I recently encountered a forum thread where someone asked which Hendrix album to start off with. Granted that Hendrix only made 3 proper albums released when he was still alive, one could always opt to buy all 3. Anyway, here is a brief rundown.
Are You Experienced?
Hendrix’s debut. Songs are more traditional in structure and are basically 3-minute intro-bridge-solo rockers. This is where the radio hits are : Purple Haze, Hey Joe, Foxy Lady, Manic Depression, Fire. Original US and UK versions differ. The Remasters edition combines the US and UK releases, adhering to neither original running order.
Axis: Bold As Love
A transitional album. Hendrix began to experiment with guitar textures, crafting soundscapes instead on 3-minute rock songs. There are fewer classics on this 2nd album, but the lovely Little Wing was originally released here.
Hendrix goes all out on this classic that was to be his last officially released album. Features the iconic and controversial “naked ladies” cover that was to be replaced on later re-releases. Electric Ladyland contains blues jams (the 15-minute Voodoo Chile featuring Steve Winwood on organ), psychedelic epics (1983 . . . A Merman I Should Turn To Be) and full out rockers (All Along The Watch Tower, Voodoo Chile [slight return]). Initial Polydor CD release was on 2 CDs with fucked up the track order!!!
There are dozens of compilations of Hendrix’s unreleased tracks of his un-released fourth album tentatively titled First Rays of the New Rising Sun. The music alternates between socially conscious rockers (Freedom) to tender ballads (Angel) and stirring instrumentals (Pali Gap). I prefer this particular disc to some of some of the others produced and embellished by Eddie Kramer. Standout tracks include : Angel, Room Full Of Mirrors, Pali Gap, Drifting.
Live At Woodstock
Hendrix’s icon live performance featuring his legendary performance of The Star Spangled Banner. Hendrix was remarkable in the studio, highly conscious of overdubbing several guitar parts and utilized / pioneered many guitar effects etc. He can be very controlled in the studio, and in his early albums, even 3 minute songs can contain several awesome solos. Live, Hendrix is a totally different beast and in this context he explores the songs and improvises like a jazz musician. He seldom plays the a song the same way live, which is why you can own many live Hendrix albums without any problems. But the Woodstock performance remains the primary live set to have.