5 “Bold As Love,” Axis: Bold As Love, 1968
With our condolences to “Little Wing,” “Bold As Love” just does a better job of incorporating the solo into its song structure. And there’s more song, which means more solo. And with Hendrix, more solo always means more YES! Like many of Jimi’s beautiful classics, this one starts off quietly, developing its glory slowly. He’s able to show off some smooth, double-stop style soloing during the verses. Then he has a more traditional melodic solo following the verses. This leads into a tempo change, brought on by Mitch Mitchell’s flanged-out drum rolls. Despite speeding up, Hendrix’s soloing manages to become more majestic.
4 “Machine Gun,” Band of Gypsys, 1970
Live albums tend to be long on solos and short on content, with a few obvious exceptions: At Fillmore East, Kick Out the Jams, and the only non-bootleg live album released in Hendrix’s life time Band of Gypsys. This song is every bit the scorcher that its title might suggest. Hendrix could make John Coltrane blush considering the fury and speed with which he blasts out his notes. He always manages to keep it musical, though, playing fast only to achieve the effect. Sometimes violently tortured and others catatonically serene, the song flows gracefully between the two dynamics, offering some of Jimi’s fieriest and creamiest passages all on this one epic.
3 “All Along the Watch Tower,” Electric Ladyland, 1969
You have to put together a pretty damn sexy cover of a song for the original artist to adopt your version — especially when that original artist is Bob Dylan. On the other hand, this is the most rocking cover of any Dylan song that I’m aware of. The chords that open the song slash across your speakers like tiger paws. And, yeah, Jimi plays some melodic spitfire solos in between each verse, bending and hammering strings like a lunatic. But the best is the creamy solo that he plays with a Bic lighter during the quiet passage. He ditches the lighter half way through a builds the song up to a loud, climactic resolution.
2 “Purple Haze,” Are You Experienced?, 1967
Excuse me while I kiss this guy (kidding, of course)! This is where Hendrix’s heroics as a lead guitarist became a huge deal. On par with “Stairway to Heaven,” every guitarist at some time will have to learn every note of the intro — if for no other reason than to figure out “how’d he do that?” The main riff is so flowing and dissonant simultaneously, only Jimi’s mind could have concocted it. But the solo is the weirdest thing on the record. It crawls up and up, then slides down and down, like the tripsy bitsy spider. He tops the whole thing off with some double-speed trills as the song fades out. Classic.
1 “Voodoo Chile” Electric Ladyland, 1969
Hendrix’s funkiest jam is also one of his most beloved favorites, for obvious reasons. What guitarist hasn’t aped that main riff outright? And I don’t just mean rock guitarists. Jazz, funk, soul, country, blues, pop… It comes up everywhere! No one does it quite as well as my main man Jimi James, though. A tribute to his improvisational skill, Hendrix bends and contorts this melody into a thousand different forms. He always keeps it funky and fresh, never letting the basic melody become redundant. Perhaps most amazingly, he’s able to let the low notes drone out, effectively playing rhythm while he solos on the higher strings.
Incase you needed to know, this is where you should start with Hendrix’s guitar playing. Yes, Jimi’s guitar is capable of conjuring butterflies, zebras, moonbeams, and fairytales. It goes without saying, that every Hendrix solo is a thing of splendor, awe-inspiring in it’s ability to be hard as a rock and brilliant as a rainbow. So, maybe we left your personal favorite song of the list, and it’s totally harshing your buzz. Mellow out: Just tell us what you think, and maybe your choice will get voted on to the list. But before anyone trips too hard, take a look at some of our honorable mentions. They’re not necessarily stoned, just beautiful.