The Top 10 Posthumous Jimi Hendrix albums
In the wake of Jimi Hendrix’s death on September 18, 1970, dozens and dozens of posthumous Hendrix releases have steadily flooded the market. The first, the excellent Cry of Love album, was issued on March 5, 1971 and included songs he was working on for a proposed fourth studio album. That album sold Platinum, but subsequent releases offered a wild range of quality, bottoming out in 1975 with the Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning releases, which added 70’s instrumental tracks behind Jimi’s original guitar tracks. Many have called those sacrilegious; if you ever see copies of those two, they are to be avoided at all cost.
With over a hundred releases to consider, here’s a recommended list of the Top Ten. The list avoids greatest hits compilations, but if you want to go there, the Ultimate Experience is a good place to land.
This release does much more than just compile Jimi’s repertoire of blues favorites like “Red house” and “Hear My Train Comin’.” Collected by veteran producer Alan Douglas, the selections had been mostly unheard, located in reels of outtakes and studio jams. Blues classics like “Born Under a Bad sign,” “Mannish Boy,” and “Catfish blues” show that as much as Hendrix liked to kiss the sky in his music, his feet were anchored by his love of the blues and R & B. Other standouts include a shorter take of “Voodoo Chile Blues” (the original of which had appeared in 16-minute length on Electric Ladyland), and the “Electric Church Red House” with guest organ player Lee Michaels taking the original song into a different dimension.
9.Live at Winterland (1987)
This release came via the local Rykodisc label, an independent that launched on the premise of being a CD-only company, which at the time was a revolutionary concept. Produced by Alan Douglas, this release was culled from three Jimi Hendrix Experience concerts at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco October 10-12, 1968.The release was a huge hit, selling over 200,000 copies; not bad for a superb collection of live tracks already in the can for years. Dig the cover’s of “Sunshine of Your Love” and “Wild Thing.”
8.Valleys of Neptune (2011)
This collection of unreleased studio tracks from mostly 1969, when Jimi was working on his fourth studio album prior to the Experience breaking up, was a solid compilation of unheard material. Some songs had come out on the Jimi Hendrix Experience box set eleven years prior, but not everyone was willing to shell out the extra ducats for that, so this single CD was welcome indeed. Standouts are the title track and the Elmore James blues number “Bleeding Heart.” Also, the Experience was filming two Royal Albert Hall shows in February 1969 and booked rehearsal time at Olympic Studios in London to run through their new stage arrangements – remade versions of “Lover Man,” “Sunshine of Your love,” and “Fire” are the icing on this collection.
7.People, Hell, Angels (2013)
The more recent Hendrix studio compilations have really stepped up the game; all the material is carefully chosen with very little useless fill thrown in. When Janie Hendrix became executor of the estate and joined forces with original engineer Eddie Kramer and Hendrix historian John McDermott, the dream team began producing quality posthumous releases. This collection of mostly Band of Gypsies outtakes and experiments from 1969 got all the way up to #2 on the album sales chart – the highest for any Hendrix release since his death.
6.Jimi Plays Monterey (1986)
This is the Jimi Hendrix Experience set at the Monterey Pop Festival on June 18, 1967, the trio’s first American performance and one of the greatest of any band in history. This was the night that the man with the guitar stunned an audience of hippies and announced his presence with no less impact than if a flying saucer had hovered over the crowd. The original release just weeks before his death in 1970 had featured a few Hendrix songs, but paired those with a side 2 of Otis Redding cuts. The whole Experience performance appears here, including the incendiary cover of the Troggs’ “Wild Thing,” during which Jimi set his guitar on fire and blew everyone’s minds, man.
5.Hendrix In the West (1972)
This was the third posthumous release after Jimi’s death and it compiled the best live tracks that Eddie Kramer could find at the time. These are performed by the original Experience and the 1970 band with Billy Cox on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums. The best version of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return) and “Little Wing” can be found here (from the Royal Albert Hall in February 1969) plus a melt-your-face “Johnny B. Goode” from the Berklee community Center and a rare take on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” This was the best of the lot at the time and you can’t go wrong with this collection.
4.BBC Sessions (Jimi Hendrix Experience) (1998)
This is a double-disc collection of performances recorded for the BBC in 1967 – all the surviving songs from the many sessions for U.K. radio shows like “Top Gear” and “Saturday Club.” In addition, there are several selections taken from a 1969 appearance of the band on “Happening for Lulu” hosted by the popular British singer. The band performs their earliest material from “Hey Joe” onwards and several rarely heard tracks like the blistering “Driving South” and the only take ever of Bob Dylan’s “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?”
3.Live at Woodstock (1999)
This 2-CD document of Jimi’s iconic set at Woodstock in 1969 is the defining version and trumps the single disc from 1994. The project was helmed by the Experience Hendrix organization and John McDermott and Eddie Kramer were on hand to add personal expertise – organizing the music into proper running order. As Kramer was the original recording engineer at Woodstock, he was the perfect man for the job.
2. The Jimi Hendrix Experience Box Set(2000)
This 4-CD box set compiles hits and curios from Jimi’s career beginning with the Experience in London in 1966.This box set cherry-picks songs off of many posthumous releases, including ones that would come later. plus offers up alternate takes of well-known songs and hitherto unknown studio experiments. At the time, the early Cry of Love, Rainbow Bridge, and In the West were out of print, so songs from those releases appeared for the first time in years. An excellent book of extensive liner notes makes this a great acquisition if you don’t plan to get a ton of the other albums.
1 First Rays of the New Rising Sun(1997)
This the definitive idea of what Jimi’s fourth studio album, the follow up to Electric Ladyland, would have looked like. It’s based around the songs Jimi was working on near the end of his life, given weight by drummer Mitch Mitchell and engineer Eddie Kramer’s discussions with Jimi in those closing months. Some of these songs, most in alternate versions, have been released, but this is the best use of them – to form a picture of Jimi’s artistic future as he intended it. This is essential, especially if you have Are you Experienced, Axis: Bold as Love, Electric Ladyland, and Band of Gypsies. It also renders Cry of Love and Rainbow Bridge essentially obsolete.