There have been a large number of tributes to the great Jimi Hendrix, generally ranging from spotty to awful, but here's one that actually works. Power of Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix is the first to appear under the auspices of Experience Hendrix, the Hendrix family's umbrella company for all things Jimi Hendrix, and despite a couple misfires and hints of nepotism, it's very well done. Many of the artists stick pretty close to the originals with success, like Chaka Khan's reading of "Little Wing" featuring Kenny Olson (Kid Rock) on guitar, or Lenny Kravitz's version of "Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)." Eric Clapton's take on "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" is a bit stiff, but features some great guitar work, and the all-star group Carlos Santana put together for "Spanish Castle Magic" (Stanley Clarke, Tony Williams, Corey Glover) is good, but a bit lackluster. Earth, Wind & Fire turn "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" into a Little Axe tune, featuring some nice guitar from Sheldon Reynolds. Reynolds is co-producer on the album, along with his wife, Janie Hendrix, and here's where the nepotism creeps in. Reynolds is the only individual involved in more than one track, and a couple of them are probably the weakest tracks on the album. There is a brief snippet (43 seconds) of Hendrix's friend Velvert Turner playing guitar, with organ and vocal overdubs by Sheldon Reynolds. It's a nice thought to include Turner in the comp, but the track is a throwaway. Devoted Spirits, which features George Duke, is another Reynolds project that does a decent instrumental version of "Who Knows," but the canned applause added to this studio track is completely unnecessary. Sounds of Blackness make an attempt at updating "Castles Made of Sand" with a contemporary R&B sound and some added African lyrics, but they only use the chorus of the song, leaving behind Hendrix's achingly beautiful lyrics and then incorporating part of the chorus to "Angel." Reynolds solo is nice, but the arrangement of the tune just doesn't really work. Ultimately, those are minor quibbles because the tracks that really work are so good that some CD programming makes for a fine album. Prince reinterprets "Red House" with great gospel-esque backing vocals and a monstrous guitar solo. Bootsy Collins and members of the P-Funk crew also take a few liberties and add some new lyrics to "Power of Soul" to great effect, making the tune their own. Sting does an absolutely fantastic job with "The Wind Cries Mary," but it's John McLaughlin who steals the spotlight on that track. "May This Be Love" by Eric Gales is beautifully handled (with Gales playing all the instruments), and Musiq's take on "Are You Experienced" is equally well done, with two turntablists using Are You Experienced on vinyl to substitute for guitar. The album ends on another definite highlight, with a blistering live medley of "Little Wing" and "Third Stone from the Sun" performed by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Hendrix himself never even attempted to perform "Third Stone from the Sun" live, and Vaughan absolutely nails it. There are some flubs in his performance, but the amount of feeling he plays with easily overcomes them. Overall, Power of Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix is a keeper for Hendrix fans, and one of the few various artist tributes that actually succeeds much more than it fails.
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