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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Jimi Hendrix

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Single

Review by Rick Damigella

During his short tenure as the artist who set the standard for rock & roll guitar playing, Jimi Hendrix released some of the most timeless moments of musical genius ever set down on tape. While much has been written and explored about his well known recordings, rarely is his one-time foray into Christmas music mentioned.

Recorded a week before Christmas 1969 and released 30 years later on the Experience Hendrix label, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year is a three track single with some truly inspiring playing from Mr. Hendrix. Backed by the Band of Gypsies, Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums, this jam session recording shows what a creative mastermind Hendrix was, even with interpreting holiday standards.

While only a short trio of tracks in length, this is a must have for Hendrix fans and the first song alone is worthy of adding to your rock and roll themed Christmas music mix. With more and more artists delving into what often times turns out to be cheesy Christmas recordings, one is left to wonder had Hendrix lived a few years longer, might we have been graced with a gift of a full album of Hendrix’ holiday cheer.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Little Drummer Boy/Silent NIght/Auld Lang Syne
A slow march is tapped out on the snare drum followed seconds later by the unmistakable sound of Jim Hendrix drawing sounds out of his Fender that no other human being could possibly create. The riffing on “Little Drummer Boy” transitions after less than a minute into a performance of the traditional carol “Silent Night” that, in my opinion, is right up there with his Woodstock performance of the “National Anthem,” in terms of passion and intensity in his performance. And remember, this was just a jam session. Appropriately enough for the era, Taps is played mid-way through as a segue into “Auld Lang Syne.” Coming in a shade under four and a half minutes, this is some truly amazing playing that even a non-Hendrix fan can spin during the holidays as a unique departure from the traditional.
Three Little Bears
With a yowl and palm muted strumming to kick things off, this fun little track finds Hendrix singing in an unusually playful way, which Hendrix acknowledges half way through by singing “man I don’t feel like going through with this, this is really silly!” Fortunately the playing doesn’t stop and despite the child-like lyrics, is Hendrix through and through though. The liner notes list this as having been recorded during the Electric Ladyland sessions but was passed over and later released on the compilation War Heroes. This is the first time it has been in print for a quarter century.
Little Drummer Boy/Silent NIght/Auld Lang Syne (Extended Version)
A full three minutes longer than track one. The jam style drumbeat opens the number but seconds later, an excited sounding Hendrix asks “That tape recorder still running?” confirming the jam session roots of the recording. The song plays out exactly the same until the four and a half minute mark. Where the above recording fades out, this version continues with an extended jam on the “Auld Lang Syne” melody. A noticeable edit happens at 4:30, but is forgivable. Throughout this portion, a member (or members) of the band (presumably Hendrix) “ooh’s” along with the music.
 
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