Won’t get fooled again? Oh, yes, we will. Long-suffering Jimi Hendrix fans – and even the shorter-suffering variety – have come to expect at the least disappointment if not total let-down when it comes to the cornerstones of the Hendrix musical legacy.
That sinking feeling was once again hammered home by today’s announcement of the forthcoming Who’s Next archival releases, covering the brilliant 1970-1972 era of The Who.
While various configurations of content will be available across CD and vinyl packages, the full Who’s Next menu is included in a massive 10-CD and single Blu-Ray box. While there are a wide variety of accessories included in this imposing box – a 100-page hardback book, a 172-page hardback graphic novel, multiple posters and tour program reproductions, photos and pins – the meat is in the music, and there’s a sonic avalanche of it.
The sounds kick off with a new mastering of what many consider to be The Who’s masterwork album. From there, it’s on to 22 demos across two discs of Pete Townshend’s Life House project, the eventually aborted multimedia effort that led directly to the creation of Who’s Next. Sessions at New York’s Record Plant and London’s Olympic studios are packed into the next two discs, followed by another bearing unique single mixes and additional band sessions at Townshend’s own Eel Pie Sound Studios.
From the studio it’s on to the stage, with four CDs of The Who live in concert at London’s Young Vic in April 1971 and San Francisco’s Civic Auditorium at the end of that year.
And so, on to the Blu Ray, which presents surround-mix superstar Steven Wilson’s audio visions of Who’s Next in new stereo, Dolby Atmos, and 5.1-surround formats. Don’t like the idea of hallowed aural ground being remixed? No problem, as there’s also a high-res 96kHz 24-bit presentation of Glyn Johns’ original 1971 stereo mix.
This is how a landmark album is honored. This treatment is what Hendrix fans hoped for when the 50th anniversary of Electric Ladyland rolled around. Instead, what was released was a seemingly chosen-at-random selection of demos and outtakes that failed as a telling of this album’s whole story, and a mediocre concert by the Jimi Hendrix Experience presented in lackluster sound quality. The details are too depressing to go into; if you’re not familiar with the release or simply wish to re-survey this desultory landscape you can do so elsewhere on this website, as this Electric Ladyland release was the first of several free chapters that supplement my book Modern Listener Guide: Jimi Hendrix. That chapter can be reached right here: https://www.modernlistenerpublishing.com/chapter-twenty-one-electric-ladyland-slight-return/
Those free chapters cover each new Hendrix release since the book was published, and the next such chapter will hopefully be released to cover a long-anticipated deep dive into Jimi’s work at his own Electric Lady Studios. The planned-release of Electric Lady Studios – A Jimi Hendrix Vision first leaked into the world in early January 2022. Yet now, more than 18 months later, this vision remains just that – a box set existing in a release netherworld and delayed indefinitely.
Of course, the contents of Electric Lady Studios – A Jimi Hendrix Vision were decided long ago. But it seems once again Hendrix and Townshend will symbolically be friendly rivals as they were so long ago at the Monterey festival. The Electric Lady box set – whenever it enters the market – will have a steep climb to reach the heights of this new rendering of Who’s Next.