Jimi Hendrix, "People, Hell and Angels," (Experience Hendrix/Legacy) ***
As we well know, Jimi Hendrix's death in 1970 has hardly been an impediment to his catalog. In fact, various minders of the legendary guitarist's estate have, since then, made him more prolific than a vast number of current -- and living -- acts. Some have been dodgy, but since his family gained control and established Experience Hendrix, the product has at least been interesting and of both generally high quality and historical import. "People, Hell and Angels" is no exception; though this particular exercise in vault-trawling seems a bit random at times, it does give us a valuable 12-song sampling of what Hendrix was up to after the Jimi Hendrix Experience came to an end and he began working with an array of other players, most notably the rhythm section of Billy Cox and Buddy Miles (though Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell plays on three of these tracks). Hendrix was clearly after a purer version of the blues, dropping the psychedelia of his three Experience albums on the likes of "Earth Blues," a powerful early take of "Hear My Train' A Comin'," a cover of Elmore James' "Bleeding Heart" and "Somewhere," the latter of which features Stephen Stills on bass. "Izabella," which Hendrix played at the first Woodstock festival, shows he hadn't lost his trippy touch, however, while the fiery instrumental "Inside Out" features flavors of previous hits such as "Purple Haze" and "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)." But the album's most ambitious moments are "Let Me Move You," a free-spirited nearly seven-minute jam with saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood, and "Mojo Man," a collaboration with the Harlem vocal duo the Ghetto Fighters that's decked out with horns and keyboards, a psychedelic funk workout that shows how exciting Hendrix's future could have been -- and a reminder of how tragic his death really was.
How To Destroy Angels, "Welcome Oblivion" (Columbia) **1/2
The timing of Trent Reznor's recent re-activation of nine inch nails is curious in that it's taken a lot of steam away from this first full-length album from his other band -- one that features his wife, former West Indian Girl member Mariqueen Maandig, no less. "Welcome Oblivion" is certainly tighter-niched than nine inch nails. Compared to that band's explosive dynamics, HTDA doesn't really destroy very much, instead redefining ambient music with hypnotic soundscapes and delicate builds that manage to be simultaneously chilly and warm. It has more in common with Reznor and HTDA mate Atticus Ross' award-winning soundtrack work than, say, "Pretty Hate Machine," but this group can get a little down and dirty, too, as evidenced by the disarmingly organic "Ice age." Time will tell if the group winds up chilled by its leader's other endeavors.
New & Noteworthy:
Autechre, "Exai" (Warp): The British electronic duo delivers more than two hours of music on this two-disc set.
The Beards, "Having a Beard is the New Not Having a Beard" (The Beards): Four bearded Australian musicians who sing about ... beards. This is, after all, the same country that gave us Flight of the Conchords.
The Cave Singers, "Naomi" (Jagjaguwar): The Seattle folk rock quartet's fourth album is lighter in tone than its 2009 predecessor "No Witch."
Chelsea Light Moving, "Chelsea Light Moving" (Matador): The first release from Thurston Moore's new, first post-Sonic Youth band.
Hiromi, "Move" (Telarc): The Japanese-born jazz composer and pianist takes a trio approach to these nine new tracks.
Robyn Hitchcock, "Love From London" (Yep Roc): The relentlessly clever British troubadour takes an even more pronounced socio-political but still personal turn on this 10-song set.
The Howling Brothers, "Howl" (Readymade): The Nashville roots group's debut album was produced by Brendan Benson and features a guest appearance by Warren Haynes on the song "Big Time."
Icona Pop, "Iconic" (Big Beat/Atlantic): A domestic issue of the Swedish synthpop duo's 2012 EP designed to bolster its still-active debut album from last year.
Javelin, "Hi Beams" (Luaka Bop): The sophomore outing from the Rhode Island noise rock duo.
Krokus, "Dirty Dynamite" (The End): The veteran Swiss heavy rockers recorded their latest release at London's famed Abbey Road Studio.
Making Movies, "A La Deriva" (self-released): Los Lobos' Steve Berlin produced the sophomore outing by this Kansas City rock fusion trio.
Ashley Monroe, "Like a Rose" (Warner Bros. Nashville): The second solo album by the hit Nashville songwriter and Pistol Annies member.
Gurf Morlix, "Gurf Morlix Finds the Present Tense" (Rootball): The Americana singer, songwriter and producer returns to originals after 2011's tribute to the late Blaze Foley.
Kate Nash, "Girl Talk" (Have 10p Records): The outspoken British songstress took to Los Angeles to make her third full-length release.
Madeline Peyroux, "The Blue Room" (Emarcy/Decca): The Georgia-born jazz-pop singer covers Randy Newman, Warren Zevon, John Hartford and others on this installment of the Starbucks music series.
Poco, "All Fired Up" (Drifter's Church): The first new album in 11 years from the country rock group, still led by mainstay Rusty Young.
Josh Ritter, "Beast In Its Tracks" (Pytheas): The singer-songwriter's sixth album comes from a stockpile of songs that represent one of the most prolific periods of his career.
Caitlin Rose, "The Stand-In" (ATO): The sophomore album from the daughter of country songwriter Liz Rose includes covers of songs by the Felice Brothers and the Deep Vibration.
Boz Scaggs, "Memphis" (429): The "Silk Degrees" man is typically smooth on this homage to vintage Memphis R&B and blues, mixing originals and covers of classics such as "Rainy Night in Georgia," and "Corrina, Corrina."
Soilwork, "The Living Infinite" (Nuclear Blast): The Swedish metal group's latest marks the debut of new guitarist David Andersson.
Son Volt, "Honky Tonk" (Rounder): Jay Farrar and company took inspiration for their latest album from the legendary honky tonk and Western swing scene in and around Bakersfield, Calif.
Melvin Taylor, "Taylor Made -- Starring Melvin Taylor" (MTP): The guitar virtuoso shoots stylistically wide on this six-song set, which includes a take on Isaac Hayes' "Do Your Own Thing."
They Might Be Giants, "Nanobots" (Idelwild): The perpetually clever alt rockers rip through 25 tracks in 45 minutes on their 16th album.
From The Vaults: Luke Bryan, "Spring Break ... Here To Party" (Capitol Nashville); Otis Redding, "Lonely & Blue: The Deepest Soul of Otis Redding" (Stax); Various Artists, "Motown: The Musical Originals" (Motown/UMe)
Soundtracks: Jason Graves, "Tomb Raider" (Sumthing Else/Square Enix); Joe Kraemer, "Jack Reacher" (Paramount); Christopher Lennertz, "Identity Thief" (La-La Land); Hans Zimmer, "Bible" (Provident)
New Music Videos: Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, "International Magic Live at the O2" (UMe)
Gary Graff's work can also be found at www.goanddomichigan.com, www.twitter.com/GraffonMusic and in the Facebook group Gary Graff on Music, while his Classic Rock Insider reports appear at www.wcsx.com. Gary's latest book, "Rock & Roll Myths: The True Stories Behind the Most Infamous Legends" (Voyageur Press) is available now.