Jimi Hendrix did so much in such a short period of time that it is difficult to comprehend from this distance the effect he had on a popular music scene that had never seen anyone remotely like him. The three official Hendrix studio albums – “Are You Experienced?,” “Axis: Bold as Love” and “Electric Ladyland” – are must-haves for anyone interested in the history of rock music. But so much of what we now accept as the Hendrix canon is composed of collections crafted and released after his death that it can be difficult to know what to collect beyond those three original albums.
Here are my picks for the best of the posthumous bunch. These all help to fill in the blanks and paint a portrait of Hendrix as a brilliant and restlessly creative artist who was just getting started when he died.
“First Rays of the New Rising Sun” (MCA). Hendrix was deep into the creation of what would have been his fourth studio album when he died. “First Rays of the New Rising Sun” would not see release until several decades after Hendrix’s passing, but unlike so many of the posthumous releases, this one worked as an album and was boldly suggestive of the direction Hendrix was moving in – toward a torrid hybrid of rock, soul, funk and psychedelia.
“Miami Pop Festival” (Legacy). A live document representing the Hendrix Experience’s May 18, 1968, gig at the Miami Pop Festival. This newest addition to the posthumous Hendrix canon is raw, blistering, occasionally out of tune and absolutely indispensable as a document of the high-decibel voodoo this band dished out during its brief but incendiary existence. If any additional proof was needed that Hendrix was an otherworldly electric alchemist, well, here it is.
“Hendrix in the West” (Legacy). A posthumous live album originally released in 1972, and again in 2011, this is compiled from concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, the Isle of Wight Festival and a pair of California shows. It should have been a mess, due to its rather scattershot, grab bag approach. But, in fact, the album boasts some of Hendrix’s finest playing, particularly during a scintillating 13-minute run through “Red House.”
– Jeff Miers