BBC Sessions (1998) is an album of recordings by the rock group The Jimi Hendrix Experience, released on MCA Records. It contains all the surviving tracks from their various appearances on BBC radio programmes, such as 'Saturday Club' and 'Top Gear', recorded in 1967. At a BBC radio 'session', a practice still alive in British radio today, a band is required to record material quickly, with limited overdubbing, largely limited to and relying upon their live sound. Many groups as part of this tradition choosing to record some songs that are not part of their main repertoire. The album also includes the only two surviving Hendrix UK TV soundtracks (both BBC) 'Late Night Line Up' (Manic Depression only survives) and the 1969 'Lulu show' (complete - well they just had to snip the end off where Lulu says "Thank you boys").
BBC Sessions therefore offers its own unique example of the Experience sound, and a revealing glimpse of a song from their early repertoire Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor" and their only known studio recording of Bob Dylan's "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?".
Apart from the "live" in studio versions of well-known Experience songs, there are several unique studio recordings of songs, ie Driving South (x3), Hoochie Coochie Man, Catfish Blues, Hound Dog, Hear My Train A Comin'(x2) and a couple of novelty tracks: the amusing parody of a BBC Radio 1 jingle "Radio One", and a recording with a young Stevie Wonder on drums (a cover of Wonder's own "I Was Made to Love Her"). It also includes the sound track from the band's infamous appearance on Lulu's television show in 1969.
The Top Of The Pops references were overdubbed by Brian Mathews onto 'Top Gear' recordings for the BBC produced Swedish (English language) radio show of the same name. The original recordings minus Brian no longer exist.
Review by Cub Koda [allmusic]
These are the recordings that Jimi Hendrix made for BBC radio in the late '60s. As such, they're loose, informal, and off-the-top-of-his-head improvisational fun. These versions of the hits "Foxey Lady," "Fire," two versions of "Purple Haze," and "Hey Joe" stay surprisingly close to the studio versions, but the tone of Hendrix's guitar on these is positively blistering and worth the price of admission alone. There's also a lot of blues on this two-disc collection, and Hendrix's versions of "Hoochie Coochie Man" (with Alexis Korner on slide guitar), "Catfish Blues," "Killing Floor," and "Hear My Train A-Comin'" find him in excellent form. But perhaps the best example of how loosely conceived these sessions were are the oddball covers that Hendrix tackles, including Stevie Wonder's "I Was Made to Love Her" (featuring Wonder on drums), Dylan's "Can You Please Crawl out Your Window?," The Beatles' "Day Tripper," and, in recognition of his immediate competition, Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love." No lo-fi bootleg tapes here (everything's from the original masters and gone over by Eddie Kramer), the music and sound are class-A all the way, making a worthwhile addition to anyone's Hendrix collection.
TOM MOON (Posted: Jul 9, 1998) [rollingstone]
During one of several spoken interludes on the two-disc BBC Sessions, Jimi Hendrix interrupts the radio-interview happy talk to wonder whether anyone is listening. "Be a shame for all that music to go to waste," he says.
It seems incomprehensible now, but at the time – late 1967 – the waste of all that music on an unsuspecting public was a distinct possibility. Hendrix's debut with the Experience had just been released, and he could not yet count on an audience. Most everybody in rock was strumming electric guitars in an orderly, foursquare fashion, and here he was, this fire-breathing dragon, insisting on music as a startling, physical thing. His chords had bone-rattling presence; his lead lines felt so alive they might have been powered by a purer kind of electricity.
These characteristics make BBC Sessions more than another set of footnotes and odd-lot catalog cash-ins: It's damned exciting to hear Hendrix playing so passionately in 1967, before the world officially cared. All of the essential trademarks – the bold-as-life melodies, the roaring backbeats informed by the blues – are present on these two discs, most of them recorded for several BBC radio programs. His improvisational mastery is developing, as well: There are three versions of "Hey Joe" and also three of the fluid instrumental "Driving South," and each finds the trio tweaking tempos and shifting its tactics.
Tucked between standbys like "Foxy Lady" and "Fire" are some revealing surprises: The Beatles' "Day Tripper" gets a swift kick; Bob Dylan's "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window" becomes a desperate plea; "I Was Made to Love Her," which features Stevie Wonder on drums, approaches soulrevue intensity; and on Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love," recorded for a 1969 BBC-TV special, Hendrix's torrid solo makes the Clapton original seem understated by comparison.
An excellent – though sonically flawed – companion piece is the authorized bootleg Live at the Oakland Coliseum, recorded in mono by a fan in 1969. Hearing it after the BBC collection is like reading a novel after scanning its outline: All the hints of greatness are embedded in those short broadcast takes, and by the time the Experience had done a few years of touring, they had become as telepathic as the Miles Davis groups of the period. On the winding eighteen-minute "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" and other tracks, the trio alternates between gnashing fits of interplay and trippy extended solos. Having grown into the music, Hendrix and his cohorts set out to exhaust its possibilities every night. Whether they succeeded is irrelevant; what mattered most was the intensity of the pursuit.
1. (02:51) - Purple Haze
2. (03:30) - Hey Joe
3. (03:21) - The Wind Cries Mary
4. (02:44) - Fire
5. (03:37) - Highway Chile
6. (04:14) - Are You Experienced
7. (03:39) - Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
8. (02:26) - Little Wing
9. (04:01) - All Along The Watchtower
10. (02:20) - Crosstown Traffic
11. (05:13) - Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
12. (05:50) - Spanish Castle Magic
13. (03:43) - Stone Free
14. (02:48) - Izabella
15. (04:09) - Stepping Stone
16. (04:23) - Angel
17. (04:44) - Dolly Dagger
18. (06:05) - Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)
19. (06:45) - Third Stone From The Sun
Playing Time.........: 01:16:21
1. (03:35) - Fire (live)
2. (06:47) - Hey Joe (live)
3. (06:33) - I Don't Live Today (live)
4. (11:09) - Hear My Train A Comin' (live)
5. (04:28) - Foxey Lady (live)
6. (11:36) - Machine Gun (live)
7. (04:46) - Johnny B. Goode (live)
8. (08:08) - Red House (live)
9. (04:23) - Freedom (live)
10. (04:05) - Purple Haze (live)
11. (03:45) - Star Spangled Banner (live)
12. (07:45) - Wild Thing (live)