If you asked most music buffs to tick off a list of the top American music festivals in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, the Atlanta International Pop Festival probably wouldn’t get many mentions. I grew up in Atlanta and even my short list would include Woodstock, Newport, Monterey and Altamont. So imagine my surprise to learn that on July 4, 1970, guitar great Jimi Hendrix performed to the largest American audience of his career (estimated at between 300,000 and 400,000 people) at the second Atlanta International Pop Festival. Go figure.
The appearance, which took place just 10 weeks before Hendrix’s death, is the subject of a new Showtime documentary entitled “Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church” (it debuts Sept. 4) and the two-CD set “Freedom: Atlanta Pop Festival.” The Jimi Hendrix Experience were at their creative peak when they took the stage that night and the 16-track, 82-minute performance — including six songs not featured in the documentary — is truly captivating.
Hendrix & Co. deliver stellar renditions of “Fire,” “Spanish Castle Magic,” “Room Full of Mirrors,” “All Along the Watchtower,” “Foxey Lady,” “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe” and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” There’s even a version of the “Star Spangled Banner” that rivals the one that made Hendrix famous the year at Woodstock. This set is a must for anyone who loves rock music. (Jeffrey Sisk)