A guide to Jimi Hendrix’s most essential posthumous recordings
By Gary Graff
September 30, 2016
Gone but not forgotten means something entirely different when it comes to Jimi Hendrix. No musician save for Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra has been as prolific in death as the Seattle-born guitar hero, who died September 18, 1970 in London at the age of 27.
His output ever since has been exponential — some from opportunists and record labels looking to cash in on his legacy (see the controversial Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning sets of the mid-70s) but more recently of a higher quality thanks to the Experience Hendrix enterprise set up by his father Al and sister Janie. In any case, there’s been well over four decades of treasures, from unreleased studio gems to key live recordings.
Another one comes out today (September 30) — Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/69, capturing the debut performance by Hendrix’s short-lived Band of Gypsys, one of four performances tapped for the Band Of Gypsysalbum that was the last official released before his death. To celebrate, we’ve decided to use the occasion to peruse Hendrix’s prodigious posthumous catalog and identify the 10 essential selections from that long list…
Cry Of Love (Track, 1971) and Rainbow Bridge (Reprise, 1971): It didn’t take long for the cash-in on Hendrix’s passing, though the involvement of longtime engineer Eddie Kramer and drummer Mitch Mitchell insured a level of quality for these songs Hendrix was working on after the breakup of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. It was the first opportunity to hear formal versions of the likes of “Freedom,” “Angel,” “Ezy Ryder” and “Dolly Dagger,” as well as a studio take of the “Star Spangled Banner.” A bit charming now in the wake of other more fully realized collections, but still important for their times.
First Rays of the New Rising Sun (Experience Hendrix/MCA, 1997): One of the first Experience Hendrix projects after winning the trademark was this subjective but sublime attempt to create what would have been Hendrix’s fourth studio album, with engineer Eddie Kramer and drummer Mitch Mitchell back to craft even more definitive versions of “Freedom,” “Angel,” Dolly Dagger” and 14 other tracks.
South Saturn Delta (Experience Hendrix/MCA): A follow-up compilation of unreleased and out of print material from Hendrix’s vaults, some of which appeared on early posthumous sets such as “Rainbow Bridge” and “Loose Ends,” with guest appearances by late Rolling Stones co-founder Brian Jones and Traffic alumnus Dave Mason on “Tax Free.”
BBC Sessions (MCA, 1998): Though we one day hope for a complete representation of the Experience’s performances for Britain’s national radio network, this two-disc set captures the trio in top form on both originals and covers of songs by Willie Dixon, Bob Dylan, the Beatles and more, as well as some quick interview snippets.
Valleys of Neptune (Experience Hendrix/Legacy): But wait…there’s more. The vaults deliver another 12 unreleased recordings, mostly by the Experience, and is most notable for the mythical title track and an instrumental reworking of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love.”
West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology (Experience Hendrix/Legacy, 2010): With four discs of unreleased material and a DVD documentary, this is a kahuna of a comprehensive box set trolling Hendrix’s early days with the Isley Brothers and Little Richard all the way to the experimentations of 1970. Well worth putting on the holiday gift wish list.
Winterland (Experience Hendrix/Legacy, 2011): On October 10-12, 1968, Hendrix and the Experience hunkered down for six shows at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, which yielded this expansive four-disc set that features guest appearances by the Jefferson Airplane’s Jack Casady and future Hendrix bandmate Buddy Miles. There’s plenty of genius playing and improvisation, though the astute ear can also detect some of the limitations Hendrix was beginning to feel with the Experience.
People, Hell and Angels (Experience Hendrix/Legacy, 2013): The most recent studio compilation takes on more post-Experience material Hendrix worked on with bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles, with Hendrix sounding particularly refreshed and inspired throughout.