Sound — 10
On no other studio album is Jimi Hendrix's vision more clear and pronounced. Hendrix had weathered the commercial pitfalls of recording overseas and in America. Hendrix knew what he "heard" in his head and this album gives the listener a window into that realm. Working mainly with his trusted accomplice, Eddie Kramer, Hendrix stretches the music to its limits and beyond. As on Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold As Love, he continues his experiments with tape loops to set a tone of otherworldly exploration. He then slams us back to reality with a sonic assault of the shattering Crosstown Traffic. Hendrix defines "Acid Rock" with explorations in 1983 and, Moon, Turns The Tides. He ably demonstrates his R&B roots from the years playing with King Curtis and Little Richard among others with raveups of Come On, and Long Hot Summer Night. Hendrix defines electric blues throughout the album but to most devasting effect on both versions of Voodoo Chile, and Voodoo Child (Slight Return). Jazz improvisation is given a thorough exploration on both of the Rainy Day entries. Hendrix was clearly in his element and exploring every facet of music that caught his fancy.
Lyrics — 10
Jimi Hendrix's lyrics are often overlooked. This is understandable in light of his overwhelming musical capabilities. However, many of his lyrics stand on their own as the pure poetry of the soul. On no other album prior to or after this album does Hendrix bare his heart so boldly. Examine the wonderful meshing of the wronged lover in Crosstown Traffic with the scorching musical lines. Burning Of The Midnight Lamp finds Hendrix broken hearted and in lyrical search to understand why (The smiling portrait of you, still hangs on my frowning wall, It really doesn't bother me, too much at all that forgoten earing left on the floor/facing coldly toward the door) all the while he suprises us with a harpsichord doubling his teasing guitar line to underscore the message "I continue, to burn the midnight lamp, alone" Even with lyrics not of his own creation, as in All Along The Watch Tower, Hendrix so beautifully interweaves the magic of his guitar with Bob Dylan's words that the song's definitive version has become Hendrix's by default. Never a true singer, but more a song stylist; Hendrix's vocal talents on some songs do not convey the message that his lyrics and musical prowess imply. There are some very intimate moments on this album, though. Rainy Day, Dream Away and the aforementioned Burning of the Midnight Lamp show a very sensitive Hendrix able to convey all the pain and wonderment necessary. On the blues and R&B material Hendrix vocal styles comes to the fore and best represents his ability to thoroughly entertain while retaining the edge of a live peformance.
Overall Impression — 10
Clearly this was and remains Hendrix's penultimate album. This album has legendary status among guitarists and should be included in any music fan's collection. Without doubt it is demonstrating Jimi Hendrix's mastery over the studio and his instrument. This album is the one to which all real guitar oriented albums must be compared. It definitely is the standard by which others should be measured. While it contains a few songs that may have been excluded (And The Gods Made Love; Little Miss Strange), songs like Gypsy Eyes, House Burning Down and Voodoo Child (Slight Return) grow in stature with each replaying. There was a time when I only would test my stereo equipment after a move or an upgrade with this album. My devotion to its power and glory is such that I have owned it in every format it has ever been available in, a claim I can only make for this album. While clearly moving beyond the "pop star" hits that were evident in the earlier albums, Hendrix retains an accessability thoroughout this album many contemporaries have been hard pressed to duplicate.