising Sun." Unfortunately, Hendrix was unable to see this musical vision through, succumbing to a tragic death in a London flat on September 18, 1970.

According to Janie Hendrix, shortly before he died, Jimi came home for a visit, performed locally and told his dad, Al Hendrix, that he was working on a new type of sound. "Jimi wanted to bring in more instruments, including horns and keyboards -- a big-band electrified sound."

While we'll never know the full scope of what sound Hendrix was evolving toward, his impact on a generation of musicians that followed gives us enough of a glimpse.

"His soulful and funky playing influenced jazz greats like Miles Davis and funk-soul artists like George Clinton, Sly Stone and Prince." Dioso said. "His pioneering use of guitar effects would also influence anyone who has ever used distortion, or flanging, or wah-wah, or delay: Everyone from Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath to the Ramones and Sex Pistols to the Edge and Jack White."

Janie Hendrix, who helps oversee many of the initiatives of the Hendrix foundation, fondly recalls the times when Jimi came home.

"When he was home, our world stopped." she said. "My parents would not work those days that he was home. No one was going to school. It was just a huge homecoming. My mom would cook all of his favorite foods because she would say how skinny he was, always being on the road."

One thing that I always admired is that he always had a positive way of looking at things. He never dwelled on the negative.
--Janie Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix's sister and president and CEO of Experience Hendrix L.L.C.
  • Jimi Hendrix
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Noting how Jimi was painfully shy in public, Janie Hendrix said that he was always soft-spoken but that he had a wonderful sense of humor. He'd love to play games. She recalled that when he came home, all the guitars stayed at the hotel or the venue, and it was just him. All he wanted to hear about was what was going on with their cousins, aunts and uncles.

"One thing that I always admired is that he always had a positive way of looking at things. He never dwelled on the negative," she said.

The new anthology's 90-minute DVD, "Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child," is a new documentary that features some of his greatest performances and tells Hendrix's story in his own words. It's voiced by funk bassist and singer "Bootsy" Collins, who sounds amazingly like Jimi. The DVD also includes, for the first time, some of the late guitarist's personal drawings; postcards sent to his father, Al Hendrix; song drafts; sketches and lyrics -- all shedding new light on the extraordinary career of the man many believe to be the greatest guitarist of all time.

Coinciding with the release of the anthology, a tribute tour celebrating Hendrix's music returns for a second time in 2010. The "Experience Hendrix" tour, featuring an all-star lineup of music greats, will be anchored by the legendary bassist Billy Cox. The tour, which begins in late October in Pittsburgh, will hit 20 cities before wrapping up in Indianapolis.

Growing up as the younger sister of Jimi, Janie Hendrix fondly recalls the man few people ever had a chance to see and is not surprised his music still resonates with so many.

"Jimi appreciated musicians who can create, feel and perform but that are part of the revolution" she said. "He spoke of a time of war. Not just overseas but also within out own communities, within our own cultures and our own backyard. He talks about all that, and here we are 40 years later and we're still at war. We're still trying to figure out how to get along. The lyrics in the songs are still messages to people, and it's really the golden rule on how to treat each other."

"He was a different kind of prophet. He had a message. A message of love. A power of soul. It's almost as if someone whispered into his ear that you're going to live until you're 27 and that's all you've got. He thought he had to make a difference," she said.