Friday, April 23, 2010

Jimi Hendrix: Angel

Well this is the last day of my Ronnie Lane marathon and my Friday First tune is the original recording that was covered by Rod Stewart (and the Faces) – Jimi Hendrix’s “Angel.” Following Hendrix’s death on September 18, 1970, drummer Mitch Mitchell and recording engineer Eddie Kramer began listening to hundreds of unreleased Hendrix recordings. Some were complete; however, the majority of the songs were not.

In 1971, Reprise Records released the first posthumous Hendrix album, “Cry for Love” based on the material Mitchell and Kramer believed to comprise the song list of what Hendrix intended to release on his next LP. “Angel,” the second single from the album, failed to chart.

Rod Stewart’s Version

In 1972, Rod Stewart recorded the song for his fourth solo album “Never a Dull Moment.” While the Faces appeared on the album with Rod, they were credited individually, but not as the band. This was done for contractual reasons because Rod was under contract as a solo artist with Mercury Records and Faces (as a unit) recorded for Warner Brothers.

Released as the follow-up single to “You Wear It Well,” “Angel” was a top five hit in the UK, but only charted at #40 stateside. The single was issued with a non-album track, “What Made Milwaukee Famous (Made a Looser out of Me),” and since this song wasn’t available on the album, I did what I typically did in those instances – I bought the single. The flip would later surface on “The Best of Rod Stewart” in 1976. Even though “Angel” had a lackluster performance in the US, it still out performed Hendrix’s original.

Frequently, Rod and the Faces appeared on the British TV show “Top of the Pops.” While the instrumentation on the performances was the actual backing tracks, artists typically sang live while the band pretended to play. The Faces used this opportunity to not take themselves too seriously.

On one of their performances of “Maggie May,” British broadcaster and journalist John Peel can be seen mimicking the mandolin parts while Ron Wood and Rod Stewart kick a soccer ball at the back of the stage. On another performance, Ron Wood plays a guitar made from a toilet seat. Still on another performance, all of the band members are intentionally playing the wrong instruments.

When they performed “Angel” on “Top of the Pops” in November 1972, all of the band was present except bassist Ronnie Lane – well, uh sort of . . . as a life size cutout of Lane playing bass was onstage with the band. At one point in the performance, Ian McLagan stands behind the cutout acting like he is playing the bass. While Lane is present in spirit, he bass is heard on the recording. That performance can be found below.

That concludes my tribute to one of the lesser known, but major contributors to the world of rock ‘n roll – Ronnie Lane. I hope you enjoyed this week as much as I have.

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