This particular page, devoted to one Jimi Hendrix, presents an intriguing dilemma; this was the first page that I created that was almost 100% superfluous, and even now it's probably the least "necessary" page on my site. Oh sure, I did a Beatles page, but at least there, I could approach it from the perspective of a Saul-turned-Paul, somewhat uncommon in our modern day. Here, though, I never really had any predjudices towards this guy, and so all that I could really do was contribute a couple of little fishies in the ocean of his legend.
Not that I'm a fanatic, though. After accumulating a decently sized (though not huge - this page should expand over time, however) collection of the man's work, I have to say that the mantra repeated by many reviewers like me, that the man had limited melody-writing skills, is one I'm in complete agreement with. If that wasn't the case, then there wouldn't be all those short tracks on Ladyland that I feel a strong urge to skip past everytime, and there wouldn't be all of those tracks on First Rays of the Rising Sun that make me wonder how on earth Jimi could have thought he had two double albums in him in a span of less than five years (assuming he was actually planning to release those tracks in that form). The vast majority of his riffs are rather simple (which isn't fatal, but this nonetheless casts a pretty big shadow of doubt in my mind over the notion of Jimi as one of the very very very elite), and his melodies (stripping away the arrangements) are often very heavily based in relatively standard proto-rock, folk and blues patterns (which isn't a major crime; lots of people basically made slightly tweaked versions of these, but we don't generally praise them for being especially innovative melody writers either). Of course, on the flipside of this, he had a pretty good knack for lyric writing, establishing himself along with John Lennon as one of the most proficient Dylan imitators of the day. All in all, though, most of his songs would come across as, dare I say it, boring, if played with basic instruments and stripped of his distinctive sound (at least they'd sound boring to me) ...
Aye, therein lies the rub, though. Jimi's focus may have been more focused on his overall sound and vibe than with intricacies of songwriting, but this was ok because Jimi's overall sound and vibe kicked complete and total ass. As you probably know already, his sonic experiments represented, possibly, the greatest leap in the sound of rock that has ever been witnessed. He was, more than anybody else, a complete guitarist, in that his riffing, soloing, and noise-making abilities were practically untouchable. For all intents and purposes, it was as if Jimi didn't just play his guitar - he was a guitar, or rather a man with the mind of a guitar that knew exactly how it ideally wanted to be played. Everything, whether coaxing a strange noise from his axe, or playing with his teeth, or whatever, was like breathing or going to the bathroom for him, and it's that incredible ease in creating all of those sounds and playing all of those solos and doing whatever that makes Jimi's style of playing so utterly intoxicating at times to me.
It should also be noted, however, that Hendrix's overall sound was not merely produced by his guitar, but also by a willingness to go nuts in the production booth. As he allowed himself to drift from mere 'guitar-god' status to an attempt at becoming a 'serious' artist, it was ultimately these sounds that would make his post-AYE albums as enjoyable as they were. Had he lived longer, I have little doubt that he'd have had an amazing impact on production techniques all throughout the 70's and beyond, even beyond the residual impact that came from his unfortunately short career.
All in all, I can see a lot of characteristics that I consider Jimi's (relative) flaws, but there is no way I would dare to give him less than a 4 on the overall scale. Flaws or no flaws, he was such a cool dude and had such a cool vibe to his music that I can enjoy his work plenty whenever I decide to pull him up for a listen (which isn't that often, granted, but there's lots of artists who fall into that category too. Like, say, The Beatles). Oh, and it also helps that his rhythm section was fabulous. Bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell were terrific at their instruments, especially Mitchell, who had the unfortunate distinction of Jimi and Keith Moon and Ginger Baker overshadowing him. And don't forget those backing vocals, which more than a couple of times come close to being the most memorable (to my ears, anyway) part of a given Jimi Hendrix Experience track.
bryan freeland (jimi_hendrix_is_god_.hotmail.com)
when you were talking about "EXP", you said it was noel interviewing him, but it was mitch.
(author's note): Oops
and why don't you have the original album covers by the reveiws? they're a lot cooler than the new ones. if i had made a site, all the albums would have gotten a 15/15 or whatever the top mark was, even woodstock... it's worth the $30 just to hear "star spangled banner" you don't have "first rays of the new risin' sun"... why not?
(author's note): I'm a poor college student.
and also, jimi hendrix is god.
Gene Kodadek (g_kodadek.hotmail.com)
I don't at all agree with your assessment of Hendrix's songwriting skills. I have arranged a number of Hendrix songs for solo fingerstyle guitar (not an easy task, I can tell you) and they stand up marvelously in this much more stripped down format. Naturally Hendrix fans think it's neat, but even people who have never heard these songs end up loving them. Some of them, particularly The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp, actually seem to work better without all the production.
rlk (rlk.prtel.com) (4/15/02)
found your page and read it, get a life
"Courteau, Kim" (Kim.Courteau.gmacrfc.com) (4/07/04)
I think that Jimi Hendrix was the best musical performer to take up the guitar ! While his musicianship has been slagged off as gimicky and simply special effects- I say - who cares how he made those wonderful sounds ? In my opinion , there is just no one else I find more fun to watch play music than Hendrix. Lastly I sincerely doubt that anybody has ever enjoyed playing the instrument more and sharing that joy with others ! God bless Jimi and thanks for your time~Kim
"steven.teti.verizon.teti" (steven.teti.verizon.net) (03/06/05)
I am a professional pianist, both jazz and classical, and I must express my displeasure with the music world's over-inflated praise for this man. Hendrix was a creative experimenter with sound and a flamboyant performer. However, he was flat out not an accomplished guitarist nor serious composer of any kind. His music is juvenile. Rock 'n' Roll heads will be forever enthralled with this man's legacy. Perhaps he can be credited as one of the artist who changed the sound of the electric guitar, but it is painfully obvious to me that he should practiced more and laid off the booze and the drugs. At least that might have let him lived long enough to grow up.
steve (voice.sympatico.ca) (11/05/05)
Jimi Hendrix was demon possessed .... literally. He even admitted it to a number of individuals and begged his girlfriend for help (her mother was adept in voodoo exorcism). See the excellent video, They Sold Their Souls for Rock and Roll for more documentation.
Many of the low moaning sounds, middle range groans and guitar shriekings of Jimi Hendrix are not the product only of special effects ... they are the actual sounds of the demonic and also affect the mind of the listener.
Jimi Hendrix did not know Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. At a young age he had been offended during attendance at church and had been told to come back when he was dressed correctly. Of course and unfortunately this stumbled him and he never darkened the door of a church again. Having severed his contact with Christians, Christianity and Christ ... and having grown up in abject poverty with profligate parents .... he became a musical wanderer.
He was penniless when Chas Chandler found him ... true ... he had the musical ear of a prodigy and with his back against the wall and having gained the necessary backup guitar experience of years on the Chitlin Circuit backing up the Isleys, Little Richard, etc etc! .... he was ready to launch out on his own. Yet he was still reluctant to sing ... but England would change that.
Yet lurking in his musical subconscious was the demonic element of excess and it manifested itself in fornication, drug indulgence and other excesses which also were the nemesis of Elvis Presley who also was not a Christian in anyway but a new age charlatan. If you listen closely to Electric Ladyland, the demonic manifests itself in so many ways musically.
Jimi Hendrix was unsaved and on the way to hell. He is now in Sheol Hades awaiting the Great White Throne judgement where he will be judged for his 'works'. He will be cast into the Lake of Fire by the Lord Jesus Christ where Jimi will suffer eternal torment. He said that was a voodoo child and his proclamation will be fulfilled.
His performances with Band of Gypsies tell a different story. Gone is the burning of the guitar, the histrionics, the teeth playing, somersaulting, fornicating with the amplifiers, sexual innuendo etc etc. His guitar work is more expressive thematically and it is usually at this juncture that a person finds themselves in the 'fork in the road'. I believe God was reaching out to him there as never before and in many of Jimi's Band of Gyspies lyrics you can perceive this. But Jimi made the fatal choice ... in the end to reject God and his Son Jesus Christ. King David, the sweet singer of Israel was in the same position ... but turned in repentance to God.
We are in the last days, and Hendrix's music is part of the prophetic fulfillments of these days. His music is being used corporately to turn people away from Christ towatrds new age religion, relativism, idolatry and in the end eternal destruction.
As the Bible states so poignantly: "There is a way that s e e m s right unto a man, but the e n d thereof IS the way of death. But the Bible also states: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosover believes ON Him (that could have been Jimi, or John Lennon, or Janis Joplin, or Brian Jones, or Jerry Garcia, or Elvis Presley, or George Harrison, or Stevie Ray Vaughn etc etc) SHOULD NOT PERISH but have EVERLASTING LIFE. John 3:16 Ultimately these unsaved men WORSHIPPED THEMSELVES and now must pay the ultimate price to the One who brought the Hebrew People through the Red Sea .... Jesus Christ.
Jon Cowell (jondcowell.yahoo.com) (1/16/06)
First of all, I can't believe that people believe that nonsense about him being demon possessed! Too funny. Anyway as a guitar player it is very apparent IMO that Hendrix was the most innovative guitarist to date. You can listen to his music over and over again and still find hidden treasures in his technique and delivery. I know you aren't too thrilled with New Rays but keep listening and closely, there are great tracks like easy rider, my friend, and the title track (13) and keep in mind that a good portion of these songs were not completed or commissioned by Hendrix before he died. Also, a lot of the bass tracks on electric ladyland (and probably first rays) were actually played by Jimi, all along the watchtower being one of them. And FYI the burning of the midnight lamp was recorded using a harpsicord and a guitar.
brandon terzic (brandon7627.yahoo.com) (1/16/06)
I am a professional muscian living NYC. I play guitar, Oud, Saz. I have studied Classical, Jazz, Blues, Arabic and Turkish Music. I have been listening to Music my entire life, and the musicians who have most effected me the most in spirtual sense, are Beethoven, John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix. To say hendrix didn't have a strong melodic sense, tells me that you have not listened to enough of the right material. hendrix's melodic developement/flow, motivic variation, and energy, were unparrelelled (pardon my spelling) His improvisations, when he was on, burst open new sonic territories, he staked out uncharted waters, much in the same way that Beethoven did in his last string quartets. his music was morphological, in that it streamed directly from his life experience. He had the sound and the fury. If anyone would like to have a list of performances of his that best exemplify the concepts I am referring to, please send an email to brandon7627.yahoo.com
To the gentleman, who wrote in and started talking about Jesus, please sir you really need to read your scriptures more precisely. particulary Pauls letters in the New testament. Jesus was beyond words and descriptions, we could cover the earth with paper and turn the oceans into ink, and we would still come close to doing him justice. Your whole attitude reeks of judment, and self rightousness, not to mention that Jimi was a follower of Hendrix, and they in turn, are both forever in our hearts.
" Today like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don't open the door to the study to begin reading.Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground." Rumi
"Griffin, Mike H - DPU" (GriffinMH.ci.richmond.va.us) (03/26/06)
First I am going to say Im a big fan of Jimi. I listen to him probably more often than any other group or artist. That being said, it is difficult for me to rate any of his studio albums very highly. I for one believe Jimi's best work was ahead of him. He didn't have a great voice, his lyrics today seem "dated" and somewhat simple, but singing and lyrics are not what I listen to when enjoying Hendrix. I believe the true Hendrix fan has to get some of the many, many bootlegs he has out there. Also, some of his live concerts are a better measuring stick of the mans greatness instead of his studio albums. Jimi lived in the studio so there is so much material out there to get that really shows how great Hendrix was. If he had lived long enough to get through his problems, drugs, management, record labels, hangers on, etc.. the world would have seen how great this man could have been. To judge Jimi by Are You Experienced, Axis:Bold as Love, and Electric Ladyland, is not truly judging him at his best. Listen to Machine Gun, Hear My Train acomin, Villanova Country Blues, Blues in C Sharp, etc. and then tell me what you think of him.
Most overrated guitarist of all time. Eric Clapton put him to shame and always will, the fact is that if Mr.Hendrix wasn't black, he would be just "another guitarist", when it comes right down to it, its not hard to make noise with distortion and screw around with effects, you praise him for playing bass on some songs but anyone who can play guitar can play bass, especially the simple ones used in his songs. He had quite the ego and its funny because if you took away the other 2 band members, his music would be pure junk, the drummers quick sporadic drumming made most of the songs. His most popular song was a cover and "Purple Haze" is as basic as it gets. Jimi Hendrix is the most overrated and cocky guitarist of all time.
lonny sterling (lonnysterling.gmail.com) (04/10/07)
A lot of idiots will judge a musician on one song, performance, album...etc. Context is key when it comes to Hendrix, he was way ahead of his time, no one played like he did in that day and age, now it's common. Hendrix could translate feelings to sounds, unlike the jazz guy that lipped him off earlier. This is a gift and can be learned provided you are pointed in the right direction at an early age. Jazz people are usually to educated in "technique" and can't play from the gut, but improvise from the overeducated brain. Feelings,emotions, are simple, thoughts are complex, Hendrix could play what he felt, and he did it very well. Yes, there were some weak gigs, whoopie, who hasn't had one?
Hendrix was basically a blues guy on steroids. To the Jazz guy...learn to feel as you listen, feel it, don't listen to just the mistakes.
David Andino (davidandino83.msn.com) (10/26/08)
jimi hendrix. the composer of time. hey I just got the box set and man the jimi hendrix box set is full of beauty and power. thank god his family has a box set for him. he is the bruce lee of the guitar. I wanna know more about the first rays sessions that never were completed in the first place and how jackass alan and his session cats try to ruin some of the magic that jimi had. even if it is an intro and you still have not own the set get it.
Tim Light (timlight99.hotmail.com) (8/13/11)
I'm not a massive fan. There's no doubting his immense guitar-playing talent. Few rock guitarists come anywhere near. Maybe Richie Blackmore. Actually, it's a pity that Jimi didn't hang around to replace Blackmore in Deep Purple. That would have been cool.
But Hendrix albums fall short on a few counts. His vocals are not great. In fact, I would say that they are poor.
There are very few really memorable tunes. Most songs are just a vehicle for his virtuoso guitar work.
Too much filler. On Are You Experienced, for example, there are too many unremarkable blues numbers, with nothing much to commend them.
His best stuff is absolutely remarkable, but it's too thinly spread. I recommend a Best Of collection.
BTW ... I note from another commentator that Jimi will be cast into the Lake of Fire, along with John Lennon, Elvis Presley, and a host of other cool dudes. I hope that I get to go there when I die. It sounds like fun.
Darryl Duncan (dynamicd888.gmail.com) (11/13/11)
I think Jimi Hendrix was the best rock guitarist who ever lived The first Hendrix song I ever heard was Purple Haze and it blew my mind Jimi had achieved total command on the guitar and as a guitar player myself for many years I know thats something very difficult to acheive he also was a good person its been 41 years today since Jimi died byt his music will live on forever rest in peace to the king of rock from DynamicD888
Trung Doan (trungtamdoan.gmail.com) (12/13/11)
In the past, I have always been suspicious about Hendrix been rated as the best guitarist of all time.
I guess from my background during my pre-Starostin era, I had a bias towards listening to bands with an anti-guitar heroes and that was my stylistic preference (although nowadays I’m a bit more open to more show-off style of guitar playing). I do believe even today that the role of the guitarist is to enhance the songwriting and bringing out the emotions that are expressed throughout the song and the technical skills is only the means to the end and not vice versa (like the song is used as a vehicle to express the technicalability of the guitarist). So I ended up loving guitarist likes Johnny Marr(The Smiths), Graham Coxon (Blur), Jeff Buckley, The Edge (U2) and Johnny Greenwood (Radiohead, although he is not a pure anti-guitar hero though) as they represented that philosophy quite well (nowadays I do realised that wanky guitar solos can be justified in bringing out the emotions of the song as well and I have developed an appreciation of the likes of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath etc).
So hearing Hendrix as the greatest guitar hero of all time made me suspicious about him because at the time I didn’t particularly like guitar heroes as a concept. Although I didn’t like guitar hero as a concept, I at least understood why people rated guitar heroes very highly. Sure I thought they were pretentious and show off but they can solo ridiculously fast and I guess people responded to that. So even if I didn’t rate guys like slash, Steve vai, John Petrucci, I at least understood why people rate them highly.
However with the few Hendrix songs I heard, I never heard Jimi Hendrix really shred it ridiculously fast like some of those current guitar heroes which made me baffle to why he was rated that highly.
That all changed when I listened carefully to All Along The Watchtower which was an eye opening experience. So the song started up with some bluesy like guitar lick that I expect from a guitar hero. However during the verse, I start hearing all these licks that were very reminiscent of what Graham Coxon does with Blur. Sort of guitar fills between lyrical phrases of a song to fill out the song. Later on I heard this guitar effect at the 2 minute mark that remarkably sounds like some of The Edge work. At the 2:30 mark, I started hearing rapid strumming that I could swear that Johnny Marr has made a career on. Then later on some octaves strumming that sounds a lot like Johnny Greenwood.
It occurred to me that Jimi Hendrix was just as much of an influence to the anti-guitar hero as he was to the guitar hero and that he was one of the most complete and versatile guitarist. He had the ability to shred out guitar solo that were quick and technically difficult. He was a master of pulling out a really catchy riff. He had the ability to use the guitar as an atmospheric tool. He can just used simple riffs and fills to fill out the song without redirecting attention from the melody. Listening to more of Hendrix sort of made me appreciate that he has a key attribute required of great guitarist, restraint and the ability to realised that the guitarist is there to supplement the song and not the other way around (although he did fall in that trap during certain sections of Electric Ladyland). He probably had that attitude due to lengthy periods being a humble session players to other musician.
Thisis why I rate Hendrix as the best guitarist of all time.
Christopher Sikora (csikora77.gmail.com) (09/13/12)
Dude. This is ridiculous. Hating the harpsichord on Midnight Lamp? man. i don't think you understand him, or his music. and merely rating on this crap on what you like is sort of retarded. study music, learn to play like that, and then you will see what he was really into, oh yeah, and uh, eat about 500 hits of acid, have a complete spiritual rebirth. learn to see the future like he obviously could. learn to play guitar from the soul instead of calling soloing boring, and riffage entertaining. thats sort of backwards. don't you get tired of hearing the same thing over and over again? don't you understand the concept of going for a journey? haven't you heard the idea of "electric church"? ever been to a dead show? do you know anything about spirituality? do you have a soul man?
and your words on radiohead are so trite and foolish, you are the epitome of everything wrong with the music world today and why real artists can't make a dime because morons like you classify their music based on your "weak little mind's" (nice little jimi reference if you will) lack of greater perception and visionary qualities. I read everything you posted on jimi. Complete and utter crap. You just don't get it bud. So again, in the words of bill hicks, I recommend a healthy dose of 5 dried grams, or a heroic dose, if you will, to open your mind back up to everything that should be in this universe. sure there are problems with jimis recordings at times, whatever, but you are too critical, and while everyone is entitled to an opinion, yours seems rather uneducated. can you play free jazz? can you play like jimi? do you understand what radiohead was trying to do with their music? do you hear all the nuances, and the journey they take you on? have you ever sat back during a large psychedelic experience, smoked a nice bowl and really let the music do what its intended to? because lord knows the writers of this music have, and i think until you have been where they have been, you have no credibility in judging or even trying to understand their visions, the quality or purpose of their works, and possibly even the emotions and energies intended to be invoked. and not to mention the ingenuity in composition of both jimi and radiohead. they were both ahead of their times. glad you put kid a first, not that i even give a crap, but your reasoning seems stupid. pyramid song? man, again, you just don't get it. i have played music for my entire life, and at age 26, i have studied these artists in depth, as well as many classical composers, and jazz greats. i know what it takes to write music of this quality. so why don't you take your stupid website down, and learn to play. stop judging other peoples music.
anonymousconfidential (firstname.lastname@example.org) (02/13/18)
Richard Nathan's take on Hendrix:
I wish not to be alone,
So I must respect my other heart.
Oh, the story of Jesus is the story
Of you and me.
No use in feeling lonely,
I am sending you to be free.
The story of life is quicker
Than the wink of an eye
The story of love is hello and goodbye
Until we meet again.
These are the last lines of a song called The Story of Life, which Jimi Hendrix wrote on the eve of his death. Like Chidiock Tichborne in the Tower of London in 1586, Hendrix was writing his own elegy, though, unlike Tichborne, he didn’t know that he’d be dead upon the morrow. And yet this song - with its earlier references to Jesus on the cross, to the soul of man which roams after he has fallen in battle, and to God being at our side at the moment we die – this song does suggest a man who is making peace with his “God,” and preparing himself for immortality. Hendrix hoped that he would achieve immortality in his music. “When I die,” he said, “I want people to just play my music.” Today, over thirty years later, Jimi Hendrix is idolized by millions of discerning young music lovers, many of whom weren’t even born at the time of his death. Unlike those of my generation, they cannot claim a nostalgic attachment to a second “Elizabethan” Golden Age of “English” music, in which the émigré Hendrix was the brightest star in a glittering, celestial panoply of musical splendor. For them, Hendrix’s music speaks on its own terms, not only as a virtuosic assault on the senses, but also as a profound cry of sincerity and, ultimately, of faith, hope, and love.
True genius is also something acknowledged by the other bright lights in the current celestial panoply, regardless of the weight or absence of popular and critical acclaim, which can often be very fickle and misguided. It took a genius of the stature of Franz Josef Haydn to acknowledge that young Wolfgang Mozart was the greatest musician of the era, at a time when Haydn himself was basking in sustained popularity and Mozart was subject to the whims of his public. Hendrix had no shortage of gifted peers who recognized that he was the brightest star amongst them. “No one else was in the same building!” is the blunt judgment of Neil Young. I had the honor of hearing a similar though more elaborate judgment directly from the mouth of Mick Taylor, who, back in 1966, the year Hendrix arrived in England, was a precocious sixteen-year old guitar wizard launching his career with the John Mayall Bluesbreakers. “Hendrix,” Taylor told me “was without doubt the single greatest musical genius of that period, in terms of the sounds he created, his experimentation with electronics, and his sheer virtuosity.” In the summer of 1969, Taylor joined The Rolling Stones, replacing Hendrix’ close friend Brian Jones, who had been one of the first musical celebrities in London to realize that a messenger had come among them.
But if Hendrix was the “Mozart” of his period, then without question his “Haydn” was Eric Clapton, who had preceded young Mick Taylor as the resident guitar virtuoso with the John Mayall Bluesbreakers. In fact, a famous condition set down by Hendrix for his sudden and epoch-making move from New York to London was the opportunity to meet and perhaps to play with Eric Clapton, whom he revered, as Mozart revered Haydn. Sure enough, within a week of his arrival in London, his tough, straight-shooting manager Chas Chandler fulfilled the promise. On October 1, 1966, Hendrix met Eric Clapton on the stage of the Central London Polytechnic, where he jammed along with Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker. It just happened to be the first public performance of Cream, which, to this day, is regarded by many as the finest ensemble of virtuoso musicians in the entire history of rock and roll. Not only did Hendrix perform with these Titans, he left them in awe. “I’ll never forget Eric’s face,” says Chas Chandler. “He just walked off to the side of the stage and watched.” Within a week of his arrival in England, Hendrix had established with Clapton the intense rivalry and love of Mozart/Haydn soul brothers that for the next four years fueled the fire in each of their souls, and turned the fire that was already burning brightly in the British music scene into a full-blown conflagration. All the established greats of British rock music – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and other guitar virtuosos such as Jeff Beck – all now realized that the music they played would have to be held accountable at an even higher artistic level.
The music rose to the new challenge during Hendrix’ first full year in Britain. 1967 was an annus mirabilis; possibly the most creative year in the history of popular music. The Beatles produced Seargent Pepper’s; Cream produced D’Israeli Gears, including Sunshine of Your Love, which was dedicated to Jimi Hendrix; an esoteric quartet from Cambridge calling itself Pink Floyd launched its journey into outer space with an album called Piper at the Gates of Dawn; and Jimi Hendrix, with his quickly assembled band of brothers, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, produced two albums, Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold As Love, that became treasured possessions for every enlightened British youngster with an ear for what we then called “progressive music.” For a few halcyon moments, the British musical elite basked in the glory of having this émigré genius amongst them, as one of their own. Even Mick Jagger, who had a rather strained personal relationship with Hendrix, was proud to announce, “He was ours.” But he wasn’t. At the same time Mick Taylor gave me those earlier comments, he also said of Hendrix, “As a genius, it was hard for him to fit in anywhere.” Just as Byron called himself a “Citizen of the World,” Hendrix was a “Citizen of the Cosmos,” and as such he had no true home in any one place.
It was inevitable that once he had made it big in Britain, which he did in just a few meteoric months, he would go back in triumph to conquer his original home, America. By now, all British musicians were aware that the only thing that mattered in the music business was success in the lucrative American market. So Hendrix, the raw material imported from America, would be exported, like a Rolls Royce or a Jaguar, as a very high-class piece of “British” merchandise. The occasion on which Hendrix was introduced to his new American audience was the Monterey International Pop Festival, staged in June of that miraculous year, 1967. It was Paul McCartney who insisted to the Festival organizers that any prestigious music event without Jimi Hendrix would not be worth its name. This just six months after McCartney had first heard Hendrix jamming in the London clubs! What greater references could any new musician have in 1967 than The Beatles and the Rolling Stones? Fittingly, Hendrix traveled to California with the Rolling Stones’ founder Brian Jones, who went, specifically, to introduce to the estimated crowd of 90,000 the man he called “… my very good friend, a fellow countryman of yours, who is the most exciting performer I’ve ever heard.”
Once Hendrix had conquered the American market, it was obvious that he would spend an increasing amount of time in his native land. Sentimental patriotism aside, his two British managers were very keen to cash in on the adulation of US audiences, though they disagreed vehemently over the wisdom of launching Hendrix’ Post Monterey American campaign via a nationwide tour supporting The Monkees! This madcap venture was the inspiration of Mike Jeffrey, the more shamelessly mercenary of his two managers. Fortunately, Chas Chandler’s greater commitment to the artistic integrity of his precious commodity eventually prevailed, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience was able to “withdraw” from the farrago with a minimum of fuss or damage to the fragile egos involved. But after this farcical beginning, America provided one triumph after another, such that Hendrix moved the center of his operations from London back to New York, where, in the last year of his life, he opened his own recording studio. But though America was his home, and New York a city he loved, because of its dynamic club scene, he remained an outsider. His sense of belonging to America was compromised by his rejection of its materialistic values and by his uneasiness concerning the major political issues – civil rights and the Vietnam War - that were damaging the soul of America in the late 1960s. Hendrix was also very conscious of being a very unusual breed of American, in a culture that hyphenates people into one ethnic category or another. A black man from Seattle with a powerful infusion of Cherokee Indian blood, he defied tidy classification, and it’s significant that during his life time only a small percentage of Black Americans connected with his music. He preferred to look upon himself as a Gypsy, and cultivated this image both in his flamboyant dress and the lyrics of his songs, which frequently evoke images of magic, prophecy, and erotic power in the same vein as El Amor Brujo.
Though at heart a homeless Gypsy, Hendrix also enjoyed his time in London. As a wanderer in Space and Time, he relished being in a city with a rich historical tradition, all the more so when he discovered that his fashionable Mayfair flat had been the home of George Frederick Handel. What a stroke of Fate that two musical émigrés of genius, 250 years distant from each other, would end up under the same roof! Hendrix saw the hand of Providence in this. A man of eclectic musical tastes, he was far more sensitive than the average rock musician to the importance of classical music, especially to the intricacies and the colors of orchestral composition, a genre to which he sincerely aspired. At the time he moved into Handel’s old digs, he was unfamiliar with the great man’s work, though he did know some Bach. He promptly made up for lost time and bought every available LP recording of Handel’s music. Sadly, he never lived long enough to enjoy it all. Perhaps at least he had a few moments of peaceful solitude in which he could enjoy Music for the Royal Fireworks and Messiah.
Like Handel, Hendrix was a master plagiarist, not that this seemingly pejorative label detracts one jot from the genius of either musician. Handel was perfectly happy to snitch other composers’ tunes, certain that he could use them to greater effect. Similarly, Hendrix would spend countless hours in the pubs and clubs of London listening sometimes to Cream and Jeff Beck, but more often to rather mediocre bands, which, nevertheless, might produce some little spark of inspiration. While Chas Chandler would be tugging at his sleeve, anxious to be rid of the tedious cacophony and to be off at the bar nursing another pint, Hendrix would insist on staying the course, to hear and absorb that one little flourish by an otherwise lackluster guitarist that he, Hendrix, like Handel, could use to greater effect. And while we know Hendrix primarily as a creative artist who wrote his own songs, he would occasionally take great delight in covering another artist’s song, confident he could transform it into something rich and strange. His version of the Troggs’ hit Wild Thing was a favorite from his early days in London, to the extent that he eventually became rather jaded of having to perform it at concerts by popular command. With greater personal pleasure, he frequently enriched the splendor of Sunshine Of Your Love, each time dedicating it back to the trio of master musicians who had dedicated it to him. This he did most famously on January 4, 1969, during a live, prime time, Saturday Nite B.B.C. show, when he interrupted a rather labored performance of one of his own songs to announce his farewell tribute to Cream on the occasion of its disbanding. But his greatest cover song, indeed, one of the greatest songs he ever recorded, was of Bob Dylan’s classic All Along The Watchtower, in which Hendrix not only displayed his virtuosity, but also his growing spiritual awareness, voiced through Dylan’s foreboding poetry. Dylan himself – a man never noted for his modesty – admitted that the Hendrix cover version actually improved on the original; a noble testament to the rich “orchestration” of the Hendrix arrangement, which added even more vigor to the profound lyrics.
As a composer in his own right, Hendrix is remembered for a number of classic songs that demonstrate the vast range of his technical and emotional powers. At one extreme, he produced the delicate ballad Little Wing, almost Schubertian in its economy and ethereal beauty, conveyed in the gossamer layers of both its melody and its poetry,
Well she’s walking through the clouds
With a circus mind that’s running round
Butterflies and zebras
And moonbeams and fairy tales.
That’s all she ever thinks about
Riding with the wind.
At the other extreme is the quintessential anthem of psychedelic angst, Purple Haze, with which Hendrix announced himself as a major songwriter in March 1967. This, his most famous song, opens with a dramatic guitar riff that, as a motif stamped indelibly in the minds of an entire generation, is rivaled only by the opening of the Stones’ Satisfaction. This jarring dissonance, with which Hendrix mesmerized a whole generation, contains the musical interval of a tritone or flattened fifth. During the Spanish Inquisition this particular note was reviled as Diablo in M?sica, and Church musicians were prohibited from using it, for fear of invoking the devil! Instinctively, Hendrix clearly knew what he was doing with his own Diablo in M?sica, as he shows in such anguished questions as “Am I happy or in misery?” and “Is it tomorrow or just the end of time?” He goes some way to answering these questions in Voodoo Chile, which is perhaps his most autobiographical statement. Gypsy imagery abounds; his mother confirms the prophecy that the moon would turn a fire red on the night of his birth, whereupon she “falls down right dead.” Now motherless and abandoned, this Voodoo Chile baby is found by mountain lions, which set him on an eagle’s back for a journey to the outskirts of infinity. He returns to earth via “Jupiter’s sulphur mines,” where he finds William Blake’s “arrows made of desire,” though not, surprisingly, his bow of burning gold! Where was Jim Morrison when he was needed?
As a live performing artist, Hendrix had arrived in London a seasoned twenty-three-year old, groomed in the clubs of Chicago and New York by such legendary black musicians as The Isley Brothers, Ike and Tina Turner, and, most famously, Little Richard. It was under Little Richard’s tutelage that Hendrix learned all the tricks, the moves, and the gestures that make for a consummate stage performer. In fact, young “Jimmy James,” as he was known in his pre-London days, threatened to upstage his vainglorious paymaster, so he received his marching orders. All of which reduced him to temporary poverty, but paved the way for his historic flight to London. Once in England, Jimi Hendrix, as he was now called, quickly adapted to his new environment, and within months was discharging as much live electricity as the Rolling Stones and The Who. More than any other artists, The Who had taken live music in Britain to a new level of physical and emotional intensity – an intensity its surviving members have maintained into the 21st century! By the beginning of 1967, it knew of three guys who could generate as much raw power as its four guys. But there was a big difference: while the white heat energy of The Who was generated by the fierce competition between its three chief firebrands – Pete Townsend, Roger Daltry, and, especially, Keith Moon, who usually won! – the energy of the Jimi Hendrix Experience was generated largely by Hendrix himself.
Sadly, I never saw Hendrix perform, so any words evoking the power of his performance art must inevitably be borrowed. Fortunately, I can borrow a few which were written by a teenage girl from my native Yorkshire:
“The violent colours of the spotlights paled into insignificance beside the color of the man beneath them. My eyes begged to close, but I could not move them from his face. I watched his long fingers caress the guitar shaft. I watched as he tore the strings viciously with his teeth. I watched as the words flung themselves out of his throat and hung above us somewhere. I watched Jimi being torn to shreds by his music; his skin and his mind stripped away, leaving the skeleton of his dreams shining white and brittle in the raw darkness. I wanted to comfort him, but I was helpless. Then he stopped singing; stopped the sensuous movements of his lithe body; stopped time.”
At the time of his death, in September 1970, virtually all his fellow musicians acknowledged Hendrix as the most important creative artist in rock music. As to critical acclaim, the London Times stated in its obituary, “he was largely responsible for whatever musical metamorphosis pop music has undergone in the last three years.” And regarding popularity amongst the record-buying, concert-going public, Hendrix commanded bigger audiences and fatter fees than anyone, with the exception of the Rolling Stones.
But it’s also clear from his movements and his comments during the last year of his life that Hendrix was not content to rest on his laurels. In fact everything suggests that he was less than satisfied with his current accomplishments – staggering though they were! – and that he was driven by a yearning to explore and experiment in a variety of different and even more ambitious musical genres. Almost certainly he would have incorporated jazz techniques into his composition and playing, and jazz musicians into his ensemble. For several years, he’d admired free-form jazz masters such as saxophonist Roland Kirk, with whom he eventually had the opportunity to jam. He also jammed with jazz guitarist John McLaughlin, who alone, perhaps, excelled Hendrix for pure virtuosity. McLaughlin at the time was a mainstay with the Miles Davis band, which was breaking new ground with such albums as In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew. Sure enough, Hendrix got to meet the maestro himself, with whom he became friendly, in spite of Davis being a bit of a musical snob – Hendrix having no background in music theory- and in spite of Hendrix being the cause of the separation between Davis and his wife. The potential for a future collaboration between these two giants poses a tantalizing image for what-might-have-been. Hendrix was also entranced by Pink Floyd, with whom he’d shared a playbill back in May 1967 at a Cattle Auction Hall in Lincolnshire; a remarkable gig that had also included Cream! Talking to an interviewer just a few weeks before his death, he said that his music “… could be on similar lines to what Pink Floyd are tackling… Western sky music and sweet opium music…they are the mad scientists of this day and age.” And there would also be a classical component in the future music of Jimi Hendrix. “Strauss and Wagner are going to form the background of my music. Floating in the sky above it will be the blues.” One esteemed classical music ensemble – The Kronos String Quartet – has often included the music of Hendrix in its repertoire. It’s very possible that, had he lived for another 20 or 30 years, Hendrix would have been composing on a regular basis for Kronos and for a host of other adventurous classical musicians. He might be collaborating with such dynamic conductors as Pierre Boulez and Esa-Peka Salonen. Without question, he’d have written a violin concerto for Nigel Kennedy!
But it was not be. Hendrix was summoned to Mount Olympus – or perhaps to Valhalla if Wagner had anything to do with it! He died on September 18, 1970 in a bizarre accident, his death caused, in the words of the London coroner, by “an inhalation of vomit due to barbiturate intoxication in the form of quinalbarbitone.” At the time, much was made of the “drug factor” and of the general tendency for rock musicians to indulge in heavy drug use, leading in several celebrated cases to their early deaths. For sure, Hendrix indulged and experimented in drugs. “He pushed things to the nth degree,” as his drummer Mitch Mitchell said. Hendrix was a true disciple of William Blake in believing that “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” But, as Mitch Mitchell adds, “He exhibited no suicidal tendencies… and if he’d taken all the drugs the papers and rock books say he took, he’d never have lived as long as he did.” Drug use may have been the immediate and accidental cause of his death, but it was not the symptom of a prolonged journey towards death.
If anything did put Hendrix on a journey towards his early death it was a deep-rooted melancholy. It was the melancholy of a gentle spirit frequently at violent odds with the institutions and the morality of a world in which he was not entirely at home. It was the melancholy of a free spirit, who was both a lover of his fellow man and a man alone, tormented by doubts and loneliness. In all of this, he was more a fellow traveler of the great Romantic poets of the early 19th century than of the drug-crazed rock ‘n rollers of the 1960s. He would have been perfectly at home in the company of Byron and Shelley, especially Shelley, with whom he shared a Promethean optimism about the capabilities of the human spirit, in spite of the melancholy that shrouded his own spirit. Shelley’s words from Prometheus Unbound about the poetic spirit might well be applied to Hendrix:
Nor seeks nor finds he mortal blisses,
But feeds on the aëreal kisses,
Of shapes that haunt thought’s wildernesses.
…from these create he can
Forms more real than living man,
Nurslings of immortality!
Like Byron, Hendrix was a magnet to and was magnetized by women, though, like his role model, it’s unlikely that he ever found true happiness with any single woman. For both men the scars from childhood ran deep, especially those cut by betrayal in love. For Byron it had been his unseen father who had held the knife; for Hendrix it was his mother. But each man had an idealized vision of feminine purity and beauty. In Byron’s case it was modeled clearly on his half-sister Augusta, who became the spotless “Astarte” of his Manfred. Hendrix’s idealized vision of Goethe’s “eternal feminine” came largely from his mother Lucille, who, in spite of her “betrayal,” embodied for him everything that was gentle and lovely in a woman. In The Story of Life, Hendrix writes,
We will guide the light
This time with a woman in our arms
We as men can’t explain the reason why
The woman’s always mentioned
at the moment that we die.
Or as Goethe puts it at the conclusion of Faust,
Here insufficiency becomes fulfillment,
Here the indescribable is accomplished;
The eternal feminine draws us heavenward.
The day after Hendrix died, his friend Eric Burdon disturbed many people by some comments he made during the BBC’s 24 Hours current affairs show. “Jimi made his exit when he wanted to,” Burdon told veteran interviewer Kenneth Allsop, “His death was deliberate. He was happy dying and he used the drug to phase himself out of this life and go someplace else.” I watched that interview, and Burdon’s words have tantalized me ever since. Burdon would later curse himself for “being stupid enough to speak publicly about the death of friend,” which is not to say that his original comments are devoid of truth. In the interview, Burdon made much of the elegy which Hendrix wrote the night before his death, and, just two weeks before he died, Hendrix himself told a Danish journalist that he didn’t think he would live to see twenty-eight. This same journalist cites Hendrix as telling her that he’d been dead for a long time and had been resurrected in a new musical body.
It is possible, therefore, that in the last year of his life Hendrix reached a stage of mystical awareness, which not even his closest friends could understand. The one friend who might have understood this was Brian Jones, who’d died the previous year. It may well be that all of Hendrix’ elaborate plans for his musical future were for a future in a different plane of existence; that the Wagner he would hear would, indeed, herald his entry into Valhalla! And perhaps he realized that he’d already done enough to establish his immortality in this plane. If so, he was right.
Best song: Purple Haze or Love or Confusion
Problem one has to do with the production of the album. It's really odd to me that, for all of the amazing sounds and tone quality that Jimi wrangled from his guitar in putting this album together, the other aspects of the album are so haphazardly treated in terms of how they sound. Guitar aside, these are very lo-fi production values for a 1967 album, especially in terms of how the drums sound; poor Mitch Mitchell doesn't consistently get the quality in the mix that he deserves given his terrific playing on here. Furthermore, there's also a rather bizarre tendency to have, on one track, a sound that isn't very fitting for that particular track, but would sound fine on another track. The best example of this comes from the lovely "The Wind Cries Mary," which has a very full, very bass-heavy sound that sounds fine, but could just as easily benefit from a lighter sound, which sucks given that the pounding "I Don't Live Today" would have had even more impact than otherwise had it been granted such a full bass sound. Of all the immortal albums from 1967, this probably the one that most needs somebody to go back in time and beat the producer upside the head.
In terms of song-based problems, I have to say that, even after listening to this album many, many times over the years, the closing title track just isn't something I enjoy that much. There are a lot of really cool backwards production effects, yes, and it works as a symbolic statement of late 60's culture, but it also strikes me as dated in a way that no other song on here is, and the lack of anything resembling a cohesive melody doesn't help much either. It just irritates me, I guess.
Well, so much for negatives. As for positives ... there are just too many to name. Regardless of what I may say in the introduction about Jimi's songwriting in general, this album has TONS of great riffs and melodies, all brought out splendidly by Jimi's total mastery of himself and his guitar. The sounds that eminate out of his axe defy all description, probably because at this point in his career, he was using the studio primarily as a showcase for the possibilities of the electric guitar. And we should all be grateful, because that's what he did best!
I tell you, the first ten songs on this album rule so unbelievably that I probably cannot do them any justice. I used to kinda dislike the infamous "Foxey Lady," given that its main riff is sufficiently simple as to be considered sorta stupid, but I got over myself over time. There are so many great tricks going on in this song, and Jimi's vocal delivery is so seductive, that it ends up sounding almost like Black Sabbath with sex appeal, and that's a neat trick. "Purple Haze" introduced Jimi to the world and brought the musical establishment to its knees - as well it should have. With its fabulous, menacing riff, augmented by whispering voices and mad soloing, it fully deserves to still be Jimi's most famous number. Well, at least it would, if it weren't for another, less-known song, the fantastic "Love or Confusion." From the amazing melody to the spooky echo on the vocals to all of the crackling feedback to Jimi's vicious sliding up and down the fret board (I especially love the tricks he employs whenever he finishes saying "Love or Confusion") to the insane soloing, this song will blow your mind completely away.
Sheesh, this is the album that has Jimi's cover of "Hey Joe" on it! Jimi almost completely reinvents this song, turning a herky-jerky uptempo, relatively normal 60's rock song into a slow-but-steady blues-pop shuffle climaxing with "I took a gun, and I SHOT HER" and some nice solos for good measure. And "Fire" is here! Let's see, a solid-but-simple main riff, a strong-but-poppy vocal performance, some great sissyish backing vocals, and Jimi going nuts. Yup, sounds like a classic to me. As do a couple of songs that are relatively forgotten but that are just as great (if not greater), the amazing "Manic Depression" and "I Don't Live Today." They're not optimally produced, but they're such great pieces of up-tempo, poppy hard rock that I can mostly forgive them that one flaw.
Even the 'softer' songs are jaw-dropping. "Wind Cries Mary," though overrated, is a wonderful ballad (interesting lyrics, too), while "May This be Love" creates a pretty, mellow atmosphere, with its nice melody and (as always) clever guitar work and interesting drumming. My favorite of these, though, is the most overtly psychedelic number of the bunch - "Third Stone from the Sun." The melodies within are some of Jimi's finest, and they slide into each other virtually effortlessly. Meanwhile, there are plenty of spooky sound effects and voiceovers in the background, yet more terrific solos, and ... you know, the usual. That whole Jimi vibe.
In short, to say this is a classic is to not say enough. It's a nearly perfect cross of the directness that characterized 60's pop rock to that point with the power and sheer oomph that would characterize hard rock in general over the next few years (ie the "classic rock" era), and when you throw in the great guitar sounds, a bunch of wild and terrific singing, and simply fabulous songwriting, it's hard for me to see this as anything but Jimi's best, and as arguably the best debut of all time.
And hey! There are bonus tracks, a number of which were actually included on the original release but left off nowadays in favor of the more famous singles ("Purple Haze" etc.). My favorite is "Stone Free," a solid, straight-forward rocker, but the others aren't weak either. "51'st Anniversary" is underrated and decent, "Highway Chile" has a great guitar line popping up every so often (with Jimi rapping over the top of the bass and drums), and the others all have their own good traits. What are they? Get the album and find out for yourself!
Gene Kodadek (g_kodadek.hotmail.com)
I actually think this to be Hendrix's weakest effort, and an overrated album overall. Don't get me wrong, it's great (Purple Haze, Stone Free, and Red House are mind-boggling), but there's an awful lot of filler on there. Love Or Confusion sucks!
During the 80's, Hendrix (especially tracks from this album) was so overplayed (along with Led Zep) on classic rock radio that I got sick of him pretty quickly. With some distance, now I can apppreciate what a fantastic album this is. Up to this point, psychedelia was pretty much mutations of either pop (Beatles, Beach Boys) or folk rock (Byrds, Airplane). Along with Cream and the Who, the Experience introduced heavier, rootsier, and louder sounds into the equation, either forcing most of the bands to either follow or founder. The big hits are obvious classics, but most of the rest are unfairly overlooked, like (as you point out) "Love or Confusion", "May There be Love" (which I first heard as a lovely cover by the Pretenders on Packed!), and "Third Stone from the Sun" (despite the dig at the Beach Boys). There's a lot of youthful angst (and a peculiar anti-marriage bias) in the lyrics, but that well suited the times -- Jimi was not as bad a lyricist as some claim. Although the album (along with another 1967 blockbuster, Surrealistic Pillow) could arguably use a cleaner remix, no one can deny that this was Jimi's best, a total classic.
Best song: Wild Thing
Unfortunately, this album can only present the audio from that concert, and stripped of the visuals the concert sounds quite entertaining but not as spectacular as its reputation would suggest. I have the 2007 version that arranged the tracks into their proper order (earlier versions jumbled up the track order), so as to give a full sense of the concert itself, and one thing I can't help but notice is that, well, this album has a lot of dead space in which the band stops to tune its instruments. This may well have been unavoidable, and I'm sure the audience was too bewildered to care, but many years removed, the flow of the concert suffers a good deal from the band stopping over and over. As for the material, five of the songs are from the UK edition of Are You Experienced ("Foxy Lady," "Hey Joe," "Can You See Me," "The Wind Cries Mary," and "Purple Haze"), and they're good, but they don't deviate strongly from the studio versions (And why would they? The studio versions are great), and they don't show the band as on fire as it would be, say, a year or so later during the shows that got captured on Winterland. The other four performances are covers, and they range from sluggish (his version of "Like a Rolling Stone," which doesn't really take off the way it could in the future) to amazing (the closing "Wild Thing," the one track on here that I would say is absolutely essential divorced from the visual element, even though the most iconic visual moment comes at the conclusion of its performance), with the other two ("Killing Floor," "Rock Me Baby") settling in as good performances of tracks that could often provoke great performances from Jimi and his band.
So yeah, it's a fine Hendrix performance with some great moments, but I would also strongly caution anyone from getting this as their first live Hendrix, lest they come away thinking that his reputation might exceed him. At least the tracks are in the right order now.
Best song: Little Wing
The thing that bugs me the most about this album is just how little of it has ever jumped out at me. This is Jimi's "vibe" album, his own version of Blonde on Blonde or Exile on Main Street, amazing albums where the individual songs aren't as striking as the whole, but those albums each had a few songs that knocked me flat the first time or so. Here, though, it's essentially "Little Wing" and a bunch of supporting tracks to my ears, and that's not really a positive. It's so even quality-wise (except, again, for "Little Wing") that it really drives me nuts, and while I could see automatically considering Axis as Jimi's best work just because of the even-ness, even-ness = greatness to me only when the even is, well, great. When it's just "good," that's a whole other matter.
Cripes, I'm rewriting the original review of this (four and a half years after the original review) because I didn't feel like the original did a good job of explaining what songs I liked and didn't like in the original, and I'm still struggling to think of something differentiating to say about most of these songs. "Little Wing" is, of course, pure genius, a gentle little psychedelic ballad that grows into one hell of a mighty guitar solo in an effortless way that puts to shame all of the "monster ballads" that would ever be written afterwards. "Castles Made of Sand" is a nice sequel to "Wind Cries Mary," "Spanish Castle Magic" sounds like it could have more or less fit in with the harder numbers on RUX, and "If 6 Was 9" is so bloody ugly that it can't help but stand out. Oh, ok, the opening "EXP" is an amusing sonic experiment, featuring Mitch interviewing Jimi Hendrix playing Paul Caruso (?) on the topic of the existence of flying saucers.
Otherwise, there are three tracks on here where I can honestly say that the part that stood out the most to me were the backing vocals ("Wait Until Tomorrow," "Ain't No Telling," "You Got Me Floatin'") and the Redding-penned "She's So Fine" actually ends up being my second favorite on here, as it's one of the few pop songs on here to actually bother to have some hooks that I can remember. Oh, and I remember that the closing "Bold as Love" has always bugged me as seemingly awfully stupid.
There are other songs on here, but while I don't mind them, they certainly don't stick out for me. And that, really, is the problem. The truth is, if the album didn't hold together as well as it does, this album would probably get an 8 or 9, which would lead to me getting flamed from here to the end of eternity. As is, the fact that this endless parade of samey, decent songs happens to have a neat vibe going for it, and that the production is pretty phenomenal, is enough to make me be a bit less of a hardass. But only a bit. As is, considering this one of the best albums ever is just one of those things I will never be able to understand.
Gene Kodadek (g_kodadek.hotmail.com)
Wow. I've had my disagreements with some of your reviews, but never this thoroughly. This was the best thing Hendrix released during his lifetime (and by the way, you REALLY need to pick up a copy of First Rays Of The New Rising Sun), and I can't believe you didn't like the title track - it's the best thing on the album! Most of the ballads on here are gripping, Spanish Castle rocks, and I don't find Wait Until Tomorrow "boring" in the slightest. She's So Fine is a complete waste of space, however.
James Hunter (jhmusicman12.hotmail.com) (12/31/05)
Ah, when it comes to Axis, you either think it's overrated or underrated. You aren't big on it, so you think it's overrated. I know I'm in the minority when I think it's Hendrix's best (but not by much) so I think it's underrated. I just wanted to say to the readers that you should get it along with Are and Ladyland. In the all music guide, all three get five stars, and I agree with that.
Best song: Voodoo Chile or Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)
As you likely know, this is a double album, and while this gives Hendrix a chance to stretch out and display his strengths, this also means that there are more opportunities for Jimi's weaknesses to display themselves. Strangely enough, they more or less tend to cluster in one general area on this album; among the album sides of all of the great double albums I've yet heard, side two of Electric Ladyland makes a good stab at being the one I like the least. The highlights of this side are pretty decent; Redding's poppy "Little Miss Strange" is a fun excursion into late-60's psychedelic go-go, and the band's cover of the generic soul rocker "Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)" is fun while it's on. The other three tracks here, however, bother me more than a bit. I have no idea what Jimi was trying to accomplish with "Long Hot Summer Night," which has gotta be one of the most awkward attempts at crossing psychedelia with soul and funk-rock I can imagine, but whatever it was I don't think he succeeded. "Gypsy Eyes" grew on me a bit, as I learned to tolerate the weird guitar line with which Jimi sings in unison from time to time, but beyond that aspect of it I'm still not inclined to say I like the track. And then there's "Burning of the Midnight Lamp," which I keep being told is a fan favorite, but which is based around a weird harpsichord-like guitar sound in the introduction that I've never been able to stop hating, and the rest of the track doesn't lift the song up in my eyes either.
Fortunately, aside from the kick-off to side four ("House Burning Down," which I guess is trying to be anthemic but just can't measure up to the real anthems of this album), the other "normal"-length tracks on here are fine, and some of them rate among The Experience's finest work. There's a terrific sonic experiment kicking off the album ("... And The Gods Made Love"), followed by a pretty 'soul' number with good singing from Jimi ("Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)") and a really great Axis-style rocker in "Crosstown Traffic." The last side also contains two of the all-time classics in Jimi's cover of Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," and the original "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)." The former contains some absolutely breathtaking solos that pretty much invented the genre of arena-rockesque soloing, and while I ultimately prefer Dylan's original (it's folk mysticism for crying loud! How can I not love folk mysticsm??!!), this cover deserves all of the air-play it gets. And the latter is just jaw-dropping, containing one of the greatest riffs of all time and possibly Jimi's finest moment of guitar-playing ever. Seriously. He really sounds like he's making massive overdubs, but apparently that's him playing just one guitar and creating all of that noise while soloing and riffing. Wow. Wow.
The crux of the album, however, lies in the longer numbers. First of all, and I know this may shock you, but I flat-out ADORE "Voodoo Chile," and yes, I mean the 14-minute live-in-the-studio jam. Jack Cassidy's bass and Steve Winwood's organ keep things rumbling along in an absolutely fierce and menacing fashion, while Jimi's demonic soloing and mystical lyrics give it an edge and a vibe never felt since. If you are tempted to dismiss it as just another blues jam, and to discount it on the grounds that Jimi has played better solos in other places and that he isn't even soloing during most of this, I beg you to reconsider. This is undoubtedly the moodiest and most atmospheric lengthy blues jam I've ever heard, and I would go so far as to say that it's almost certainly one of the three most history-defining recorded blues jams done during the era of rock music. After hearing this once, the fact is that I simply cannot imagine my collection without it, and that definitely says something.
And, of course, we have the terrific "Rainy Day" suite. The intro is amusing and catchy (with more clever guitar work, particularly in the parts where he plays his guitar through a filter that makes it sound like two separate guitar sounds having a conversation with each other), and the main melody during the "1983 ..." portion is absolutely beautiful. The effect created by the whole is simply stunning - as Jimi's vocals begin to breakup near the end of the musical part of "1983" before entering the sound collage (which is hands-down one of the best atmospheric sound collages I've come across; only the midsection of "Echoes" by Pink Floyd immediately comes to mind as better, and even it is largely going for the same "underwater" feel, though in a darker way ), I feel myself approaching musical Nirvana. And then it reverts back to the great plaintive melody, before closing with that bouncy, jazzy melody that started the whole thing. This is the sort of thing that makes me understand why people place Jimi on such a lofty pedestal, even when much of the rest of the time he does things that make fidget.
It's not just the musical numbers by themselves that make the album so glorious, though. The production is just unbelievable, as Hendrix cross-fades and uses stereo panning like mad, sending guitar back and forth between your speakers in a totally unpredictable and entertaining manner. And, of course, the effectiveness of the feedback goes without saying.
It's not an easy album to get into. But if you are willing to take a chance on it (and you should, since it's a double album condensed into one CD), you will be richly rewarded. For better and worse, this tells you more about Hendrix than Experience or Axis ever could, and that should be enough.
Gene Kodadek (g_kodadek.hotmail.com)
I think Midnight Lamp and Gypsy Eyes are great, but no other serious disagreements. Should not have been a double album.
I believe Electric Ladyland was the greatest album produced by Jimi. I don't mean to disagree with you but I feel that his guitar is the best on this album. Instead of playing riffs inbetween his lyrics, the whole album is like an entire solo. With often two guitars playing sounds awesome and the swirling around your head just makes it better. The first nine tracks are all different styles showing the wide range of style he had. I also believe that this album made him a guitar god, even how he takes Bob Dylan's lyrics, which I might add is a horrible song, and made it into an absolute masterpiece, containing one of the best solo sections ever. I just began playing the guitar and this entire album is extremely hard to even get close to duplicating. If you can produce the same sounds as Jimi you are truly gifted and should be making music of your own. I'm sorry if my views may offend you in an! y way, that was not my goal.
Sheehan, David (08/13/15)
I agree with much of your take on this album, but I can’t say I share your thoughts on which tracks are clunkers and which aren’t. The ones I don’t like are “And the Gods Made Love,” & “Moon, Turn the Tides…,” which are pretty pointless, “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland),” which is just too clumsy and weakly sung to my ears, “Little Miss Strange,” which I find incredibly annoying, “Long Hot Summer Night,” which is so too chaotic for me to enjoy much, and “House Burning Down” is just okay. I like most everything else on here, but the classics are pretty much irreproachable. They are “Voodoo Chile,” which like you said is moody and menacing, “1983,” which is just beautiful (though frankly I don’t much care for the “Rainy Day” bookends, but they don’t really bother me much), and obviously “All Along The Watchtower” and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” which deserve all the love they get.
So yes, it’s a bit uneven, and I actually kind of hate parts of it, but the peaks are so high, I can’t see giving it less than a great score. I’d probably give it a low C on your range, but I think you justified your D score.
Best song: Everything
Admittedly, 4 CDs may be slight overkill given that it leads to some inevitable redundancies. There are four versions of "Purple Haze," three versions of "Red House," "Lover Man," "Foxy Lady" and "Hey Joe," and two versions of some others, and while the versions certainly aren't identical, there's only so much variation to expect of these when they're from within days of each other. It's also not ideal that the recording doesn't skip past all of the times when the band stops to re-tune; I guess the goal was to present the material with minimal edits, but these aren't complete shows (each of the first three CDs is a compilation of the two shows from a given night, and the fourth is a grab-bag of other performances), so I don't really get the point of leaving them in.
These are just minor complaints, though. The opening "Tax Free" makes it clear right away that we're in for something special; the original was a mildly forgettable number from South Saturn Delta, but Jimi and the other two are able to breathe enough life into it to make it last a whopping 15 minutes (some of that is a drum solo, unfortunately, but it's not a terrible one) while keeping it enjoyable (another performance lasts ten minutes and is just as much fun). They just kill it on one track after another, whether it's the blues of "Red House" getting stretched between 9 and 15 minutes, or the Dylan cover "Like a Rolling Stone" getting made into a 12-minute guitar-heavy classic, or "Sunshine of Your Love" (where Redding's distorted bass lives up to Hendrix in terms of providing orderly distorted chaos), or the band working through the various classics. I even find myself enjoying the two versions of "Are You Experienced?" a lot, and I've always considered that the weakest track on the debut. There are also a lot of other nice performances that don't need explicit mention (wait, ok, I have to mention the bluesy-funky performance of "Killing Floor" on the first disc that might secretly be the best performance on here).
If you call yourself a Hendrix fan, and you've previously tried to cobble together a sense of Hendrix's potential as a live performer from recordings like Woodstock (which is awesome for about 30% of it and just ok during the rest) or Blue Wild Angel (which isn't terrible but sounds oh so tired), or even from The BBC Sessions (whch is extremely enjoyable, but live in the studio for Hendrix isn't quite the same as live before an audience), you absolutely need this collection. Given that the band would be disbanded within a year, it's hard to imagine that the band ever got much better than this on stage.
Best song: Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) onward
Anyways, I feel somewhat funny about giving this such a high grade, because the majority of the concert bores the crap out of me. "Message to Love" sounds terrific, with some good soloing, but the rest of the stuff is either by-the-numbers ("Foxey Lady") or just excruciatingly long and wanky ("Hear My Train a Comin'," "Jam Back at the House"). And this boredom mostly lasts for an entire hour.
Ah, but who cares? The last half hour rules mightily - I would have easily paid the same amount for just that chunk that I paid for the entire double CD. We first get the ultimate version of "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)," with Jimi taking the 'three-guitars-in-one' effect to whole new levels. Then it moves into Jimi maiming the "Star Spangled Banner," which you've probably heard a million times, followed by a great "Purple Haze." And then you get "Woodstock Improvisation," with Hendrix ... well, being Hendrix. These guitar parts are nuts!! They're fast beyond belief, and since they're riff-based rather than solo-based, they never, ever get boring. And finally, things slow down with the calming effects of "Villanova Junction." It's very soothing, and a wonderful way to cap everything off. And then, of course, Jimi ends things with the obligatory "Hey Joe" - you know that he would be bored with it, especially after such an extended lightning storm, but it still sounds just fine.
So, anyways, as long as you realize that the whole point of the album exists in only about a third of the hour-and-a-half running time, you should be plenty happy with this purchase.
Gene Kodadek (g_kodadek.hotmail.com)
A weak gig at best. Check out Band Of Gypsies (and I mean the original, not Live At The Fillmore East, which includes different and mostly lesser versions of the songs on the former) for great live Hendrix.
Joe Mora (jlm.psrbb.com) (6/27/04)
I have to agree with your review of the show....I did find the Izabella song kinda catchy...I know I always catch myself hummin or singing it to myself after hear the cd....Have a good one!
Shawn McIntosh (smwwe09.yahoo.com) (07/31/05)
Hey, Jimi hendrix's Star spangled benner rocked!
Thomas, Andrew (apthomas.ucsd.edu) (06/13/13)
This is his best known but not nearly as good as some of the stuff he did with the Experience. The show from San Diego 1969 which was released as an official album Hendrix in the West. Look up that definitive Red House on You Tube or go buy the album. Little Wing is also great.
Regarding his studio work he was incredibly innovative and misunderstood. All you need to look at is his monumental All along the watchtower. Dylan’s version is an embarrassment compared to its melodic beauty which really has nothing to do with guitar solos.
Best song: Machine Gun
You know, I don't hate Funk or Soul or the like per se. I've always liked Stevie Wonder a lot, not to mention Sly and the Family Stone and others along those lines. I do not, however, see any more compelling need to enjoy "generic funk" than I do "generic rock" or "generic prog" or whatever you want. Lots of people extol this as some brilliant genre boundary-warping meld of rock, funk, soul, r&b and whatever. They gush about how Jimi had finally gone back to his black roots (which, by association, means that his time with the white rhythm section of The Experience was somehow a mistake - in that case, AYE and Ladyland are two of the greatest "mistake" albums ever conceived by mortal man), that here he uses all sorts of cool effects pedals as tools to rock up funk and funk up rock or whatever.
I don't hear that at all - what I hear is the world's most original guitarist, one of the most incredible sonic pioneers of the 20th century, constrained by standard rules and riffage of funk and soul (well, with one exception). I hear two ultra-generic funk tracks not even written by Hendrix, but by drummer Buddy Miles, that don't have any cool riffs or interesting melodies. Unlike, say, almost anything on Innervisions. I hear Buddy "singing" a lot and making a total ass of himself. I hear Jimi doing a tepid version of "Power of Soul" (a better, but still not amazing studio version can be found on South Saturn Delta), and a rendition of "Message to Love" that doesn't come CLOSE to the jaw-dropping introduction to Woodstock.
On the other hand, I also hear Jimi churning out an incredible anti-war moody rocker in "Machine Gun." I must say, for whatever complaints I might have about the rest of the album, I can't and won't find fault with this track, not even with the length which could be a disadvantage but manages to give an extra sense of power to the track. The riffage that imitates, well, a machine gun, is one of the coolest "simple" ideas Hendrix ever came up with, one that sets the war mood better than any lyrics ever could. The solos are also incredibly, unbelievably cool, both in how much passion and emotion they convey in depicting the horrors of battle, and in the way that they manage to impress enough on a technical level that they actually manage to leap well over the excrutiatingly high bar Jimi set for himself with his Experience work. And dig all those neato effects near the end!!!
Beyond that, though, I'm not sure I'll ever, ever listen to these tracks (barring "Machine Gun," obviously) again. Too bad Jimi couldn't have lived longer - rumor had it that, in addition to considering an alliance with ELP, he was going to start dabbling in jazz fusion, and I can only imagine how cool THAT would have been. And besides, he might have been able to release a good live album in his lifetime, instead of this.
Gary Milligan (gmilligan.atlasrestoration.com) (01/13/14)
I always loved this album.The guitar jams are out of this world.I also think with Buddy and Billy he finds a groove he never got with the original Experience.So for me I find it the one I really want to go back and listen to it the most.I end up getting lost in the music for a while.
Best song: Angel
Some of the songs are quite nice, of course. "Freedom" is a rockin' anthem that's ten bazillion times better than Paul McCartney's later song of the same name, and a fabulous way to kick off the set (energetic guitar licks in a semi-bluesy setting! yay!). "Angel" is a gorgeous ballad that almost singlehandedly lifts the album's rating a whole point. And then there's "Room Full of Mirrors," mind-boggling in its trippiness, a piece which could have fit in well on Ladyland.
But then there's the rest, which doesn't wow me at all. Now don't get me wrong, it's all well-played, and if you simply want every last demonstration of Jimi's talent, you need to hear them. But well-played is a GIVEN with Jimi! Fact of the matter is that, when it comes to purely technical features, Jimi has set the standards so high for himself that in order to impress me anymore, he has to positively WOW me. And that just doesn't happen over the rest of the album. The blues numbers don't suck me in like "Voodoo Chile" did, and no amount of decent-but-uninspired blues soloing is gonna make up for that. The rockers all rock decently, but next to "Purple Haze," they're nothing, and you know it. And so on and so forth. NOTHING on here is really bad when you put everything together, but truly "great" tracks are tough to come by.
In short, if you're a Jimi fanatic, it'll behoove you to get this. You'll probably be impressed by and appreciate Jimi's change of direction into mystical blues, and you're more than welcome to be that way. As for me, though, I kinda miss the wild-ass guitar hero ...
David Andino (davidandino83.msn.com) (06/30/08)
due to legal wrangling by alan douglas and the hendrix family, the project jimi created was never created at all. we had to go to endless compilations and a weird tribute album and then voodoo soup the 1995 atrocity that alan and his greedy cash craving sharks remixed hendrix and his final songs. yikes! then the hendrix family saved the day and beat alan at his own deadly game. first rays may not be ladyland part 2 but it is a good album. I just got experience hendrix and I know it is my hendrix mixtape I got that and ladyland as well. I remember in florida I was reading galaxy express 999 that when there was a composer named shubert he said in his own sweet words: there is no end to my song. for I am the greatest composer in the universe. if this is true than I say hendrix is the greatest composer in the universe next to franz shubert. I know I maybe a manga nut but galaxy is a much better anime than the dumb karate kid knock off naruto. I liked matsumoto's style of animation very delicate and sweet not overhyped like some hentai girls. the way he creates the women is more ethereal beauty more than craziness. I say jimi hendrix is the bruce lee of the guitar. I know it's funny but I am saying it with respect rather than a dumb analogy. anyway like pedro did in his wacky kiss review of double platinum I must review the compilation experience hendrix. purple haze. the song that started hendrix and his legacy. fire. the chili peppers covered it in a hyperactive sugar rush version. wind cries mary. the first ballad. hey joe. I know jimi hates it. watchtower. when mlk and bobby kennedy died that was the anthem. stone free. eric clapton did his version. crosstown traffic. living colour did a weird version of the song. manic depression. jeff beck and his wild solos blaze this track. little wing. ballad 2. if 6 was 9. I like the distorted flute. foxey lady. bold as love. sweet phasing and stereo panning. castles made of sand. jimi tries dylan and works it well. red house. the black sanke moan blues done right. voodoo child. sweet wah wah. freedom. the first of the rising sun tracks. night bird flying and dolly dagger rock. angel. cool and sweet ballad man. national anthem. hear the feedback!. I give this and first rays a 12.
Best song: Machine Gun
A couple of performances are great, especially "All Along the Watchtower" and "Machine Gun," which gets stretched to over 20 minutes and inadvertantly becomes even more epic as the security feed prominently cuts into the performance (it adds to the "chaos/war" theme of the track, after all). Most of the performances, though, are just ok, and the inability for them to rise much above that level starts to get frustrating after a while. If this were the first time somebody had ever seen him perform, it's entirely possible that they would have come away thinking this was the greatest rock performance they'd ever seen (Jimi at 85% of peak effectiveness is still pretty great), but when this is put alongside other available Hendrix live recordings, the shortage of iconic performances (except, again, for "Machine Gun") is problematic. it doesn't really matter if he's doing much older material ("Hey Joe," "Purple Haze") or newer material (various things that would end up on First Rays, or something like "Lover Man," which doesn't sound half as great here as in the studio version on South Saturn Delta), there's just not any spark or real enthusiasm to be heard.
In the end, I give this as high of a grade as I do because all of the performances are at least ok, and some moments early on are great. If you're expecting anything like the glorious second disc of Woodstock, stay far away, but if you're a Hendrix die-hard who wants as many full live performances from his short career as possible, then it's probably worth it to get this cheap.
Best song: Hear My Train A'Comin' (acoustic)
It's very very very hard to give out specific compaints or praises beyond that. My favorite tracks on here, for reasons you can probably guess, are the ones that provide a sense of diversity to the album, whether in style or mood or whatever. The opening "Hear My Train A'Comin'" is my favorite on here, not because it's necessarily heads and shoulders above everything else, but because Jimi's acoustic playing style here is so "wrong" and yet so incredibly interesting that I can't help but perk up my ears to it. I'm also a fan of "Jelly 292," which is electric blues based around an amusing riff and has more invention in the guitar sounds (which, of course, is my main fascination with Jimi) than anything else on the album.
Some of the tracks aren't really different in their approach, but win me over nonetheless because of the sheer ferocity of the effort. In particular, I'm looking at "Voodoo Chile Blues" - I'm as much of a fan of the original menacing "plodding" jam on Electric as anybody, but what this version may slightly lose to the original in atmosphere is made up for by the way he's UNLEASHED somewhere around the 3:45 mark and just plays the living daylights out of his guitar for what seems like a blissful eternity (even though it's only about a minute. Sigh). Then again, he does a bunch of cool subtle things from then on in the track, before popping back out in full, so I'm not gonna complain.
The rest is the rest is the rest. All of the pieces are enjoyable individually, but as they get strung together the album starts to just turn into background noise. It's good background noise, though. If you reeeeeeeally dig the Blues, or if you reeeeally love Hendrix, be sure to get this.
Best song: Here He Comes (Lover Man)
Among other curiousities you will find here are an instrumental version of "Little Wing" (though you would never know or even guess that from listening to it), an "All Along the Watchtower" with a different mix, and an early version of the pretty ballad "Angel," which would show up on Cry of Love and later First Rays of the New Rising Sun. Throw in studio versions of "Message to the Universe/Message to Love" (a highlight on Woodstock) and the soul number "Power of Soul," which I don't really love but don't hate either, and you have an interesting collection for any Hendrix fan.
I've saved the best parts for last, though. Have you ever heard "Here He Comes (Lover Man)?" Well, you should. If you need a description, it's basically ... well ... Hendrix playing as only Hendrix could. That riff and the way he plays it, with all sorts of firey noises and solos jumping from his fingers, absolutely knocks me flat everytime I hear it. The album is worth purchasing for that track alone.
A second major highlight is the menacing instrumental "Midnight." It has a pounding, clever riff, kept going by Redding's bass, great soloing on the part of Jimi, and never once gets boring in its five-minute entirety. Chalk this up as another number that I wish had made it onto Ladyland. And finally, there's a good cover of Dylan's "Drifter's Escape," from John Wesley Harding. I might even prefer it to "All Along the Watchtower," mainly because, in addition to the mad riffage and clever soloing, Jimi actually does a good job of taking on Bob's vocal intonations, thus preserving the essence of the original.
So, yeah. If you have a desperate need for more Hendrix, this is probably your best bet.
Gene Kodadek (g_kodadek.hotmail.com)
You need First Rays. It contains some of Hendrix's best music ever, and truthfully I don't think that much of what's on South Saturn would ever have seen light had Hendrix lived.
Best song: Day Tripper
For the casual fan, there are tons of alternate recordings of all of the band's hits - different enough to make them worth hearing, but not different to the point that they won't be recognized. Of course, throwing on three different takes of Hey Joe was a bit much. Then again, the second is prefaced by a fascinating display of the moderator's idiocy (listen to the interview "A Brand New Sound" carefully, and you'll know what I mean), while the third stops midway through as the band rips into an instrumental version of Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love." Neat! Even some of the lesser-known album tracks made it on ("Little Miss Lover," "Stone Free," "Wait Until Tomorrow"), and they mostly sound terrific.
For the Jimi historian/fanatic, these sessions contain numbers that can't be found on any other official release. For starters, there are three solid instrumental renditions of the bluesy "Driving South," as well as a number that shows the origins of "Voodoo Chile" ("Catfish Blues"), and a fantastic version of "Killing Floor." The best parts, though are completely unexpected. For starters, we have a cover of "Hound Dog" (yes, that Hound Dog) with Mitch and Noel contributing 'puppy' noises in the background. It's hilarious!! And, of course, we have the infamous "Day Tripper" cover. Jimi warms up with the opening guitar lines of "I Want to Tell You," and then we get that fabulous riff with Mitch and Noel singing the majority of the vocals, and then Jimi just goes nuts. Man, it's just not fair to hand him such an awesome riff and allow him to do whatever he wants with it. This track just sounds spectacular, in case you haven't guessed.
This is great live Hendrix; maybe it's not up to the Winterland standard, but it's not hugely far off either. Seek it out; it's expensive, but it's worth it.