This week's column contains reviews of the special Record Store Day edition of Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Smash Hits," followed by DVD documentaries about Janis Joplin and a special dog.
'Smash Hits,' Jimi Hendrix Experience (Experience Hendrix LLC/Legacy Recordings, HHHHH)
This release, like the four Dixie Chicks albums, arrived too late for a pre-April 16 column; but it's never too late to review albums of such high quality. The first 5,000 units of this 150g vinyl release are numbered for that day. Technical problems with my stereo didn't mar the listening experience.
Great songs such as the sci-fi/not drug-related "Purple Haze," the blazing "Fire," the majestic "The Wind Cries Mary" and more are part of this deluxe package. My favorites other than those three are "All Along The Watchtower" (even Dylan started doing the song Jimi's way), "Stone Free," "Crosstown Traffic," "Manic Depression" and "Foxy Lady."
Blues fans will find yet another version of "Red House" to enjoy here. My advice is to snag this one if you have vinyl-playing capabilities.
'Janis: Little Girl Blue,' Directed by Amy J. Berg (Filmrise/MVDvisual, HHHH 1/2)
This May 6 DVD presents a documentary narrated by Cat Power, using letters Janis Joplin wrote to friends, family and others. There is additional commentary by Joplin herself, Peter Albin, Melissa Etheridge, Pink (Alecia Moore) and more. The film traces her evolution to stardom, painting a picture of a driven performer who often tried to carry the stage persona into her personal life.
Big Brother & The Holding Company were the band that carried her to the upper levels of the music business; but unfortunately, Joplin decided (with record company pressure perhaps) to leave them behind after the great "Cheap Thrills" album. Her inexperience as a bandleader led to the less-thrilling, horn-laden Kozmic Blues Band, then to the more simpatico Full Tilt Boogie Band, with whom she recorded her biggest single, Kris Kristofferson's "Me & Bobby McGee."
Drug and alcohol abuse, especially heroin, were problems as her off-stage life didn't measure up in her mind. This is an interesting if somewhat depressing program, originally on PBS's "American Masters."
'A Dog Named Gucci,' Directed by Gorman Bechard (MVDvisual, HHHHH)
This DVD tells the story of an abused puppy (Gucci) who was adopted by a college professor. They both became instrumental in changing Alabama's domestic animal abuse law from a misdemeanor to a felony in 2000, though they began trying in 1994. Those who abuse animals are a danger to all of us, and as long as they're not punished in a meaningful way, the cycle continues.
This film is both inspirational and times horrific, with tales of animal abuse and legislative indifference. Gucci, who died of old age in 2010, was a friendly symbol of how dogs can bounce back from abuse and rally humans. This is a great program for animal lovers.
Ricky Flake, a former punk rocker and current music fan, lives in Biloxi. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org