Jimi Hendrix - Volume 1
This is one of two Hendrix compilations which I own, a stange fact when you consider how much the Hendrix estate has milked Jimi's name by releasing compilation after compilation. For what it's worth it has the better collection of songs in my view. This album seems to have been released by the record label without necessarily having the drive of Hendrix's estate behind it. Whether this has had a significant impact on track selection is hard to tell.
The album opens with the stunning "Voodoo Chile", and this has one of the most memorable of all Hendrix guitar intros - a funky-ish chopping guitar leads into a squealing hook before blasting into the song proper. It closes out the first side with the incredible live version of "Johnny B. Goode" from the Monterrey concert, a track which goes to show that Hendrix's virtuoso performances were not limited to the studio environment and were probably exceeded by his live accomplishments.
In between there are a number of Hendrix classics. Some of these, such as "Ezy Rider", have been elevated to some sort of iconic status as the theme song to a generation having formed the soundtrack to the film of the same name. Other tracks on this side which are well worth listening to include "Little Wing" and "Love or Confusion", both of which have a distinct tempo to them which sets them apart from the other tracks on this side.
The second side is, in my view, the weaker one. Odd then that it should open with my favourite Hendrix track of all, "All Along the Watchtower". Although a cover of a Bob Dylan number, Hendrix gives this a life of its own, and it has perhaps earned the highest accolade possible for any cover - recognition by the original artist that this version is probably the best one and should thenceforth represent the standard against which all other versions should be judged. From this moment on, "All Along the Watchtower" IS now a Jimi Hendrix song - even Bob Dylan recognises that.
After that, if you ask me, the track selection could have been improved significantly. None of the remaining tracks stands out in any significant fashion and, with the possible exception of "Power to Love" do not mark among Hendrix's true greats, although I will admit some people may make such a claim for "Angel", unjustifiably in my view. It may well be that Polydor were thinking of issuing a second volume and were reluctant to put all the best of the best on one album in case people didn't go out and buy the follow up. They were probably right.
However, like all compilations it suffers from having a rather disjointed feel to it. This album was put together to provide a showcase for some of the best music of Jimi Hendrix, and as such it lacks any true continuity. It is a collection of songs drawn from his relatively small canon of work and nothing more sophisticated than that. Nevertheless, of all the compilations put out in the Jimi Hendrix name, this is probably the best one you will find. And given that the Hendrix estate seems hell-bent on releasing everything he ever did in a plethora of compilations, that is probably the best recommendation you will be getting all week.
To anyone thinking of a Hendrix compilation, given the options, I would suggest you decide which are the tracks you must have, and the ones you would like to have, and then go out an buy the compilation which gathers all the first and as many of the second list as you can find. I doubt you will find one album which captures all that you want in its entirety.
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