Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Otis Redding/The Jimi Hendrix Experience [extended]

  • Dictionary of Soul [Volt, 1966]
  • King & Queen [Stax, 1967] A-
  • Are You Experienced? [Experience Hendrix, 1967]
  • Axis: Bold as Love [Experience Hendrix, 1968]
  • Smash Hits [Reprise, 1968]
  • The Immortal Otis Redding [Atco, 1968]
  • Love Man [Atco, 1969] A
  • Electric Ladyland [Experience Hendrix, 1969]
  • Band of Gypsys [Capitol, 1970] B+
  • Tell the Truth [Atco, 1970] B+
  • Historic Performances Recorded at the Monterey International Pop Festival [Reprise, 1970] A-
  • In the Beginning . . . [T-Neck, 1971] B+
  • The Cry of Love [Reprise, 1971] A
  • Rainbow Bridge [Reprise, 1971] A-
  • Hendrix in the West [Reprise, 1972] A-
  • War Heroes [Reprise, 1972] B
  • The Best of Otis Redding [Atlantic, 1972]
  • Sound Track Recordings from the Film "Jimi Hendrix" [Reprise, 1973] C+
  • Crash Landing [Reprise, 1975] B+
  • Midnight Lightning [Reprise, 1976] B+
  • The Essential Jimi Hendrix [Reprise, 1978] C+
  • The Essential Jimi Hendrix Volume Two [Reprise, 1979] B-
  • Nine to the Universe [Reprise, 1980] B+
  • The Jimi Hendrix Concerts [Warner Bros., 1982] B+
  • Recorded Live: Previously Unreleased Performances [Atlantic, 1982] B-
  • Jimi at Monterey [Reprise, 1986] B+
  • Johnny B. Goode [Capitol, 1986] A-
  • Band of Gypsys 2 [Capitol, 1986] A-
  • Live at Winterland [Rykodisc, 1987] A
  • Radio One [Rykodisc, 1988] A-
  • Remember Me [Stax, 1992] Choice Cuts
  • Blues [MCA, 1994] A-
  • Woodstock [MCA, 1994] A-
  • First Rays of the New Rising Sun [Experience Hendrix/MCA, 1997]
  • South Saturn Delta [Experience Hendrix/MCA, 1997]
  • BBC Sessions [MCA, 1998] B+
  • Live at the Oakland Coliseum [Dagger/Experience Hendrix, 1999]
  • Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection [Experience Hendrix, 2001]
  • Live at Berkeley [Experience Hendrix, 2003] ***
  • Live in London and Paris [Stax, 2008] **
  • People, Hell and Angels [Legacy, 2013] **
  • Rainbow Bridge [Experience Hendrix/Legacy, 2014] A-

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Otis Redding: Dictionary of Soul [Volt, 1966]
[CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Otis Redding & Carla Thomas: King & Queen [Stax, 1967]
I used to think Live in Europe, also a 1967 release, was Otis's finest; now I think it's among his worst, and for the same reason--too many concessions to an English audience that wanted fast rock and roll songs. My own personal favorite--probably among my five most-played LPs--is The Immortal Otis Redding, which showcases the unduplicated warmth, tenderness, and humor of his ballad singing. By contrast, this one--cut basically as a novelty, with the two singers in the studio, according to the story, on separate days--is pretty ephemeral. Vintage Otis, that's all; Carla Thomas was never anything special, but with Redding counterposing his rhythms, she sounds like she could scat with Satch himself (well, almost). Enormously vivacious, catchier and funnier that most soul music, and I know several people who would kill me if I didn't include it. A-

Jimi Hendrix: Are You Experienced? [Experience Hendrix, 1967]
Try to hear this bombshell debut as an English pop record--only two of the 11 skillfully paced paced tracks, three titanic bonus singles, and three fascinating B sides run over four minutes, and hooks abound. You could hum these tunes. Yet humming definitely didn't capture their essence, a roiling sea of guitar that would change how a generation of fans heard music and conceived their own blown minds. [Blender: 5]

Jimi Hendrix: Axis: Bold as Love [Experience Hendrix, 1968]
True believers praise the spaced-out lightness of his second album, released just half a year after Are You Experienced? But since Hendrix immediately heavied up again, figure they're kidding themselves--half the songs are forgettable as songs if fine as recordings, and there's even some pro forma guitar. Not much, though, and to hear Mitchell going wild on tracks even briefer than the debut's is to nudge Keith Moon over on his free-style drumming pedestal. [Blender: 3]

Jimi Hendrix: Smash Hits [Reprise, 1968]
[CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Otis Redding: The Immortal Otis Redding [Atco, 1968]
[CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Otis Redding: Love Man [Atco, 1969]
Although the tender passages aren't quite up to his best, this is Redding's best lp since "Immortal." Dig especially the scatting on "I'm a Changed Man." A

Jimi Hendrix: Electric Ladyland [Experience Hendrix, 1969]
"It wasn't just slopped together; every little thing you hear there means something," said Hendrix of his two-LP masterwork. And though it isn't perfect, perfection wasn't the idea. No previous rock album flowed like this, and while jazz albums often support as many contrasting sonic moods, Louis Armstrong himself didn't match Hendrix's appetite for sound effects and general silliness. His spaced-out spirituality is the fullest musicalization of "psychedelic" ever accomplished. [Blender: 5]

Jimi Hendrix: Band of Gypsys [Capitol, 1970]
Because Billy Cox and Buddy Miles are committed (not to say limited) to a straight 4/4 with a slight funk bump, Hendrix has never sounded more earthbound. "Who Knows," based on a blues elemental, and "Machine Gun," a peacemonger's long-overdue declaration of war, are as powerful if not as complex as anything he's ever put on record. But except on the rapid-fire "Message to Love" he just plays simple wah-wah patterns for a lot of side two. Not bad for a live rock album, because Hendrix is the music's nonpareil improvisor. But for a Hendrix album, not great. B+

Otis Redding: Tell the Truth [Atco, 1970]
Atlantic is obviously scraping bottom on Otis--there's nothing here I'd play to prove he was the greatest soul singer who ever lived, and several of the performances sound exploratory. But almost every track offers some special moment--the curly little horn part on "Give Away None of My Love," Otis's offer to bet "five dollars and a quarter or even more" on "Snatch a Little Piece," his tributes to fellow Maconites James Brown and Richard Penniman. And even when he's got-ta got-ta got-ta do his shtick he's one of a kind. B+

Historic Performances Recorded at the Monterey International Pop Festival [Reprise, 1970]
Historically, what's happening is two radically different black artists showboating at the nativity of the new white rock audience. Both have performed more subtly and more brilliantly, even on live albums (Live in Europe, the first side of Band of Gypsys), and maybe I'm nostalgic. But while at the time I admired Redding ("the love crowd" pegged that audience perfectly) and was appalled by Hendrix ("a psychedelic Uncle Tom," I called him, and that's one of the dozens of things he was), in retrospect they seem equally audacious and equally wonderful. As evocative a distillation of the hippie moment in all its hope and contradiction as you'll ever hear. A-

The Isley Brothers & Jimi Hendrix: In the Beginning . . . [T-Neck, 1971]
Cut around 1965, while Hendrix was still part of the Isley's band, these casual sessions, remixed to push his guitar up with the voices, are far superior to Curtis Knight's Hendrix tapes. Make you wonder what would have happened if they'd been released at the time. Especially on "Move Over Let Me Dance," Hendrix anticipates effects Clapton introduced on "Sunshine of My Love," but in a less inflated context--could have blown some minds in Harlem. Not all of the music is don't-miss great. But it's all historic--and you can dance to it. B+

Jimi Hendrix: The Cry of Love [Reprise, 1971]
At first I responded to this by feel. It seemed loose, free of mannerisms, warmer than the three Experience LPs, as if by dying before it was finished Hendrix left all the sweet lyricism of his cockeyed mystical brotherhood jive unguarded. But it isn't just the flow--these tracks work as individual compositions, from offhand rhapsodies like "Angel" and "Night Bird Flying" through primal riffsongs like "Ezy Ryder" and "Astro Man" to inspired goofs like "My Friend" and "Belly Button Window." What a testament. A

Jimi Hendrix: Rainbow Bridge [Reprise, 1971]
Given that Hendrix is always a guitarist first, The Cry of Love seems like the verbal/vocal half of the double-LP he was planning when he died. Except for "Dolly Dagger," now the single and a pretty conventional Hendrix song, what you notice here is the playing--the delicate "Pali Gap," the relatively dignified (and pre-Woodstock) "Star Spangled Banner," and the amazing blues jams of side two, especially the live "Hear My Train a Coming." Rich stuff, exploring territory that as always with Hendrix consists not merely of notes but of undifferentiated sound, a sound he shapes with a virtuosity no one else has ever achieved on an electric instrument. A-

Jimi Hendrix: Hendrix in the West [Reprise, 1972]
Despite the introductory mini-medley of "God Save the Queen" and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" from Isle of Wight--a great in-concert idea that doesn't have any business on a record--these San Diego (with the Experience) and Berkeley (with Cox and Mitchell) performances make a better live album than Band of Gypsys. Not all of it is historic, but "Red House," done as a long blues jam marred briefly by a lazy unaccompanied passage, and "Little Wing," stronger and freer than on Axis: Bold as Love (or Layla), are definitive. And so, heh heh, is "Johnny B. Goode." A-

Jimi Hendrix: War Heroes [Reprise, 1972]
It figures you'd find the heavy metal down toward the bottom of the barrel--still strong stuff, but except maybe for the "Highway Chile" riff and the sheer speed of "Steppin' Stone," nothing springs out. And novelties like "Peter Gunn" and "3 Little Bears," biographically touching though they are, really do sound like filler. B

Otis Redding: The Best of Otis Redding [Atlantic, 1972]
[CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Jimi Hendrix: Sound Track Recordings from the Film "Jimi Hendrix" [Reprise, 1973]
"Johnny B. Goode" has about two-thirds the volume and brightness of the original, and the stuff from Band of Gypsys has lost clarity. None of the previously unreleased music is exceptional, although all of it is interesting, especially an early twelve-string blues. The interviews aren't bad, and at least they're at the end of each side. I wouldn't, and didn't, throw away a free copy--just filed it where the sun don't shine. C+

Jimi Hendrix: Crash Landing [Reprise, 1975]
The studio guys producer-curator Alan Douglas assigned to provide proper tracks (he claims the originals were unreleasable, though one must wonder whether he could have grabbed all that composition credit if he'd put 'em out untouched) do a surprisingly competent job. In fact, I don't even blame them for the competent lifelessness of side one--Jimi was a pretty fair city songwriter (cf. such guitar whizzes as Clapton, Garcia, Page, Trower, Marino, Beck), but his legacy can't be infinite. Side two, however, includes the best hook here--a soul consciousness chant called "With the Power" that features Buddy Miles and Billy Cox--as well as two astonishing instrumental showpieces, "Peace in Mississippi" (feedback heaven) and "Captain Coconut" (studio space). B+

Jimi Hendrix: Midnight Lightning [Reprise, 1976]
With posthumous Hendrix it's best to concentrate on the improvisations as if he were a jazz musician, and heard this way Alan Douglas's second attempt at creative tampering beats the first. Once again the standouts are instrumentals--a Mitch Mitchell vamp called "Beginnings" and especially "Trash Man," reminiscent of McLaughlin's Devotion only grander, more passionate, and more anarchic. Guitarist Jeff Mironov actually enriches that cut, just as guitarist Lance Quinn does "Machine Gun," which due to the stiffness of the rhythm section is less funky than either live version but smashes through as a raveup. And beyond that the blues playing--as opposed to singing or writing--carries the album. B+

Jimi Hendrix: The Essential Jimi Hendrix [Reprise, 1978]
The essential Jimi Hendrix is to be found on Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold as Love, Electric Ladyland, and The Cry of Love, from which most of the great music on this two-LP compilation was rather eccentrically excerpted. Smash Hits is a worthy song compilation. And if this is why Rainbow Bridge (two cuts), War Heroes (two cuts), and Hendrix in the West (none) were deleted from the catalogue, Alan Douglas ought to be put in escrow until they're restored. C+

Jimi Hendrix: The Essential Jimi Hendrix Volume Two [Reprise, 1979]
This one-LP follow-up surrounds the Band of Gypsys "Machine Gun" with the Monterey "Wild Thing" and the Woodstock "Star Spangled Banner," a worthy conceit, and includes a seven-inch "Gloria" that lasts 8:47 and is spectacular for about a third of that. It also includes five whole tracks from Are You Experienced? B-

Jimi Hendrix: Nine to the Universe [Reprise, 1980]
With posthumous Hendrix it's always best to concentrate on the improvisations as if he were a jazz musician, and these relaxed jams are his jazziest contexts to date. Unfortunately, at least in theory, the only jazz player on hand is organist Larry Young, who got pretty far out with Miles and McLaughlin but sounds like Jimmy Smith over the Billy Cox-Mitch Mitchell beat. The result is bracing progressive r&b with Jimi stretching out, and the question is whether tighter structures wouldn't have made him think harder and faster. B+

Jimi Hendrix: The Jimi Hendrix Concerts [Warner Bros., 1982]
Limited by Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, never the world's greatest living rhythm section, this barrel-bottom houses Hendrix the heavy metal paterfamilias rather than Hendrix the nonpareil rock improviser (not that the two weren't sometimes the same). There've been more exciting versions of such highlights as "Hear My Train a Comin'" (on Rainbow Bridge), "Little Wing," and especially "Red House" (both on the criminally deleted Hendrix in the West). But "Are You Experienced" has never been noisier. B+

Otis Redding: Recorded Live: Previously Unreleased Performances [Atlantic, 1982]
Eight cuts from the engagement that produced In Person at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go, recorded in April 1966, twenty months before he died, and unreleased until late 1978. Only two of three new titles are attached to new songs, including an "A Hard Day's Night" that's apparently a warm-up for the "Day Tripper" on Live in Europe. Sounds good anyway, atonal horns and all, but it's docked a notch for making one wonder why almost all the classic studio stuff is currently unavailable. B-

Jimi Hendrix: Jimi at Monterey [Reprise, 1986]
Since I've oft been chastised for suggesting that the JHE's U.S. splashdown was less than extraterrestrial, I'm surprised at the yes-we-have-no-hosannas greeting this verbatim version. Maybe it's because only three of the ten tracks are previously unreleased. Maybe it's because after years of repackaging only suckers and acolytes get hot for another live Hendrix album. Or maybe it's because Jimi speeds alarmingly, Mitch Mitchell keeps tripping over his sticks, and "Like a Rolling Stone" is patently hokey. Nevertheless, such extramusical factors as historical verisimilitude and tinless audio incline me to charity. Peace-and-love-and-egomania at its most far out. B+

Jimi Hendrix: Johnny B. Goode [Capitol, 1986]
Like Hendrix's other 1986 releases, this budget-priced mini-LP (time: 26:08) is vivid testimony to the uses of digital mastering for archival music, especially music recorded direct to two-track. "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Machine Gun" occupy the B, and while there's no need to own either twice, the powerful sound is at least a reason. On the A, a compressed, guitar-heavy "Voodoo Chile" and an intense "Watchtower" surround the disc's only previously released (though long unavailable) track, which provides the album title for good reason--it's the definitive version of the definitive guitar anthem. Roll over Chuck Berry and tell Keith Richards the news. A-

Jimi Hendrix: Band of Gypsys 2 [Capitol, 1986]
I suppose side one of this belated sequel wasn't side two of the original because Jimi had a personal or Capitol a financial stake in such brotherhood bromides as "Power of Soul" and "We Gotta Live Together." But for better or worse he's a lot more impassioned working apolitical traditions--debuting "Hear My Train a Comin'" or reprising "Foxy Lady" or letting Buddy Miles cover Howard Tate's "Stop." What's more, the Hendrix classics by the Mitch Mitchell edition of Band of Gypsys on side two sound a lot fresher now than they would have fifteen years ago, and not just because pressing techniques have taken such a leap. Which makes the second first by me. A-

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live at Winterland [Rykodisc, 1987]
This reconstructed hour-plus, drawn from the same three-night October '68 engagement that showed up on the 1982 Jimi Hendrix Concerts, is what the format is for. The sound is bigger and better in every way for an artist whose sound was his music--a vast improvement on live analog remixes, a meaningful improvement on the digitals that redefined live Hendrix last year. The uninterrupted length makes sense, conveying a concert's pace and logic into your audio-only living room. Also, the performances are splendid. A

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Radio One [Rykodisc, 1988]
If it's getting like Coltrane, crazies examining umpteen versions of the same tune, Hendrix's versions do bear scrutiny like no other rock and roll. Noncrazies aren't obliged or even advised to make the effort, yet newcomers could just as well start with these BBC sessions as with Are You Experienced?, also cut when he still led kind of a pop band. Ace new stuff includes Curtis Knight's "Drivin' South" and Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog." A-

Otis Redding: Remember Me [Stax, 1992]
"Trick or Treat"; "Send Me Some Lovin'"; "Cupid" Choice Cuts

Jimi Hendrix: Blues [MCA, 1994]
Your soul will survive if you never hear a moment of Reprise's brass-balled clearance boxes, Lifelines (radio music, radio chat) and Stages (four concerts! four cities! four years!). But on this "new" single disc, the Inexhaustible One sounds pretty fresh for somebody who's been dead 24 years. Even if you've heard him do most of these titles, even if you've committed Rainbow Bridge's "Hear My Train A Comin'" to memory, the simple concept and modest scope do right by his uniqueness, his diversity, and the mother of all subgenres. A-

Jimi Hendrix: Woodstock [MCA, 1994]
Transitional--less definitive than Winterland early or Berkeley late. But more essential (also historic) than any other Hendrix concert record. The ad hoc Gypsy Sons and Rainbows band goes with Billy Cox on bass, picks Mitch's sticks over Buddy's bigfoot; two percussionists sit in for a snakier groove and Larry Lee adds extraneous guitar. The loosely rehearsed music sounds that way. But it's way, way out there--"The Star Spangled Banner" is a bon-bon compared to "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)/Stepping Stone" or "Jam Back at the House (Beginnings)" or the unaccompanied "Woodstock Improvisation." All in all, your basic rock concert as act of flawed genius. Does this kind of thing happen any more? Not on such a scale for sure. A-

Jimi Hendrix: First Rays of the New Rising Sun [Experience Hendrix/MCA, 1997]
"If you give deeper thoughts in your music then the masses will buy them," Hendrix said, and maybe if he'd finished this double LP his dreams would have come true. But as reimagined by longtime engineer Eddie Kramer, it's less startling musically than Electric Ladyland and not too profound lyrically. It's also a powerful collection by a stone genius whose songwriting kept growing and whose solos rarely disappoint. [Blender: 4]

Jimi Hendrix: South Saturn Delta [Experience Hendrix/MCA, 1997]
Discographically presumptuous though this melange of odd tracks, alternate takes, and previously unreleaseds is, it establishes the listenability of Hendrix's dribs and drabs. Crazies with time on their hands can have a not dissimilar experience with the four-CD The Jimi Hendrix Experience box. [Blender: 3]

Jimi Hendrix: BBC Sessions [MCA, 1998]
An essential exhumation of the only rock artist I'm convinced merits them (I'll finish with the Springsteen box soon, honest). But despite the one-minute "Sunshine of My Love" and other oddments from his mercurial top-of-the-pops career, anyone who owns Rykodisc's one-CD 1988 version, off the market now that the good guys control the catalogue, has the essentials. There's a whiff of completism coming off the definitive Hendrix reissue program--the usual mix of profit maximization and hero worship, certain to separate the fans from the scholars pretty quick. The rationalization being, I guess, that six is nine--the fans are scholars already. B+

Jimi Hendrix: Live at the Oakland Coliseum [Dagger/Experience Hendrix, 1999]
This competent unauthorized mono recording of an April 1969 concert has now been certified by Experience Hendrix's major domo, Jimi's stepsister Janie Hendrix, whom he barely knew. It's a bootleg, it sounds like one, and it's expressly "not intended for the casual fan." Big deals: 18-minute workout on "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" and, heart be still, guest shot by Jefferson Airplane's Jack Casady. [Blender: 2]

Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection [Experience Hendrix, 2001]
This budget double--18 studio tracks balanced by 12 live recordings--whups the 20-track bestseller Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix. Beyond "Manic Depression," it omits no essential songs. If several arrive in uncanonical live versions, well, you can't comprehend Hendrix without some of those. Despite climaxing with "Wild Thing" at Monterey rather than leading with it, disc two stands as his greatest live album. [Blender: 5]

Jimi Hendrix: Live at Berkeley [Experience Hendrix, 2003]
The Cox-Mitchell band at its most documentable ("Hey Baby [New Rising Sun]," "I Don't Live Today"). ***

Otis Redding: Live in London and Paris [Stax, 2008]
Hot mix of two concerts that duplicate the one memorialized as Live in Europe way back in 1967 ("Try a Little Tenderness," "Respect"). **

Jimi Hendrix: People, Hell and Angels [Legacy, 2013]
A superior barrel scrape, with Hendrix's comping behind Lonnie Youngblood worthy of the permanent collection ("Let Me Move You," "Somewhere") **

Jimi Hendrix: Rainbow Bridge [Experience Hendrix/Legacy, 2014]
This long-lost, new-to-CD album followed The Cry of Love in 1971, when slavemaster Mike Jeffery and some Warner Bros. overseers hired bereaved collaborator Eddie Kramer to make sense and of course dollars of the dead hero's vastness. Half of it reappeared on 1996's Kramer-overseen First Rays of the New Rising Son, a what-Jimi-wanted reconstruction that's always paled against Electric Ladyland. So probably the two in-the-moment profit-takers give us a better sense of who Hendrix was in the excited, spiritual, bummed-out sprawl of his final year. Among its rare gifts: a synthlike, pre-Woodstock "Star Spangled Banner" and the measured, lyrical "Pali Gap." A-