In 1968, Capitol Records issued a selection of tracks recorded by Curtis Knight with Jimi Hendrix as the ‘Get That Feeling’ LP. These session recordings, made a few years earlier, were a deliberate attempt to cash in on the guitarist’s meteoric rise to fame over the previous eighteen months. Over the years, various combinations of those recordings made for the PPX and RSVP labels were issued as unlicensed albums in shoddy packaging, destined to fill the discount shelves of supermarkets and petrol station shops.
Issued in March 2015, ‘You Can’t Use My Name’ represents the first “Hendrix Family Approved” release of the session material. The chosen numbers allow a good insight into the range and talents of the younger Jimi, making it a worthwhile compilation.
Two absolutely essential instrumentals cut for RSVP make this set worth the price of admission. ‘Knock Yourself Out (Flying Instruments)’ really captures the fire within this union of musicians, with Hendrix really working a selection of muted chords into a frenzy, while Nathanial Edmonds swirls on the organ, with everything underpinned by a tight drum groove. This is the most intense this kind of r ‘n’ b gets, although Hendrix resists all temptation to whip things up an extra notch and throw out a few frantic blues sounds. Although he was more than capable, we could assume the world just wasn’t ready for those kind of shenanigans in 1965. Until, that is, we experience ‘Hornet’s Nest’, a fiery almost frenetic workout that was originally issued as the flip side. Here – on a number co-written with the young Hendrix – the whole band really, really cooks. Across five minutes Hendrix absolutely melts his fretboard, thrashing out r ‘n’ b at lightning speed, intercutting the more regular guitar sounds with deep fuzz and smatterings of distortion. Like a John Mayall recording session where everyone’s taken an amphetamine, the interplay between the fledgling guitar hero and keysman Edmonds is breathtaking – with neither musician willing to step down. The ultimate instrumental workout from the age, it also shows the rest of the band are no slouches either. The tightness between Ray Lucas (drums) and Bugs Gregory (bass) is a match for any similar musical unit of the time, and with Gregory’s bass placed high in the mix, it’s thrilling listening – and not just for the curious Hendrix buff.
Also worth a listen (and originally issued as the opening track on ‘Get That Feeling’), ‘How Would You Feel’ is a heartfelt plea from Knight, really pushing his voice between the almost spoken word verses. The musical structure bears more than a passing resemblance to Dylan’s then still new ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ (litigiously close, in fact), but decades on, it’s very interesting to hear how Hendrix drops in with a guitar tone that’s recognisable as his trademark sound, even at this early stage. Although only hired as a sideman for Curtis on this session, he’s set to steal the show. The bluesy ‘Don’t Accuse Me’ fuses some reasonable guitar work with the kind of harmonies that powered many a doo-wop recording of the fifties. Given that The Squires are reasonable singers, its surprising these sessions didn’t bring more of this more soulful style. While never earth shattering, this number brings forth the sound of a talented musical unit, allowing Hendrix to drop in a couple of sharp lead guitar sounds along the way.
Knight sounds at ease fronting an energetic band on ‘Welcome Home’, a tune that works from the template that informed the first two Rolling Stones releases, though naturally delivered with far more authenticity. Hendrix – sidelined to rhythm guitar for the most part – ensures his presence is felt due to a sharp guitar sound, while Bugs really shines on the bass, tapping out a hard rhythm with a few distorted fills for good measure. ‘Gotta Have a New Dress’ works a great r ‘n’ b rhythm, with Lucas’s drumming high in the mix and Bugs dropping in with some great bassliness, while Edwards hammers his organ, bringing plenty of keyboard washes. Hendrix often appears sedate, working some twangy rhythms, eventually stepping forward for an almost rock ‘n’ roll sounding solo. It’s not one of Knight’s better performances, but his backing band more than carry him throughout. A workout of r ‘n’ b standard ‘Simon Says’, meanwhile, has a brilliant energy and while it might all sound a bit naive through modern ears, it’s easy enough to imagine this would have roused audiences on the circuit at the time, with Knight revelling in his role as MC.
‘You Don’t Want Me’, although not especially imaginative, captures a fine performance from drummer Lucas, with Knight eventually rising to the challenge vocally, while Hendrix chugs through in the manner of a session man on basic rate pay, not especially feeling this is his true calling, while another instrumental cut ‘No Such Animal’ (widely circulated on many a dodgy compilation) redresses the balance, with Jimi working out some pleasing bluesy riffs. Again, in terms of raw blues, it’s not even close to suggesting the kind of power that would be unleashed on ‘Red House’ at the beginning of 1967, but like ‘Hornet’s Nest’, it strongly suggests that Hendrix is capable of far more than this band ever requires of him.
The unreleased alternate take of ‘Gloomy Monday’ (original take absent) is workmanlike R&B, where the whole band sound like they’re just going through the motions while Knight’s vocal sounds like he hasn’t slept for days (and given how hard these guys were made to work, maybe he hasn’t). ‘Strange Things’ – a direct lift from ‘Who Do You Love’, fuzzily recorded and never feeling quite as coherent – sounds much like filler; fun enough for a couple of listens, but seldom much more, while the softer side of the band comes through nicely on ‘Fool For You Baby’, a soulful affair with clean and chiming guitar. A brief but thoughtful jazzy piano break and an arrangement that nods to the early Isley Brothers (with whom Hendrix would also play) helps to really lift this number. Knight, meanwhile, proves he’s certainly no Arthur Conley or Otis Redding by offering a measured, if rather ordinary performance. Despite best efforts, though it’s kind of easy to spot why he would have drifted into obscurity had it not been for his associations with Hendrix. Take a quick dig through the Vee Jay and Atlantic vaults from a similar time and you’ll certainly hear much better.
And what of the previously unheard ‘Station Break’? It represents two and a half minutes of something that sounds like it evolved from improvisation, but could hardly ever be considered an essential piece of Hendrix history. Like the best cuts on this compilation, it’s another instrumental workout, but it isn’t particularly guitar based. Hendrix brings a distinctive tone and all, but his guitar is just there, chiming out chords and never seizing an opportunity for anything more. A showcase for Edwards, this tune centres around a sunny keyboard part fusing blues and jazz motifs, ending up sounding like a prototype for Herbie Hancock’s ‘Fat Albert’ score. If you’re interested in R&B organ it’s a fun enough listen, but there’s a reason this recording sat in the vaults for half a century.
What we have here is an enjoyable listen for those interested in the sounds of a hard working rhythm ‘n’ blues outfit – in many respects this disc is of greater interest to those listeners than the more casual Hendrix fan. Bizarrely, though, it doesn’t include all of ‘Get That Feeling’: it omits the ten minute title cut and the widely circulated ‘Flashing’. With this disc only clocking in at fifty minutes, there was room for this the sidelined material, so why was it not included?. ‘You Can’t Use My Name’ is a fine enough compilation and certainly of historical value, but with the addition of those obvious missing pieces, ‘You Can’t Use My Name’ could have been the final word on this important chapter in the history of Jimi Hendrix’s all too short career.