I was brought up to believe that Jimi Hendrix was a God, set down upon this earth to lead us all to a better life by dint of his astonishing fashion sense and the fact he was the best guitar player ever. Hell, there are far less believable myths being peddled out there. I don’t worship at the altar of Hendrix as much as some, in fact his first two LPs don’t give me more than than occasional kicks, although I used to listen to Electric Ladyland over and over again on cassette, in the dark when I was about 15 with the volume cranked up really high so I could try to make out what they were saying in all the studio chatter. However, this is my favourite Hendrix at the moment.
The one in question being The Jimi Hendrix Experience Radio One compilation, which I picked up in 2007 although I knew the LP long before that because my dad had a copy. For a compilation of radio sessions it’s a remarkably cohesive album, probably because all three sessions stem from 1967. There’s a smattering of the early Hendrix classics here along with some real curios and other stuff clearly done just for fun off the cuff, all produced and recorded really well by the BBC in-house producers. I think it covers all the bases.
You want fun stuff? the ‘Radio One Theme’ is Hendrix’ impromptu radio jingle, over a killer chugging riff and some minor fret board pyrotechnics he drawls,
Just turn that dial
Make the music worthwhile
Radio one, you stole my gal
But I love ya just the same
On a similar tip we have an urgent, charging take on ‘Day Tripper’ with a hint in the liner notes that Lennon crops up on backing vocals, although I’ve no idea whether that’s true or not. Later on we have a pants, but in a fun way, version of ‘Hound Dog’ with all manner of barking and miaowing going on in the background.
You want blues? Radio One can offer you an entrée of Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Killing Floor’ played at breakneck speed, a main course of Muddy Waters’ ‘Catfish Blues’ which is just everything you could possibly want from a brooding, atmospheric blues*, an expansive ‘Hear My Train a Comin” (I’d like to throw a little blues on you now…) which has a truly mind-bending solo halfway through and finally a comparatively restrained ‘Hoochie Koochie Man’ featuring Brit blues legend Alexis Korner. So we’ve got blues pretty much covered here.
You want some Hendrix classics? the version of ‘Stone Free’ here has a seriously, seriously funked up rhythm accompaniment here and I prefer it to the original, ‘Fire’ just rattles past strafing notes seemingly indiscriminately, ‘Purple Haze’ is pretty similar to the LP version and ‘Foxy Lady’ sounds a bit rushed, neutering the usual tom cat strutting a little. What really, really pays off here though is the version of ‘Hey Joe’, which I far prefer to the original. The vocals on this version are much less laid back, stronger and more assertive, oh and he plays guitar quite well too.
You want some obscurities? well we can cater for you freakoids here too, ‘Wait Until Tomorrow’ from Axis: Bold As Love (never played live according to the liner notes) struts its flashy R&B thing**, ‘Burning of the Midnight Lamp’ shorn of all the later studio trickery showcases Hendrix’ ability to play rhythm and lead simultaneously in a manner which would require a normal mortal to have three hands to do. Best of all though is ‘Drivin’ South’ which is quite simply a dazzling, revved up instrumental and possibly the closest Hendrix got to hard rock – now I’m a bit rubbish on the old technicalities front, but never mind the speed he plays at here, the tone he gets is just incredible. To steal from the liner notes, this track is worth the price of admission alone. If you crave a shot of real manly guitar heroics, then this is your baby right here.
A word about the comparatively unsung dudes in the background too, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, shorn of the special effects and 60s production techniques the tracks on Radio One really do showcase them as versatile, sensitive accompanists. There’s a few moments in particular where Mitchell’s jazz background shines through.
To quote the man himself, stoned immaculate (to steal a phrase),
Radio One, You’re the one for me.
*and only a nano-smidgeon away from Electric Ladyland‘s ‘Voodoo Chile’.
**R&B as in Rhythm & Blues, not as in its modern connotation where it stands for, Mostly Bland Shite.
Nothing to look at, but the best audio quality I could find on YT. Oh and this one because I love it: