Jimi Hendrix's 11 greatest tracks
18th Sep 2012 | 13:05
42 years ago today, Jimi Hendrix passed away. Here's his 11 finest performances
Today marks 42 years since Jimi Hendrix passed away. To remember the great man at his very best, here's a feature from 2008 in which we asked our expert writers and contributors for their ultimate Hendrix moment, giving you Hendrix's 11 greatest ever tracks.
Did we get it right? What did we miss? Post your comments below, but in the meantime, make the ultimate Jimi playlist for your iPod by dragging and dropping these 11 killer cuts...
Bold As Love
The beautiful closing title track on Axis: Bold As Love sees Jimi paint a lyrical rainbow across his most effortlessly pretty rhythm guitar performance. A loose groove blasts off into a psychedelic sunset after the second chorus at 1:50, before a false ending gives way to a key change and a heavily phased coda. Little Wing is often cited as the best example of Jimi in mellow mode; this is better.
Fact! Hendrix referred to George Chkiantz and Eddie Kramer's stereo phasing technique as the sound he had been "hearing in his dreams".
by Chris Vinnicombe, MusicRadar
The Wind Cries Mary
The Experience's third single was written after a spat with his then-girlfriend Kathy (Mary) Etchingham about her cooking: fitting then, that this make-up song is so tasteful, containing all the ingredients that elevated Hendrix so far above his psychedelic peers.
And it's all about that solo. The most beautiful playing in his entire discography, it blends doublestops, rhythm and lead, major and minor harmony and spacious, lyrical phrasing with breathtaking dynamic range… the way he targets the chords alone shows what a master Hendrix was.
Fact! "We were recording the B-side of Purple Haze and there was 20 minutes left in the studio," recalled Chas Chandler. "It was recorded, including five guitar overdubs, in the 20 minutes." What a genius.
Watch!Jimi live in Stockholm, in 1967.
by Owen Bailey, Guitarist magazine
Spanish Castle Magic
Jimi's often thought of as this wild showman, pranging his vibrato bar and setting fire to his Strat. People don't often talk about the great riffs he wrote. For me, Spanish Castle Magic is one of them. I love the way it combines single string riffing with that nasty sounding C#m7 using the top two open strings. It's a subtle thing, but these subtleties are often what make the great players stand out from the rest.
by Stephen Lawson, Total Guitar magazine
"Hear My Train A Comin' contains some of the best blues guitar ever committed to record"
Wait Until Tomorrow
This is Jimi showing the world once again that a mental guitar part and a complicated vocal aren't mutually exclusive. Jimi gets mucked around by the indecisive Dolly Mae, then unceremoniously shot by her protective father. Bummer, dude. One 'expert' dismissed it as a "disposable… comedy number", accusing the Experience of indulgence. What tosh! Humourlessness is a critical cul-de-sac, but Jimi's sense of fun will be forever boundless.
Watch! An impressive cover by John Mayer.
by Mick Taylor, Guitarist magazine
Sounding like a sleazy sequel to The Beatles' Drive My Car, Crosstown Traffic grooves harder than it rocks and is all the better for it. Underpinned by a pounding piano part – which Jimi played himself - it provides evidence of Hendrix's considerable hook-writing prowess and features the finest use of the kazoo in the history of popular music. That's more than enough for me.
Fact! Crosstown Traffic features Dave Mason from British band Traffic on backing vocals. And of course, he sings the word 'traffic'.
Watch! If you want, Red Hot Chili Peppers covering it.
by Ben Rogerson, MusicRadar
Hear My Train A Comin'
The live version of this epic blues from the Rainbow Bridge album has the lot. Yes, at the start it's out of tune but Jimi soon bends things into shape, and what follows in the ensuing 11 minutes represents some of the best blues guitar ever committed to record. Immense Strat tone, total control and utter creativity make this my top Hendrix tune. He was a master - make no mistake about it.
Watch! Jimi live at Berkeley.
by Neville Marten, Guitar Techniques magazine
"Mitch Mitchell's somersault-like drumming is a breathtaking mini-course in jazz, rock and blues."
All Along The Watchtower
Ok, it's a cover. But not many covers better (piss all over) the original version as convincingly as All Along The Watchtower – and Bob Dylan was the first to agree. Sure, Watchtower began life as a folk number, but turning that warbling harmonica into the world's coolest riff was a defining moment of Jimi's genius. It's also the perfect soundtrack to the self-destructive life we never lived. If you've seen Withnail And I, you'll know what I mean.
Fact! The band's bassist Noel Redding walked out halfway through Watchtower's recording session in 1968. Guitarist Dave Mason took over, but Hendrix himself recorded the final part.
Watch!Live at the Isle Of Wight 1970 "If you can dig it?"
by Tom Porter, MusicRadar
Little Wing tends to be the 'go to' song when the words 'Hendrix' and 'tasty chords' are strung together. Shame, as there are more corking fretboard moves and evocative chord voicings in Angel than any version available of Little Wing (and that includes covers by players like Stevie Ray Vaughan or Guthrie Govan). Certainly, few E chords (Eb chords if we are to consider the semi tone down tuning) are as sonic velvet as the opening Emaj9…
Fact! Angel has only notched up one notable cover version and that's by Rod Stewart And The Faces. Sadly, the nice chord voicings went out of the window.
by Jason Sidwell, Guitar Techniques magazine
While there is no evidence that Jimi Hendrix actually suffered from bipolar disorder, he certainly nailed an appropriate zig-zagging mood on this explosive, waltz-time(!) cut. As much as Hendrix dominates the song, with his usual scorching soloing and an exaggerated singing style that sometimes spills over the meter, drummer Mitch Mitchell's somersault-like approach to the 3/4-time arrangement is a breathtaking mini-course in jazz, rock and blues.
Fact! Manager Chas Chandler told Hendrix that he sounded 'manic depressive' at a press conference. The next day, Jimi wrote this song.
by Joe Bosso, MusicRadar
Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
An intense blues heavily-influenced by Muddy Waters' Rollin Stone, Electric Ladyland's closing track is one of Hendrix most self-mythologizing epics. Here he chops down a mountain "with the edge of my hand" and promises to meet us in the next world ("don't be late!") – prescient, given its place on his final fully-realised album. It's the band performance that makes it: a sound that's near exploding in its own frenzy and a song that you should never, ever attempt to cover.
Fact! It's Joe Satriani's favourite Jimi track: "It's just the greatest piece of electric guitar work ever recorded. In fact, the whole song could be considered the holy grail of guitar expression and technique. It is a beacon of humanity."
Watch!Live on BBC TV January 1969, Saturday night prime time.
by Michael Leonard, MusicRadar
Songwriting genius aside, it's Hendrix's guitar playing that made him famous. If, then, you're in the mood for some untethered and raw blues soloing, 12-bar Red House is the perfect musical plate from which to enjoy Jimi's skills. The piece is such a classic that it's become a blues standard, having been covered by Buddy Guy, Gary Moore, John Lee Hooker, Albert King and more.
Fact! Red House didn't make it onto the US release of Are You Experienced. Why? According to Jimi, the label claimed "America doesn't like blues". Quite. And guitar groups are on their way out, Mr Epstein
by Chris Wickett, MusicRadar