Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Power To Love (Power Of Soul)

Singing through his fingers perfectly describes Jimi Hendrix when he said "I want to do with my guitar what Little Richard does with his voice."  My favorite example is from Band of Gypsys recorded live at the Fillmore East. There's a song on that album called Power to Love. Here's a YouTube video of the whole song:

Four different versions of that song were recorded that New Year's Eve/Day at the Fillmore (there were four shows), but the 3rd one appeared on the 1970 LP and is the best version IMHO. The others lack the opening solo which reminds me of the opening scene in Orson Welles's Touch of Evil:

The camera work in Touch of Evil is a three minute long single take--an uninterrupted point of view that takes us from ground level to hanging aerial shots and back to ground level. Watch it again and compare it with the one minute Hendrix solo at the beginning of Power To Love. I think that Hendrix was striving for a similar "elevation" with his opening guitar solo because it perfectly sets up the otherwise inane lyrics in the body of the song:
Shoot down some of those airplanes you been ridin'...'specially the ones that are flyin' too low...
...Shoot down some of those airplanes...'specially the ones that are flyin' too low
Come on back up to earth my friend, come on back up with me
We've all been up through the night time baby now let's read the rays of reality
With the power of soul anything is possible...
...With the power of soul anything is possible.
What do those words mean?  What do these words mean?:
Playing too much with one toy baby "tends to lead into the fog"?
It's so groovy to fool around sometimes -- even a jelly fish will tell you that
I said flotation is groovy and easy and even a jelly fish will agree to that.
Yeah, but old jelly fish been floatin' so long and so slack-lord he don't got a bone in his jelly back
Floatin' every day and every night, ridin' high, but there's a risk, sometimes the wind ain't right
I think these lyrics represent Hendrix' attempt to express his personal struggles with substance abuse at the time. A little less than a month after this show, the Band of Gypsys would play Madison Square Garden but Hendrix, severely impaired, ended the show after just two songs and the Band of Gypsys would never play live again.

As for singing through the fingers -- this comes later in the song when Hendrix uses "call and response" guitar riffing with Buddy Miles' singing, all while playing rhythm! When Jimi's actual voice suddenly appears to harmonize with his guitar voice, I get a spooky feeling that I've been listening to three voices instead of just two. I cued up this part of the song here.

The best part of the Band of Gypsys is the concert footage of these shows and songs. I couldn't find any to link to here, but I know it's out there.  It typically goes up and comes down very quickly.
Bonus YouTube video: my favorite Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock: link Good close-ups of Hendrix's fingers as he drives a repetitive riff over and over using just modulation.


  1. I couldn't possibly talk about Hendrix the way you are, a true fan. I never got to be a fan because I only know him from the 2-3 songs they play over and over and over and over and over and over (and over and over) again on the radio. They are fine, but wow, you should see how fast I turn the channel when they come on. Now this song sounds really nice. Why not play this on the radio? I'd let it play...

  2. Now this song sounds really nice. Why not play this on the radio? I'd let it play...

    Band of Gypsys was Hendrix' all black funky groove album recorded after his original band break up. It was the last album he finalized before he died. There's a DVD documentary called Hendrix Band of Gypsys that tells the story.

  3. I couldn't possibly talk about Hendrix the way you are, a true fan.

    Hendrix inspired me even as a kid. I remember when he died (I was 10) and talking about it with a girl in my 5th grade class. I really had no clue then about his cultural importance and all the baggage and what not. I just felt an attraction and an admiration. His was the only "rock star" poster I had in my room growing up.

  4. Oh and Candle? So nice to see you back!

  5. It took a mention of Hendrix to get Candle to surface!!

  6. By the way, I met the real Candle in person this summer in my endless wandering in the unsettled Eastern US.

  7. You are indeed blessed, LL. We all should be so lucky!