Original Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Original Album: Rainbow Bridge (1971)
Albums: Hampton/Winston-Salem '97
Historian: Chris Bertolet (bertoletdown)
Last Update: 2015-06-05
1971’s Rainbow Bridge was the first of two Hendrix albums compiled by MCA Records after Jimi’s untimely death. In 1997, after winning a legal battle with MCA over rights to the iconic guitarist’s works, his family released their own posthumous favorites under the title First Rays of the New Rising Sun. It’s a tribute to “Izabella” that the song made the cut for both. The song’s narrator is a soldier longing to return home to his love, the tune’s namesake, so he can hold her instead of his rifle.
Though her name is spelled with an “s” instead of a “z,” conventional Phish lore suggests that Trey chose the cover as a fatherly nod to his infant daughter. He and Mike road-tested the song on 5/21/97 at Club Toast with New York! (a one-off collaboration with several Burlington musicians), but Phish debuted “Izabella” before an intimate crowd at Bradstock. Soon thereafter – on 6/13/97 – it saw its first public performance in Ireland, one of the few Western European countries where Hendrix never performed. To the obvious delight of the Dublin crowd, “Izabella” arose from the jammed-out “Stand” encore.
While Phish’s instrumental reading of this propulsive tune is pretty faithful to the original, Trey’s vocals typically consist of the same verse sung twice or thrice with a varying degree of accuracy. Check out the volcanic version that erupts from “Tweezer” in the 12/6/97 jam-a-thon at Auburn Hills, MI.