Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Jimi Hendrix - Voodoo Soup

Jimi Hendrix
Voodoo Soup


Released 1995 on MCA
Reviewed by Joe Kenney, 17/02/2004ce


In all fairness, this is a really good CD. It's been forgotten, pushed to the side, by the 1997-released, Hendrix-family approved "First Rays of the New Rising Sun." Due to this, Voodoo Soup has basically disappeared from stores; I remember when it was released, in 1995, the CD was everywhere. They even had this large, stand-up promotional display in my local record store, a blown up image of the funky cover drawing by Moebius. I always wondered what the deal was with that pic, Jimi spooning some soup into his mouth, but beneath the cd holder inside the jewel case is the original photo - a pic of Jimi eating in a restaurant. Moebius just "psychedlicized" the photo for the cover drawing. Anyway, most people these days dismiss Voodoo Soup, because the often-lambasted producer Alan Douglas was behind it. Douglas is the guy who was in charge of releasing Hendrix records from the '70s to mid-'90s, until the rights went over to Hendrix's family. Douglas didn't have any trouble with overdubbing Jimi's unfinished compositions - to make them sound more complete - whereas the Hendrix family are determined to let us know that these songs - reportedly what Jimi had in mind for his 4th album - were never finished, and thus should be seen as works in progress. So the difference between Voodoo Soup and First Rays (other than a few, glaring song omissions from VS) is basic; Voodoo Soup is presented as a completed album, and First Rays is presented as one that has a few completed songs, and a few more that were barely past the demo stage (ie "Hey Baby.") And though the two cds share many of the same songs, the mixes for each are very different. How about a track by track run-down?

1. "The New Rising Sun" - not at all like the song "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)" on First Rays. This track is a sound experiment, comparable to "EXP" and "And the Gods Made Love." A little longer than either of those songs, and mostly just a bunch of white noise, backwards guitars, and drums (played by Jimi), this is still a great opening track, and right off the bat makes Voodoo Soup sound like an "official" Hendrix cd. Jimi had grown fond of what he called "sound paintings," and I think, had he lived to complete his First Rays, he would've started the album with something like this, instead of "Freedom," which is how the Hendrix-family "First Rays" cd begins. This track flows smoothly into the next:

2. "Belly Button Window" - crazily enough, a pro-abortion song. Not the sort of song that would go over well, these days. Or any day, really. Really just a demo, but it still sounds cool. I don't see why Alan Douglas chose this as the second track, it isn't very strong as it is so unfinished. I guess he was trying to get an "Electric Ladyland" feel - like how that album went from the jarring "Gods Made Love" to the laid-back "Electric Ladyland." Still, I would've segued "New Rising Sun" into "Freedom."

3. "Stepping Stone" - the one that upsets so many, as this mix has the drummer from the Knack on it - his drums were overdubbed in 1995. In all honesty, his drums sound better than Mitchell's, on "First Rays." And also keep in mind that even Mitchell's drums aren't the original - he overdubbed them in the early '70s, after Jimi's death! So overdubbing is overdubbing - regardless if it's 1972 or 1995. Therefore, the presence of the Knack drummer doesn't bother me. And besides, this mix is much better than the one on First Rays - the drums are rolicking, Jimi's guitar is much more up in front, and the overall sound is much, much better than the bottom-heavy First Rays mix.

4. "Freedom" - not much of a difference between this mix and the First Rays mix. I guess I like the First Rays mix a little more - it's heavier on the bottom, which is good for this track - gives it more of a thump.

5. "Angel" - a great song. Jimi's voice on the VS version doesn't echo, as it does on First Rays. And whereas the First Rays track fades at the end and then comes back up for the ending chord (as a lot of other tracks do on First Rays), the VS mix plays throughout, up to the final chord.

6. "Room Full of Mirrors" - the other track with the Knack drummer. And again, a much better mix than that on First Rays. The drums are funkier, giving the song a great groove, and there are effects on Jimi's vocals - making them spiral around the music, adding a hallucinatory haze to the song. The First Rays version is more straightforward, and lacks the impact of this mix.

7. "Midnight" - the biggest misstep on Voodoo Soup. Instead of using "Izabella" or "Dolly Dagger," two completed (and not to mention well-known) tracks Hendrix had in mind for his 4th album, Douglas chose to use this, an over-long instrumental that was recorded in 1968 with the Experience.

8. "Night Bird Flying" - much like the First Rays mix, except the drums are a bit softer on VS.

9. "Drifting" - again, much like the First Rays mix, except the effect on Jimi's guitar is slightly different, and the backwards guitar (at least to me) is a little more noticeable.

10. "Ezy Rider" - definitely better on VS. I think Douglas did a little work on the drum mix, as it just sounds better on here than it does on First Rays.

11. "Pali Gap" - a great song, perfect for late-night listening. The version on "South Souther Delta" is a tad longer, but it's cool to have this song on here - it would have been cooler if it had followed, say, "Dolly Dagger."

12. "Message to Love" - a great, funky track that is very similar to First Ray's "Earth Blues." According to the liner notes, this was recorded in the same session as "Earth Blues." Shorter and less dynamic than the live "Band of Gypsies" version.

13. "Peace in Mississipi" - another instrumental, recorded with the Experience in 1968. I wonder if Jimi would've used so many instrumentals on this album. And, placed so close to "Midnight," you can't help but notice how similar the two songs sound.

14. "In From the Storm" - a great end to the CD, much better than the track chosen to end First Rays: "Belly Button Window." The VS mix deletes Jimi's opening comments, as preserved on the First Rays mix, and also his chorus backing is not as in the front as the First Rays mix.

And on top of this you also get well-written liner notes by Michael Fairchild. Sure, the guy idolizes Jimi to the point of godhood, but still, so what? If you're going to make a rock star larger than life, why not make it Jimi Hendrix? In summary, I would recommend tracking this down. The mixes are better than those on First Rays, and also the album doesn't drag after a while - First Rays gets a bit jagged, towards the end. But still, Voodoo Soup could've been THE First Rays album, had Douglas used Dolly Dagger, Izabella, and maybe even Hey Baby, instead of overlong instrumentals like Midnight and Peace in Mississipi.


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