REVIEW BY: David Bowling
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/09/2010
The title Smash Hits may have been a reach, as Jimi Hendrix was only about two years and three albums into his recording career. He also had produced only one Top 20 single. What this disc does provide is a good introduction to his music back in early 1969.
The album confined itself to small two-and-three minute bursts of energy. Much of the jamming and creative experimentation is eliminated in favor of shorter songs. The album may have been released to make some money for the Reprise label, but it and Are You Experienced were Hendrix’s best-selling albums during his lifetime.
Smash Hits contains six songs from Are You Experienced, two from Electric Ladyland, and amazingly none from Axis: Bold As Love. The album was filled out with tracks that had been previously released in England but were not available in the United States up until that time.
Are You Experienced is essential listening for any fan of rock music. While I would recommend that album over this one by far, if you want a place to start, the six songs provided here are fine. Any album that contains “Purple Haze,” “Fire,” “The Wind Cries Mary,” “Hey Joe,” “Manic Depression,” and “Foxy Lady” is way above the average.
Electric Ladyland donates “Crosstown Traffic” and “All Along The Watchtower;” “Crosstown Traffic” is rock ‘n’ roll that is not only innovative but also interesting. The tone of Hendrix’s guitar and the energy he brings to the song are still creative and exciting 35-plus years later. Hendrix even plays the kazoo and makes it work. “All Along The Watchtower” remains a signature Hendrix performance and was his highest charting single release. Hendrix was an experimental wizard, and here he takes Dylan’s song and gives it one of the best rock performances in history.
Four songs would make their American debut on Smash Hits. “Red House” would go through a number of incarnations during the career of Jimi Hendrix. This song was a concert staple and would provide a jumping-off place for his guitar excursions. The version presented here is a straightforward blues original. “Remember” is a mid-tempo track that has a moody feel. “Can You See Me” and “Stone Free” are both rockers.
Smash Hits has been made obsolete by a number of different reissues over the years. Still, this album served the purpose of introducing a lot of people to Hendrix’s music, and for that reason alone it should be accepted as an important link in his musical legacy.