Angel (Jimi Hendrix song)

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"Angel"
German single picture sleeve
Single by Jimi Hendrix
from the album The Cry of Love
B-side "Night Bird Flying"
Released 1971 (1971) (UK)
Format Seven-inch 45 rpm record
Recorded Electric Lady Studios, New York City, July 23 & August 20, 1970 (Mitchell drum overdub 10/19/70)
Genre Rock
Length 4:25
Label Track (no. 2094-007)
Writer(s) Jimi Hendrix
Producer(s) Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell, Eddie Kramer
Hendrix British singles chronology
"Voodoo Child (Slight Return)"
(1970)
"Angel"
(1971)
"Johnny B. Goode"
(1972)

"Angel" is a song by American blues rock musician Jimi Hendrix, featured on his 1971 posthumous studio album The Cry of Love. Written and self-produced by Hendrix, the song was recorded for the guitarist's unreleased fourth studio album just months before he died in September 1970, and was later released as the lead single from his first posthumous studio album in the United Kingdom.

Recording and production[edit]

Despite its late entry into the musician's catalog, the song "Angel" dates back to relatively early in Jimi Hendrix's career, when the music was first recorded under the name "Little Wing" in a session involving Hendrix and drummer Mitch Mitchell at Olympic Studios in October 1967.[1] Later in the year the song took on its own identity, with an initial demo recorded under the title "Sweet Angel" in November 1967 at the London studio.[2] The song's lyrics were written in early 1968,[3] as evidenced by handwritten lyrics marking the song as complete by January 14 that year, which also gave the song a full title of "My Angel Catherina (Return of Little Wing)" giving more weight to its comparison with the Axis: Bold as Love track.[4] A solo demo was also recorded in March 1968, and released as part of unofficial bootleg Acoustic Jams and on the companion disc to 1995 book Voodoo Child: The Illustrated Legend of Jimi Hendrix.[5]

After delaying progress on the song for over two years, Hendrix returned to work on "Angel" with Mitchell and bassist Billy Cox in July 1970, during sessions for his planned fourth studio album; the master recording was produced at Electric Lady Studios on July 23, the last of seven takes,[6] and the overdubbing and mixing were completed on August 20 and 21 amongst various other tracks which were ultimately released posthumously.[7] As with the majority of material recorded during this period, "Angel" was produced by Hendrix and engineered by Eddie Kramer.[3]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

Jimi Hendrix wrote "Angel" in reference to a dream he had about his mother, Lucille Hendrix née Jeter, when he was a child; speaking in a December 1967 interview conducted by Meatball Fulton, Hendrix explained the inspiration behind the song by describing the dream as follows:

Writing for the biography Jimi Hendrix: Electric Gypsy, Hendrix historians Harry Shapiro and Caesar Glebbeek have compared "Angel" – which they describe as "arguably Jimi's finest ballad" – with fellow The Cry of Love track "Night Bird Flying", citing similarities in their lyrics as evidence of the more personal subject matter explored by the musician in his later career.[9] The track has also been likened thematically to Are You Experienced number "May This Be Love" and Electric Ladyland song "Long Hot Summer Night", in which Hendrix is said to be seeking a "mystical woman ... as his only means of inner peace and personal salvation".[10]

Release and reception[edit]

Following Hendrix's death in September 1970, "Angel" was among the ten tracks selected by Mitch Mitchell and Eddie Kramer for inclusion on the first posthumous studio album, The Cry of Love, released in March 1971.[11][12] In the same month, the song was released as a single in Europe, and it was also featured as the B-side to the "Freedom" single released in North America.[3] In 1995 the track appeared on the controversial Alan Douglas-produced Voodoo Soup album, and in 1997 it was featured on the first new release by Experience Hendrix, the company run by Jimi's father Al and half-sister Janie to remaster and release all Hendrix material, First Rays of the New Rising Sun; alternative versions of the song (the "Little Wing" instrumental from October 1967 and the "Sweet Angel" recording from November 1967) were also featured on South Saturn Delta, released just six months later'.[13]

"Angel" is generally considered an important song in Hendrix's back catalogue. Writing a four-star review of The Cry of Love for music website Allmusic, Sean Westergaard identified the track, in addition to "Ezy Ryder", as one of the main highlights of the album,[14] while critic Robert Christgau praised it, along with "Night Bird Flying", as an "offhand rhapsody".[15] The song has been featured on numerous Hendrix compilation albums, including The Ultimate Experience (1992), Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix (1997), and Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection (2001).

Legacy[edit]

As a popular track in the Hendrix library, "Angel" has been covered by a number of artists over the years. The first commercially released cover of the song was recorded by English singer-songwriter Rod Stewart for his UK number-one album Never a Dull Moment, released in 1972.[16] Stewart's version, which was described by Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic as a "soulful reading" of the original",[17] was also released as a single, reaching number four on the UK Singles Chart and number 40 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.[18][19] A performance of the track also appeared on Coast to Coast: Overture and Beginners, a live album released by Rod Stewart and his band Faces in 1974.[20] While unreleased, Fiona Apple included the track in her setlist while recording MTV Unplugged in 1997. The most recently released cover of the track is a live version recorded by blues musician Gary Moore in 2007 for the live tribute album Blues for Jimi, released posthumously in 2012.[21] British soul singer Natalie Duncan recorded a version of the song in 2012.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Jimi Hendrix. 

United Kingdom edition (Track 2094-007)
No. Title Length
1. "Angel"   4:25
2. "Night Bird Flying"   3:50
Total length:
8:15
German version (Polydor 2121 040)
No. Title Length
1. "Angel"   4:25
2. "Freedom"   3:24
Total length:
7:49

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Geldeart & Rodham 2007, p. 42
  2. ^ Geldeart & Rodham 2007, p. 44
  3. ^ a b c Shapiro & Glebbeek 1995, p. 538
  4. ^ Hendrix & McDermott 2007, p. 35
  5. ^ Geldeart & Rodham 2007, p. 125
  6. ^ Geldeart & Rodham 2007, p. 108
  7. ^ Geldeart & Rodham 2007, p. 109
  8. ^ Shapiro & Glebbeek 1995, pp. 31–32
  9. ^ Shapiro & Glebbeek 1995, p. 438
  10. ^ Shapiro & Glebbeek 1995, p. 314
  11. ^ Shapiro & Glebbeek 1995, pp. 537–538
  12. ^ Geldeart & Rodham 2007, pp. 111–112
  13. ^ Geldeart & Rodham 2007, pp. 115–117
  14. ^ Westergaard, Sean. "The Cry of Love - Jimi Hendrix". Allmusic. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  15. ^ Christgau, Robert. "CG: Jimi Hendrix". Robert Christgau. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Recording: Angel - Rod Stewart". Second Hand Songs. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  17. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Never a Dull Moment - Rod Stewart". Allmusic. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Rod Stewart Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Rod Stewart - Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Recording: Angel - Faces". Second Hand Songs. Retrieved April 5, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Recording: Angel - Gary Moore". Second Hand Songs. Retrieved April 5, 2013.