There aren't a lot of undiscovered gems in the catalog of an artist as widely admired (and repackaged for commercial gain) as Jimi Hendrix. But there are some remarkably good songs outside of the five or 10 that are his most famous. Today, in honor of what would have been Hendrix's 70th birthday, we're rounding up five lesser-known Hendrix tunes -- deep album cuts and live recordings -- that we think deserve more attention than they've gotten. If you know these already, sit back and enjoy. If not, here are some songs you've gotta hear:
5. "Stepping Stone"
Many versions of this tune exist, but our favorite has Hendrix playing with drummer Buddy Miles and Billy Cox at the Fillmore East on Jan. 1, 1970, their first show of the night. (It didn't make the Band of Gypsys album that was culled from these concerts, but this version is available on the Live at the Fillmore East double-album released later.) Highlights: abrupt stop-starts into half-time, some sassy lyrics from Jimi, and mind-altering guitar work.
4. "Rainy Day, Dream Away"
Here, from Electric Ladyland, is perhaps a glimpse at where Hendrix's music might've gone had his life not been cut short. "Rainy Day, Dream Away" feels like a funky jazz tune, with a playful conversation between the guitar, sax, and organ all front-loaded into the song, while the pop-rock elements come later. Probably goes without saying, but this is a supremely great tune to play while staring out the window, watching sheets of water come down.
3. "Little Miss Lover"
This deep cut from Axis: Bold as Love has never quite gotten its due, and we can't figure out why: the Mitch Mitchell drum break that kicks things off is maybe the funkiest thing the Experience ever laid to tape. And the wah-wah riff Hendrix lays on top of it makes this a prototype for the kind of heavy funk bands like Funkdelic would later build a whole career on. Blast this one loud.
2. "Highway Chile"
This early B-side to "The Wind Cries Mary" single is an obvious autobiographical take on Hendrix's days as a sideman. And it's a gem: Hendrix summons a howling riff for the theme, while the Experience lays down a great midtempo R&B groove. The lyrics have some winning lines, too: "His dusty boots is his Cadillac"; "Ain't seen a bed in so long it's a sin."
1. "Hear My Train A Comin'"
There are many recorded version of this song -- including a lovely acoustic one -- but this 12-plus-minute version, recorded May 30, 1970 at the Berkeley Community Theater, is superlative. We'd say it ranks among the best things Hendrix ever recorded: He simply brings a fury here that's unmatched anywhere else, from the way he attacks the intro to the fire-breathing guitar solo that takes up much of the middle part of the song. He was really feeling this one, and it stands as one of Hendrix's finest moments.