Page last updated at 12:08 GMT, Friday, 5 March 2010

In the studio with Jimi Hendrix

Forty years after his death, Jimi Hendrix's guitar genius is being kept alive with the release of an album of previously unheard recordings.

They were completed by Hendrix's original engineer Eddie Kramer, who recalls his time in the studio with the rock icon and says the album sounds "like it was recorded yesterday".

Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix died in 1970 when he was aged just 27

When Jimi Hendrix walked into London's Olympic Studios in early 1967, just after his debut hit Hey Joe, the studio's owner instructed senior engineer Eddie Kramer to work with the chap with the "big hair" because Kramer did all the "weird stuff".

Casting his mind back to his first encounter with Hendrix, Kramer says the guitarist was "a very, very shy guy".

"He walks into the studio and he's got this white raincoat on, it's a bit dirty," he tells BBC 6 Music. "Very quiet, he sits in the corner, doesn't really say very much.

"I remember seeing the amplifiers being hauled into the studio and I remember thinking, how am I going to record all this?"

After Hendrix had plugged in and played for the first time, he went into the control room to listen to the results.

"His smile was a mile wide and he loved what I'd done, and so from that point on we clicked."

That was the start of a fruitful partnership, which saw Kramer work on all three studio albums that Hendrix released during his short career.

The artist who created Purple Haze saw the musical spectrum as a palette of colours, often describing his desired sound to Kramer as a particular shade.

"He would say: 'Hey man, can you make it sound like purple, man, with a little bit of red in there?'" he explains.

Jimi was so focused - He had the most unbelievable amount of concentration on one idea
Eddie Kramer

"I knew exactly what he meant. If he said green I knew he meant reverb. If it was red, it was more this, more that. There were certain signals that he'd give me verbally, but he'd describe them in colours and in actual sounds."

The Seattle-born rock trailblazer was a prolific musician and a notorious workaholic, meaning he left a packed vault when he died in September 1970. Many recordings have seen the light of day over the last four decades.

The "new" album, Valleys of Neptune, released on Monday, is taken from recordings made at Olympic and at Record Plant in New York in 1969.

An "amazingly productive" working regime is to thank for the continuing stream of material, Kramer says.

Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix's estate recently signed a deal with Sony's Legacy label

"Jimi was very disciplined, and we didn't have much time because time was money and there wasn't much money." Hendrix's manager and sometime producer Chas Chandler had to sell his bass guitar to finance some of the sessions, Kramer recalls.

"It was amazing. Jimi was so focused. He had the most unbelievable amount of concentration on one idea.

"He comes into the studio and says: 'This is the song we're going to do.' And he knew exactly what it was going to sound like in the final analysis, and he wouldn't stop until he got there."

As well as working with Hendrix, Kramer has twiddled knobs for most of British rock royalty - from The Beatles and Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin and David Bowie.

Most great artists have a similar focus, he believes. "There are many musicians that I've had the great fortune to work with that have had this ability. But Jimi particularly had this laser-like concentration."

The Valleys of Neptune sessions came after his first three albums, when Hendrix was struggling with his personal fame, the engineer says.

There's probably enough material for an album a year for the next 10 years
Eddie Kramer

"There was turmoil in the personal and private life but in the musical side, I don't think so. I think he was searching for a new direction and I think he was right on it."

Kramer was transported back to the studio when listening back to the tapes, he says. "You hear his voice cracking jokes, making fun of everybody. It's loose but the band's on fire and it really has a tremendous energy. And it's really fresh."

Valleys of Neptune is the first album to come through a deal between Hendrix's estate and Sony's Legacy label, which is likely to lead to many more releases in the coming years.

"I can safely say, having been in the studio for the last year working on this album, plus other stuff that we're working on, there's some very, very exciting stuff coming," Kramer explains.

"There's some live stuff coming up. When we look at what's in the library there's probably enough material for an album a year for the next 10 years."

Eddie Kramer was speaking to BBC 6 Music's Julie Cullen. The full interview can be heard on 6 Music's Music Week show on Sunday from 1300-1400 GMT.



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