Evening Standard, Hulton Archive LONDON (AP) - Miles and Jimi. Jimi and Miles.…
- Posted by Dan Reilly
"Hear My Train a 'Comin"
Like many of Hendrix's songs, this blues cut went through multiple transformations. For his BBC tapings, he played over a powerful midtempo groove grounded by a heavy bass line, while later renditions tended to be longform, psychedelic guitar workouts. The best, however, is an off-the-cuff cut from 1967 featuring Jimi playing the song alone on a 12-string acoustic guitar, a raw performance that feels like a glimpse into the young rocker's vulnerable soul.
"Like a Rolling Stone"
Considering it was his breakout performance in the U.S., Jimi's nine-song Monterey set is odd in that it contained five cover songs. Of course, the most memorable is his guitar-burning finale of "Wild Thing," but the third track he played, a rendition of Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," is nearly as stirring in its beauty. Spurred on by his pre-show acid ingestion, Hendrix's performance comes close to going off the rails at several points, with a rambling introduction and a missed verse, but the guitar god manages to reign it all back in to deliver one of the greatest covers of one of the greatest songs of all time.
"Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)"
Hendrix's studio mastery is evident in the tragically few albums he released during his lifetime; the trove of posthumous releases offers a glimpse into his recording prowess. My favorite example is "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)," which allows us to hear Jimi work out a song live in the booth. He asks if the microphone is on, tries different guitar lines, misses a few notes here and there and leaves us with an unfinished gem.
Recorded during the Electric Ladyland sessions but not released until 1971, "My Friend" finds Jimi singing a lonely, Dylan-like blues in what's supposed to sound like a barroom. Joined by Paul Caruso on harmonica and Fugs' axeman Ken Pine on 12-string guitar, the track varies from funny to absurd to heartbreaking while Hendrix sings of being his only real friend.
"Auld Lang Syne"
Band of Gypsys is Hendrix's landmark live album -- and the only one released before his death -- but the six-track LP was actually culled from four shows on New Year's Eve 1969 and the following day. 1999 saw the release of a 16-track companion album, Live at the Fillmore East, which featured audio of the countdown to midnight and a recording of conductor Guy Lombardo's big-band version of "Auld Lang Syne." Jimi immediately covered the song, turning in a roaring version that must have had fans going wild as they kicked off 1970.
"Johnny B. Goode"
Jimi covering Chuck Berry's tale of a poor kid who dreams of being a famous guitarist was a no-brainer. Incorporating feedback and wah-wah-inflected shredding, Hendrix's take has a wild edge that puts Marty McFly to shame (sorry, love that movie).
Arguably Hendrix's best song that you'll never hear on classic-rock radio, this 12-and-a-half-minute protest of the Vietnam War takes the explosive improv featured in his ripping of "The Star-Spangled Banner" to another level. Aside from a heavily edited and easily forgotten studio version, only live recordings exist of "Machine Gun," giving us a glimpse of what could have been Hendrix's experimental, politically charged future.