Friday, July 20, 2012

Experiencing Jimi Hendrix

I love it when a friend of mine expresses an interest in some of the music I like, because I understand how individual musical tastes can vary, and if we're both going to be sitting in a car for an extended period of time listening to music, it's much more pleasurable if we can listen to something we both agree is good.

Of course, when that's not the case, I hold fast to the rule of driver's choice. Although I like driving, it requires effort and concentration, and the driver is the one in control of the vehicle (as well as the passengers' lives), and creating a pleasant atmosphere (which often includes putting on music the driver likes), is conducive to a smooth and unstressful journey (plus I've noticed that having good music on makes a long trip go much faster).

So, if necessary, I wouldn't hesitant putting on music I like that the rest of the car's passengers don't really like - if I were driving - but I'm always happy to put on something that the passengers can enjoy, too. Partly because sometimes I'm going to be the passenger, and it's always nice if the driver reciprocates that diplomacy and tries to find something they like that I don't object to, too. :p

So when my friend told me she likes Jimi Hendrix, and asked me to make a compilation for the car, I was ecstatic. I spent a week listening to my entire Hendrix catalog (which isn't that huge), and this is what I came up with:

Experiencing Jimi Hendrix

(I know, real original name)

1. Foxey Lady
2. Hey Joe
3. Purple Haze
4. Spanish Castle Magic
5. Bold As Love
6. Crosstown Traffic
7. House Burning Down
8. All Along The Watchtower
9. Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
10. Hear My Train A Comin' [BBC #2]
11. Red House [Live at Winterland]
12. Machine Gun [Band of Gypsys]
13. Star-Spangled Banner [Woodstock]
14. Wild Thing [Monterey]

The compilation is split into halves. The first half is studio stuff. The second half is live. I wanted to pick out some of the best tracks from The Jimi Hendrix Experience's three studio albums, creating a balance between the pop hits that everybody knows and loves, and the deeper album cuts that are just as good or better but don't get played as often.

So I picked my favorite hits from Are You Experienced, opening the disc with Foxey Lady, which is an excellent opener on account of how the song begins. I included Hey Joe, which I've always loved, and Purple Haze, partly because how can you have a Hendrix compilation without that song? and partly because I've been learning to play that song and that tends to give you a greater appreciation for it. I skipped tracks like Fire, which is catchy, but I've never been super fond of, and Red House, which is one of my all time favorite songs, but I saved for later so I can stick on a live version instead.

The two tracks from Axis: Bold As Love fall into the 'overlooked album cuts' category, but are both really awesome. I didn't include Little Wing because, even though it's a great song, I actually like cover versions of it better (Derek and the Dominos and Stevie Ray Vaughan, for different reasons), and it's a bit too mellow for this disc which is all about Jimi Hendrix: Guitar God (seeing as I'm an electric guitarist).

Electric Ladyland, being a double album, contributes a whopping four cuts (lotsa great songs on that album). The first two are of the deep variety, Crosstown Traffic being a great, short rocker like Spanish Castle Magic, and House Burning Down featuring lotsa guitar tricks and effects and without a doubt the most contagious chorus on the compilation ("somebody's house is burnin', down down, down down..."). With the latter two we return to radio hit territory, with possibly Hendrix's greatest cover song (All Along The Watchtower), and the most incendiary track in his career (Voodoo Child).

Following Voodoo Child is the fantastic Hear My Train A Comin', the second version from the BBC Sessions, which follows in the spirit of Voodoo Child, and interfaces with the live tracks, having something of a 'live in the studio' atmosphere, having been recorded for the BBC.

The version of Red House I picked comes from an unofficial (I think) Live At The Winterland disc I have which is really a fantastic concert, featuring some of Jimi's best live playing that I've heard. Machine Gun (from Band of Gypsys) is the one song my friend required be on the compilation, and one song that I would have put on anyway. After that I have included Jimi's iconic performance of the Star-Spangled Banner from Woodstock, followed by Wild Thing from the Monterey Pop Festival, which was the Experience's American debut, during which Jimi Hendrix infamously set fire to his guitar as a sacrifice. The MC's wild cry of "Jimi Hendrix!" closes out the disc.

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