Groundbreaking psychedelic rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix was only able to enjoy commercial success for a few short years before his early death at the age of 27. In spite of his tragically short career, Hendrix recorded an overwhelming amount of material in the years between his rise to stardom in 1967 and his passing in 1970. So in this article, we’re going to present to your our personal picks for the best Jimi Hendrix albums ever. This list will include a mix of studio albums, live albums, and compilations albums.
Best Jimi Hendrix Albums You’ll Absolutely Love
Let’s begin with an album entitled “South Saturn Delta.”
15. South Saturn Delta (1997)
Jimi Hendrix’s family legally acquired the rights to publishing his music in the 1990s. They proceeded to begin rereleasing material that didn’t make it on to official releases during his lifetime in a fashion that honored his legacy better than the mish-mash of hastily released compilations that had circulated throughout the 70s and 80s. On top of that, for those that were constantly scouring the internet for the best Jimi Hendrix bootlegs, this release seemed to be a swift answer to that demand that was ever present.
South Saturn Delta was the second such release, after First Rays of the New Rising Sun. This album includes a tremendously fun and compelling set of Hendrix outtakes and rarities such as “Midnight” and “Bleeding Heart”, many of which never appeared in any form even on his many live albums.
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14. Smash Hits (1969)
While Smash Hits has been eclipsed as a comprehensive compilation of studio recordings by the more recent Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix, it remains an airtight collection of incredible rock songs.
Smash Hits features the most well-known singles from the three studio albums that were released during Hendrix’s life time, including “Hey Joe” and “Crosstown Traffic.” This compilation also has the distinction of having been released all the way back in 1969, making it the album through which many first-generation Hendrix fans got to know his music.
13. Live at the Fillmore East (1999)
For fans of the legendary live release Band of Gypsys, Live at the Fillmore East presents more material from the same set of New Year’s shows at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East in New York City. While the overall sound and quality doesn’t exactly one-up the better known original release, it is of a similar caliber and includes rarities such as “Earth Blues” and “Stepping Stone.”
Given that we never got to hear just where Hendrix could have gone with this band, which was comprised of himself, Billy Cox on bass, and Buddy Miles on drums, Live at the Fillmore East is an exciting piece of rock history.
12. Live at Winterland (1987)
Live at Winterland captures the original Jimi Hendrix Experience lineup of Hendrix on guitar, Noel Redding on bass, and Mitch Mitchell on drums tearing through what might be described as a “typical night” in the deluge of touring that followed their breakout success in 1967.
While the material will all be very familiar to Hendrix fans and the shows that this album comes from are not known for the singular moments that accompanied Hendrix’s festival performances at Woodstock or Monterey Pop Festival, this album is vivid proof of how ferociously talented Hendrix was even on a regular night.
11. The Jimi Hendrix Experience: BBC Sessions (1998)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience: BBC Sessions is a great album for listeners who want to hear Jimi Hendrix having fun at the height of his powers, while laying down some predictably incredible music in the process.
While the track listing includes a variety of Hendrix’s signature songs, much of the fun comes from a variety of irreverent covers of tunes by the Beatles, Willie Dixon, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, and more.
10. First Rays of the New Rising Sun (1997)
First Rays of the New Rising Sun was intended to be Jimi Hendrix’s next album and had largely been completed before his untimely passing. Many tracks were released in various forms beginning in the early 70s, on albums such as Rainbow Bridge and The Cry of Love.
Hendrix’s family estate completed and released First Rays of the New Rising Sun in 1997 by following Hendrix’s own written plans for the material as closely as possible. Highlights include “Room Full of Mirrors” and “Angel.”
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9. Live at Woodstock (1999)
Jimi Hendrix’s performance at Woodstock, which included his combustible feedback-driven solo guitar take on “The Star Spangled Banner”, is a singular moment in rock and roll history and one of the legendary festival’s greatest moments. Hendrix had gathered a new band for this performance, and the track listing features extensive jamming on well known favorites like “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” alongside less well-known numbers like “Izabella.”
8. Blues (1994)
Jimi Hendrix was a blues musician through and through, but he never recorded a straightforward blues album. This compilation gathers an excellent collection of acoustic and electric blues pieces that Hendrix put down in the studio but never released during his lifetime, placing some of his originals alongside covers of blues masters like Muddy Waters and Elmore James.
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7. The Jimi Hendrix Experience Box Set (2000)
For listeners who discover beauty in nuance in a heavy dose of outtakes and live recordings, look no further than this 4-CD box set. This expansive collection is a roller coaster ride through Hendrix’s brief career, and features a substantial number of alternate and/or live takes on the guitarist’s best known songs.
Much of the fun on this set comes from Hendrix covers of rock staples like “Johnny B. Goode” and “Like a Rolling Stone”, as well as drawn out psychedelic excursions like an extended version of “Third Stone From the Sun.”
6. Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix (1998)
There is no better single disc collection of Jimi Hendrix’s greatest moments in the studio than Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix. Released in 1998, this compilation assembles every notable (and reasonably short) studio song required to tell Hendrix’s musical story and orders them into a contagiously listenable program.
Each of Hendrix’s three main studio albums is well represented, while the track listing also includes tracks like “Dolly Dagger” that had recently been released on First Rays of the New Rising Sun.
5. Live at Monterey (2007)
1967’s Monterey Pop Festival was the moment when American psychedelic rock hit the big time. The genre wouldn’t have exploded to the level it did without the previously unknown Jimi Hendrix Experience’s performance, which immortalized the festival and launched Hendrix’s career into the mainstream.
While the entire set delivers ferociously exciting rock and roll, the climax became one of the most famous moments in popular music history – during Hendrix’s apocalyptic version of “Wild Thing”, he famously lit his guitar on fire and sank to his knees in front of the flames to close out the set.
4. Axis: Bold as Love (1967)
Only for a career as dazzling as Jimi Hendrix’s would Axis: Bold as Love be the least essential studio album. For a lesser artist this would be the greatest piece of music they ever played a note on.
Recorded as a hurried follow-up to Are You Experienced?, Axis displayed an incredible amount of artistic growth in less than a year’s time. “Little Wing” and “Castles Made of Sand” stand out as all-time beautiful psychedelic ballads, while “If 6 Was 9” and “Bold as Love” showcased Hendrix’s rapidly expanding capacity for advanced experimental compositions.
3. Band of Gypsys (1970)
Perhaps because it contains none of his commercially successful studio tracks, Band of Gypsys is the most essential document of Jimi Hendrix’s live performances, as it showcases his mastery of the instrument in a setting that feels less familiar than his other live albums. It was the only live album that Hendrix himself authorized during his lifetime.
Band of Gypsys showcased a new band Hendrix had put together with bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles for taking his music in a funkier direction. While every track on this landmark live performances is a keeper, the lengthy expressionist-soundscape-meets-political-protest “Machine Gun” is the cut for the history books.
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2. Electric Ladyland (1968)
While Jimi Hendrix’s debut album crammed a thrilling universe of electric experimentation into one three-minute radio-ready single after another, Hendrix allowed his music to stretch out through time and space on Electric Ladyland. While classic rock radio listeners will already be familiar with “All Along the Watchtower” and “Crosstown Traffic,” extended pieces like “Voodoo Chile” and “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” confirm the breathtaking power of Hendrix’s musical imagination.
Electric Ladyland is required listening for psychedelic rock fans and asserts the thrilling diversity of Hendrix’s musical vision.
1. Are You Experienced? (1967)
Every note that Jimi Hendrix played during his all too brief time on Earth was brilliant. When it comes to sheer fun and excitement, however, he never topped his debut studio album, Are You Experienced?
Thanks to Hendrix’s utter reinvention of electric guitar on this album, virtually all guitar based music can be pinpointed as taking place either before or after Are You Experienced? Nearly every song on the album is a radio staple, from “Foxey Lady” to “Purple Haze” to “The Wind Cries Mary.” Condensing Hendrix’s musical genius into an irresistible deluge of creative and catchy pop songs, Are You Experienced? is one of the most exhilarating albums in all of the 1960s and remains an indisputable contender for one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time.
Jimi Hendrix left a singular legacy in the handful of years that he spent as a musical superstar. Since virtually every recording that he was a part of during this period has been released and re-released, new fans can use this list of the best Jimi Hendrix albums as a guide to the high points of the legendary guitarist’s all-too-brief career.