The 10 best studio solos of Jimi Hendrix

By Sergio Ariza

Guerrita the bullfighter, with his usual lack of modesty, explained the ranking of the bullfighting world at the end of the 19th century, "I the first, and after me, nobody", he ended the sentence with a "and after nobody, Fuentes". If Jimi Hendrix resuscitated in 2018 with the arrogance of the bullfighter he could endorse the phrase among rock guitarists, changing Fuentes for Clapton, without anyone denying that he is right. If Dylan put the poetry and the Beatles the songs, Hendrix was the one who gave the sound to rock music, making the electric guitar, as Patti Smith said, the machine gun that an entire generation used to, instead of killing, make art. He lived fast and left a beautiful corpse, his life was like that of a meteorite in flames, in just four years he left a considerable body of work and changed popular music forever. On September 18, 1970 that flame went out, but forty years later it continues to shine with its own light in the rock firmament. Jimi had already said: "If I don’t meet you no more in this world, I’ll meet you in the next, don’t be late...". Here is our tribute to some of his best solos in the recording studio (we leave the live solos for another occasion).  

Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

This is the song that closes the third, and last, Hendrix album at the front of the Experience, Electric Ladyland, something like the Sistine Chapel of rock guitar, of which Voodoo Child (Slight Return) would be as close to his Final Judgment or, if you prefer, the "Holy Grail" (as
Satriani would say) of what can be done with a guitar. The solo of this song is not so much a solo it is an explosion of creativity and genius at the level of a Picasso painting or a Shakespeare play. Hendrix takes the blues (the song comes from a long improvisation of the same name, recorded with Steve Winwood) and takes it to Saturn's rings. The most likely equipment used by Jimi was his 1967 white Stratocaster, a Fender Showman and a Wah pedal, but the magic comes from the fingers and mind of an extraterrestrial who took the instrument to its limits, creating a symphony of beauty and distortion that has not yet been equalled.


All Along The Watchtower

Hendrix decided to record Dylan's All Along The Watchtower as the album containing it, John Wesley Harding, came out. Hendrix was in the process of recording Electric Ladyland and decided to take a few friends to the recording studio to record it, including Dave Mason of Traffic, who plays a 12-string acoustic, and
Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, who plays the percussion. The arrangement of the song was already in his head and he dictated to each of the musicians what he wanted - that included Noel Redding who he tells exactly what he has to play on the bass. After not feeling satisfied and a big row, Redding left the session. Hendrix played a six string acoustic, Mason the 12 and Mitchell the drums; Brian Jones tried with the piano but nothing comes out and he quickly changed to percussion, and so they record the base track. But Hendrix will give his best when he went to record the voices and electric guitars, and he would also end up recording the bass himself. For the solos of the song he used four different sections, a first in which he plays directly without almost no effects, a second with slide (for which he supposedly used a lighter) and a strong use of delay, a third with a psychedelic effect from his wah wah pedal and a final part that could be considered as a rhythmic solo, with Hendrix using different chord projections. It is one of the highlights in the history of the electric guitar and often appears as the brightest of his career. But beyond the solo, the song is perfect from beginning to end, with Hendrix even claiming that "with Dylan's songs, it usually happens to me that they are so close to me that I feel as if I wrote them. With Watchtower I had that feeling" And not only he, Dylan also had it, recognizing that from the moment Hendrix recorded it, it became his song, and since then the greatest composer in the history of rock covers the most incredible COVER (well capitalized) in history.

Bold As Love

Axis: Bold As Love
is the least known album of the essential trilogy with the Experience, the essentials Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, but we must not forget that it is the album in which Hendrix showed that he was also a remarkable composer, apart from a unique guitarist, as the trio of ballads that make up Little Wing, Castles Made Of Sand and Bold As Love are among the best that has ever come out of his pen. The latter, in addition, contains what is possibly my favorite solo of his career. With an innovative use of the 'flanger' and the Fuzz Face set to 11, there are almost two and a half minutes of guitar glory, in which with only his guitar he is able to sound like a complete orchestra, recreating the 'wall of sound' of Phil Spector in the magical hands of a single person.

Little Wing

This humble journalist listens to music at all hours, many times while doing other things, such as writing these articles, but whenever the first notes of Little Wing begin it is impossible for that journalist to concentrate on anything else. The beginning of this song is one of the most beautiful moments that the music of the twentieth century gave us. A kind of tribute to Curtis Mayfield that goes far beyond what the Impressions had ever dreamed. The solo arrives at the end, short and melodic, proving that Hendrix is ​​much more than a beast of distortion and harshness, a guitarist capable of competing, when he wishes, in subtlety and feeling with
B.B. King. To get that sound engineer Eddie Kramer passed the guitar through a Leslie amplifier, which was normally used for organs.

Purple Haze

Jimi Hendrix was a total revolutionary, not only for his way of playing but for all the possibilities and improvements that he brought to the instrument. His collaboration with the electronics enthusiast Roger Mayer resulted in many advances for the electric guitar. One of the most important was the creation of the Octavia, a pedal that reproduced the signal of the guitar an octave higher, in addition to adding distortion 'fuzz'. Hendrix puts it to good use in Purple Haze on a single in which, by adding a Fuzz Face, he manages to sound as if Ravi Shankar was playing blues on Mars. When this song appeared in March of 1967 in the mind of the rest of the guitarists of the planet there was only one thought: we’re going to find another job.  

Red House

Hendrix always made it clear that he came from the blues and R & B, and that his work was just the continuation of the work of his idols, like Muddy Waters, Albert Collins or Buddy Guy; but he took it much further than anyone had done. In this song from his first album, Are You Experienced ?, he plays blues in traditional style, sounding better than anyone, imitating the sobs of the human voice, making John Lee Hooker himself surrender at his feet saying ""That 'Red House', that'll make you grab your mother and choke her! Man, that's really hard, that tears you apart. He could get down, he could mash it, yeah, Lord! He had so many blues". For this he used the legendary 64 white Stratocaster that Linda Keith gave him before his trip to England and that was the only one he took with him. Many think that the guitar came from the private collection of the boyfriend of Keith, at that time, Keith Richards himself.

Foxy Lady

Foxy Lady
is pure Hendrix, a sweeping start with those vibrant notes that break through with an exaggerated vibrato, then a riff full of distortion and, as the cherry on top of the cake, a spectacular solo with his 64 Stratocaster in which over the language of the blues , Hendrix finds melodies never before explored, in a short but absolutely breathtaking explosion of notes.

Long Hot Summer Night

Another magnificent 'bluesy riff ' opens this song from Electric Ladyland in which Jimi plays guitar, bass, does the backing vocals and sings about redemption through love, one of his favorite themes. Then he shouts "and the telephone keeps on screaming" and his guitar tells much more eloquent things than any lyric can say. As a curiosity we can add that Al Kooper, who plays the piano on the song, began to play one of Hendrix's guitars in the studio and when he saw him he asked "why don’t you keep it?" and an embarrassed Kooper replied "because it's your guitar". The next day Hendrix sent the guitar to his house. 23 years later Kooper decided to sell it after thieves entered his house twice. The mythical keyboardist was clear: "I don’t think they were after my wife's jewelry"

Manic Depression

Another one of the songs that appeared on the legendary Are You Experienced ?, with a very strange tempo for a rock song and Mitch Mitchell demonstrating his enormous class and his love for jazz, Hendrix turns and unleashes a solo in which he deploys a storm of notes and distortion beyond the reach of anyone else in his time.

Ezy Rider

Ezy Rider
was a very special song for Hendrix, composed after watching the Dennis Hopper movie, which featured his If 6 Was 9. He played it for the first time on December 31, 1969 at the Fillmore East and it would stay in his repertoire until his last concert, on September 6, 1970, in Germany. Of course, Hendrix would not live to see it finished in studio, as when it was first released in March 1971, on The Cry Of Love, Jimi had already left the planet Earth. But his solo, beginning at the two minutes and 21 seconds mark, proves that he was still the best guitarist in the world at the time of his death; as this was one of the last songs on which he worked in August 1970.