Narrated By: Slash
Directed By: Jon Brewer
Superlatives are overused; words like legend, greatest, master, innovator commonly get attached to average things. Jimi Hendrix however is the real deal, he is all of these things and more, unfortunately this documentary of Hendrix is quite average. For a student or raving fan of Hendrix there is a ton of information and insights into the music and craftsmanship, but the doc itself is rather flat.
This is the story of Jimi’s music, told through the eyes of friends, band mates and his contemporaries like Dave Mason, Mick Taylor, Eric Clapton, Paul Rogers, Ginger Baker, Stephen Stills, Henry Diltz, Lemmy Kilmister and Leon Hendrix. There is the basic biographical information of his life but it serves more as timeline for the evolution of the music than anything else, which is the strong point of the doc. Instead of delving into the scandal and controversy that have overshadowed other examinations of Hendrix’s life Jon Brewer delves into Jimi’s musical history.
Through interviews with his brother Leon Hendrix we learn about how Jimi mastered a cast off one string ukulele at an early age, his first guitar and how he was gigging with Seattle bands at an early age, his early musical career playing on the southern “Chitlin’ Circuit” and his playing in Little Richards band. Things really start to pick up when Chas Chandler finds Hendrix in New York City and convinces him to come over to London. Within days Chas had introduced him to all of the great English rockers of the period and in no time Chas had found him a drummer and bass player and soon Jimi has conquered London. The majority of the interviews are with musicians and people he worked with during this period. It’s great to see Clapton, Mick Taylor and Ginger Baker recount how they were blown away by this guy from the states that no one had ever heard of. There is actually a good amount of discussion about Jimi’s technique and stage craft. You even learn about the first time Jimi got to play through a Marshall amplifier and his introduction to Jim Marshall. Of course the story continues with Jimi returning to this side of the pond and trying to capitalize on his English success here. Mickey Dolenz talks about hearing Hendrix for the first time at the Monterey Pop Festival and the brief time that Jimi opened for the Monkees.
For all of that the doc comes across flat. Nearly all of the interviews are of the standard talking head type. There is a good bit of archival film footage, still photography and music from the era spliced in but not near enough Hendrix, aside from the Diltz photo’s, which are amazing, there is not a lot of actual Hendrix, or at least not as much as I would have expected. There is no energy or vitality to the presentation, the content has to carry the documentary the whole time. If you are not entranced by the subject matter all of the interviews just start to run together. I was surprised that the documentary was only 109 minutes, it felt much longer.
The video is presented in wide screen format. Most of the interviews are of excellent quality but the quality of some of the older interviews varies. As might be expected the quality of all of the archival footage varies quite a bit. No matter the quality of the source material however I never noticed any digital or compression artifacts.
The audio is presented in stereo in English only with no subtitles. The levels are always good. The dialog in the interviews and the narration by Slash is always clear. I never noticed any distortion, except where it was supposed to be, this is a documentary about rock and roll after all, or any other flaws in the audio presentation that would get in the way of your enjoyment of the DVD.
The Packaging/Bonus Features
The packaging for this DVD is beautiful. The glossy cardboard DVD sleeve comes with a cardboard slipcover. The artwork is great with bold colors and there is a nice twenty four page booklet included. The extra’s include some silent 8mm footage of the Monkee’s tour that Hendrix was briefly a part of, a full performance of “Hey Joe”, some extended interviews and a couple of photo galleries including many photos from the legendary rock photographer Henry Diltz.
As a doc Jimi Hendrix: The Guitar Hero doesn’t quite make it, but it does provide a unique insight into the music of Hendrix. If you want to learn more about Hendrix go ahead and pick this up you’re not going to be disappointed. If you’re just looking for an interesting documentary you will probably want to keep looking.
Overall (Not an Average): 7/10
The Movie: 6/10
The Video 7/10
The Audio: 7/10
The Packaging/Bonus Features: 8/10
Overall (Not and Average) 7/10