Nine to the Universe

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Nine to the Universe
Studio album by Jimi Hendrix
Released March 1980 (1980-03)
Recorded March–May 1969 and August 1969 at
Studio Record Plant & The Hit Factory, New York City
Length 38:57
Label Reprise (US)
Producer Alan Douglas
Jimi Hendrix chronology
The Essential Jimi Hendrix Volume Two
Nine to the Universe
The Jimi Hendrix Concerts

Nine to the Universe is an album of studio jams[1] by American guitarist Jimi Hendrix with a variety of musicians. It was released in March 1980 in the US and in June 1980 in the UK. It was the third album of Hendrix recordings to be produced by Alan Douglas. The album contains five jam sessions, edited by Douglas. It reaching number 127 on the Billboard 200 char. Various versions of the jams on the LP had previously circulated on bootlegs.


Nine to the Universe is the third posthumous compilation Hendrix release produced by Alan Douglas. He had previously wiped almost all of the backing musicians from the original recordings and replaced them with session musicians on Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning and heavily edited (even significantly changing the tempo in some cases), overdubbing extended rhythm guitar, female backing singers, etc. on occasion. During his pre-release promo interviews/released statements, for his first release Crash Landing, Douglas strongly hinted that he intended to release the jam session that Hendrix recorded with John McLaughlin, which would justify his loud claims that Hendrix intended embarking on a new jazz direction. But whether McLaughlin refused permission or not, it was never released officially and never could be as, when the jam was finally bootlegged, it proved that McLaughlin's semi-acoustic guitar's pickup was faulty and was nothing more than a rough jam.[2] It was recorded during a later part of the session on March 25, that also featured Dave Holland (an English jazz musician who was then mostly known as Miles Davis' regular acoustic and electric bass player and his contribution to Davis' seminal post-bop/fusion albums between 1968 and 1970, such as Filles de Kilimanjaro, In a Silent Way and Bitches' Brew) and Buddy Miles on drums. Instead, Douglas heavily edited, and released a number of disparate jam sessions recorded between March and August 1969,[3] (mostly) retaining the original backing tracks and musicians.[4] Douglas removed over 50% from each jam, apart from "Drone Blues" – which only lost a third – one of Hendrix' very first new recordings with Billy Cox, who hadn't played with Jimi in three years and some young "pop" musicians recruited from a club.[5]

Musical background[edit]

These jams were recorded at a time when Hendrix had become acquainted with Miles Davis (Hendrix' girlfriend Devon Wilson had a close friendship with Miles' wife Betty Davis a funk, rock and soul artist), who had begun to cross over to jazz fusion with In A Silent Way (recorded February 18, 1969), which featured the English electric jazz guitar player John McLaughlin as well as bassist Dave Holland. Hendrix had previously used a jazz influenced style from at least 1967, most notably on "Up from the Skies" from Axis: Bold As Love and "Rainy Day Dream, Away" / "Still Raining Still Dreaming" from Electric Ladyland.

Hendrix and Davis had discussed music and, it is claimed by Alan Douglas [a jazz producer, introduced by Devon Wilson who was already friendly with clothing designer Stella Benabou (then married to Douglas)], that he, eventually, attempted arranging recording sessions with Davis and Tony Williams, with a view to a possible album. But this came to naught, again according to Douglas, through exorbitant demands for upfront cash from both Davis and Williams. Davis, from 1969, hired John McLaughlin, and latterly others who have been described as "sharing Hendrix's fascination with noise."[6]

Hendrix recorded only once with Davis' sidemen Dave Holland and McLaughlin, and Larry Young, who was playing in Lifetime (as had McLaughlin, recently), but this was just an informal jam session on 25 March. Young was soon to record one track with Davis for 1970's Bitches Brew and four years later played with Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin on Love Devotion Surrender.[6] These three are the only artists involved in the recordings that are recognized as jazz artists, and only two of them are featured here, on one jam "Young/Hendrix". Buddy Miles along with ex-Buddy Miles Express bassist Billy Rich and Larry Young, later played on John McLaughlin's 1970 fusion LP Devotion produced by Alan Douglas and Stephan Bright. McLaughlin later complained that the production was poor, and that he was inadequately recompensed for his efforts.

Douglas and Bright were attempting to produce Hendrix' Band of Gypsies from early October until November 28 when Douglas (and therefore his employee Bright) resigned as producer, "citing his own busy schedule, constant pressure from Jimi's manager Michael Jeffery and Hendrix' own indifference." During his & Bright's month and half as Hendrix' producers, the only thing Hendrix considered "finished" was the basic backing track of "Room Full of Mirrors", Billy Cox had voted with his feet, walking out of the sessions and going back to Nashville after a furious row with Bright, he was only coaxed back two weeks later. He said: "We were just goofing around during those sessions at Juggy, the atmosphere at Juggy's didn't allow Jimi to create. It was a lousy deal with a lot of bad vibes around. I had words with Alan's partner, Stephan Bright. I hated that guy with a passion. Jimi sensed it and nothing we did there ever worked out. I didn't think they were necessary. I didn't think they were on Jimi's level. They weren't needed for the production, Jimi was well equipped to do that."

Hendrix recorded many jam sessions over his career which were only loosely organized, often started late and even went on into the late morning. He also recorded several jams in clubs on his portable Teac deck, a notable one being with a very "out of it" Jim Morrison ranting obscenities, Jimi encouraging him to "sing" into the correct mic'. The jams that ended up on Nine to the Universe were not written, played, or recorded as individually named songs; with the exception of "Message ['from Nine' - there is no record of this part in the original title] to the Universe" (an early version of what would become "Message of Love,"[7] and which also contains the seeds of "Earth Blues",[3] both songs he would record later that year with the same line-up, who had by then become the Band of Gypsys). All song titles were made up during the production of the final album.[7]

"Easy Blues" was recorded during the aborted August sessions at the Hit Factory with his short lived band that played at Woodstock (variously titled: Gypsy Sun & Rainbows, Band of Gypsies, and Sky Church) and originally featured a guitar solo by Larry Lee. McLaughlin's recollection of the session, many years later (he only played for a short part of the session due to his semi-acoustic guitar's faulty pick up, which made a loud distorted buzzing and the volume of Jimi's guitar which almost drowned him out anyway): "We played one night, just a jam session. And we [the various other musicians that played] played from 2 until 8, in the morning. I thought it was a wonderful experience! I was playing an acoustic guitar with a pick-up. Um, flat-top guitar, and Jimi was playing an electric. Yeah, what a lovely time! Had he lived today, you'd find that he would be employing everything he could get his hands on, and I mean acoustic guitar, synthesizers, orchestras, voices, anything he could get his hands on he'd use! ... The music wasn't all that great, I'm sorry to say. I love Jimi, but the music wasn't that great. We played some good things. Just because it was my name and Jimi Hendrix' name is no excuse. Only since Mahavishinu came out was it transformed into something other."

Larry Young on the session: "I'm not quite sure why I was called, but I was real happy to do it. It was a lot of fun and very informal. Nothing was really planned. It was real loose" Jim McCarty's comment on the LP: "None of that stuff was ever intended to be released. To me it was embarrassing. I'm sure that Jimi would have said, "You're out of your mind and never let it happen [i.e., the recordings being released, not the actual jams happening]. It was all about people trying to make a buck out of Hendrix."[5] (i.e., Douglas and Warners who employed him and released the LP.)


Musicians on this album besides Hendrix include:[5] Jim McCarty from Buddy Miles Express on guitar, Larry Lee on guitar (his solo was edited out by Douglas. He was one of Hendrix' close early friends in Nashville and member of two of Hendrix' early R&B groups - the 'King Kasuals' and 'The Bonevilles', latterly Al Green's guitarist and musical director), Larry Young on organ (famous R&B & jazz organist, early contributor to "crossover" "jazz fusion"). Billy Cox (Jimi's early army buddy, musical partner and co-founder of their Nashville band the 'King Kasuals' - the band continued after Jimi left. Cox played many R&B sessions in Nashville and was a songwriter as well as the bassist in the house band of the pioneering R&B TV show (in colour) The!!! Beat), Dave Holland (famous jazz bassist, who played with Miles Davis amongst others), and Roland Robinson (not so well known, he played on several of Buddy Miles' later projects ) on bass, Hendrix regular Mitch Mitchell, Buddy Miles from Buddy Miles Express, and Rocky Isaacs, of the pop group the Cherry People (as was Al Marks - percussion), on drums, backing vocals by Devon Wilson on "Message from Nine to the Universe" were wiped from the original recordings. Percussionists Juma Sultan and Gerrardo Velez are featured on "Easy Blues" but have been turned down in the mix until almost inaudible and an unknown tambourine player was dubbed on.[7] Verified guitar effects include the Octavia pedal and Univibe.[7]

Release history[edit]

The album had been released in Brazil in late 1979 already on Warner-Elektra-Atlantic as Message from Nine to the Universe, with a different cover and song order.[7] It was released on vinyl in 1980 by Polydor (UK) and Reprise (USA). It did not chart in the UK, but in the US the album reached number 127 and stayed on the charts for seven weeks.[7] The album itself was never re-released, either on LP or on CD, but bootlegged versions of the unedited jams are available.[3]

The complete and remixed versions of "Jimi/Jimmy Jam"[8] and "Drone Blues" were featured on the 2004 Dagger Records release Hear My Music. A complete, almost 21-minute version of "Young/Hendrix" was released on the 2010 box set West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology, while "Easy Blues" was issued on the 2013 album People, Hell and Angels, making "Message from Nine to the Universe" the only track from the original album that has yet to be officially re-released in unedited form. However, a complete, almost 19-minute version of "Message from Nine to the Universe" featuring Devon Wilson on call and response vocals appears on the bootleg album The Electric Church.

Critical reception[edit]

In a contemporary review for The Village Voice, music critic Robert Christgau gave Nine to the Universe a "B+" and called it "bracing progressive" rhythm and blues showcasing Hendrix's most jazz-oriented improvisations. However, he questioned "whether tighter structures wouldn't have made [Hendrix] think harder and faster", while finding that Young, being the only jazz musician, sounded less "far out" than usual.[9] Paul Evans gave it three-and-a-half out of five stars in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992) and said the ethics of Douglas' production were questionable but resulted in a fusion style in which Hendrix "sounds great", citing the album as the most "vital" of the Douglas-produced records.[10] According to music scholar Craig Hansen Werner, along with Miles Davis' "Right Off" (1971) and the Sonny Sharrock albums Guitar (1986) and Seize the Rainbow (1987), Nine to the Universe was one of the few works that suggested the direction Hendrix and Davis would have explored had they worked together.[11]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Jimi Hendrix.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Nine to the Universe" 8:45
2. "Jimi/Jimmy Jam" 8:04
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "Young/Hendrix" 10:22
2. "Easy Blues" 4:30
3. "Drone Blues" 6:16


  • Jimi Hendrix – lead and rhythm guitar all tracks, lead vocals on track 1 (wiped)
  • Larry Lee – rhythm guitar on track 4 (his guitar solo was removed)
  • Jim McCarty – lead & rhythm guitar on track 2
  • Larry Young – organ on track 3
  • Billy Cox – bass guitar on tracks 1, 4 & 5
  • Dave Holland – bass on track 3
  • Roland Robinson – bass on track 2
  • Mitch Mitchell – drums on tracks 2 & 4
  • Buddy Miles – drums on tracks 1 & 3
  • Rocky Isaacs – drums on track 5
  • Al Marks – percussion on track 5
  • Juma Sultan – percussion on track 4 (mixed down)
  • Gerardo Velez – percussion on track 4 (mixed down)
  • Unknown – tambourine on track 4 (not on the original recording)
  • Devon Wilson – backing vocals on track 1 (wiped)

Recording details[edit]

  • Side 1, Track 1 recorded at Record Plant in New York City, May 22, 1969
  • Side 1, Track 2 recorded at Record Plant, March 25, 1969
  • Side 2, Track 1 recorded at Record Plant, April 14, 1969
  • Side 2, Track 2 recorded at The Hit Factory in New York City, August 28, 1969
  • Side 2, Track 3 recorded at Record Plant, April 24, 1969


  1. ^ McDermott, John; Kramer, Eddie; Cox, Billy (2009). Ultimate Hendrix: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Live Concerts and Sessions. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 187. ISBN 0879309385. ...the posthumous compilation album Nine to the Universe. 
  2. ^ Geldeart, Gary; Steve Rodham (2007). Jimi Hendrix - the Studio Log: A Complete Chronological Guide to Jimi Hendrix's Studio Recording Sessions. Jimpress. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-9527686-4-7. 
  3. ^ a b c Doggett, Peter (2004). Jimi Hendrix: the complete guide to his music. Omnibus. pp. 73–74. ISBN 978-1-84449-424-8. 
  4. ^ Geldeart, Gary; Steve Rodham (2007). Jimi Hendrix - the Studio Log: A Complete Chronological Guide to Jimi Hendrix's Studio Recording Sessions. Jimpress. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-9527686-4-7. 
  5. ^ a b c McDermott, John (2009). Ultimate Hendrix: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Live Concerts and Sessions. Backbeat. pp. 134–188. ISBN 978-0879309381. 
  6. ^ a b Craig Hansen, Werner (2006). A change is gonna come: music, race & the soul of America. U of Michigan P. pp. 142–44. ISBN 978-0-472-03147-4. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Shapiro, Harry; Caesar Glebbeek (1995). Jimi Hendrix: Electric Gypsy (3rd ed.). New York: Macmillan. pp. 549–50. ISBN 978-0-312-13062-6. 
  8. ^ Geldeart, Gary; Steve Rodham (2008). Jimi Hendrix - from the Benjamin Franklin Studios 3rd Edition Part 1: The Complete Guide to the Recorded Work of Jimi Hendrix. Jimpress. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-9527686-5-4. 
  9. ^ Christgau, Robert (February 2, 1981). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved August 12, 2015. 
  10. ^ Evans, Paul (1992). "Jimi Hendrix". In DeCurtis, Anthony; Henke, James; George-Warren, Holly. The Rolling Stone Album Guide (3rd ed.). Random House. p. 315. ISBN 0679737294. 
  11. ^ Werner, Craig Hansen (2006). "'Love or Confusion?'". A Change is Gonna Come: Music, Race & the Soul of America. University of Michigan Press. p. 144. ISBN 0472031473. Retrieved August 12, 2015. 

External links[edit]