Jimi Hendrix's seminal second album is coming to Rock Band and Rock Band 2 as DLC. But being less commercial than Are You Experienced?, less solo-heavy than Band of Gypsys and less experimental than Electric Ladyland, the album is perhaps an unlikely first choice for the game.
But closer inspection reveals plenty of scope for awesome plastic guitar gameplay. So we've rated each track as to how it'll fit the game (not how good they are as songs, just to be clear).
EXP - OMITTED
The omission of track one is such a shame. Sure, it's not a song as such and obviously Activision felt that the dilaogue-heavy intro was too far removed from the rock band ethic. But imagine the fun you could have doing the UFO take-off after Jimi says 'now if you'll excuse me, I must be on my way'. You could even have the entire section down as freestyle, with extra points for whammy bar abuse. Missed opportunity. Instead, you get 'Valleys of Neptune' (see below).
Up from the Skies - 3/10
A track that'll be more interesting for the drummer than anyone else, to be honest. Some interesting accents off the beat, but otherwise some pretty low-key guitar and vocal work. Not Jimi's best.
Spanish Castle Magic - 8/10
This was playable in instrumental form in the original Guitar Hero, as Hendrix's estate didn't feel Jimi's voice should be used in the game. Looks like Rock Band is good enough (reminds you of The Beatles situation, doesn't it?). It's perfect for the gameplay, with definitive chord stabs and a plenty to do for the drummer, especially in the verses. Great stuff. By the way, the song is Jimi's tribute to musicians who used to jam at a club called 'The Spanish Castle' and not a trippy song about continental architecture.
Above: No wonder Hendrix was a guitar god - he had about 20 hands
Wait Until Tomorrow - 5/10
"Click bang, what a hang - your daddy just shot poor me". This song about a serenade gone wrong is perhaps too complex for novice players. There are so many clever guitar licks that span the entire neck, it'll be hard to replicate them in a five-note stream. The track's good, though, and we're sure Harmonix will do a decent job on this one.
Ain't no Telling - 4/10
Again, one more for the rhythm section than the vocalist. We suppose the ascending chords in the chorus will fit the notes pretty well, especially with multiple buttons held down.
Little Wing - 10/10
With one of the most celebrated guitar intros of all time, this song is perfect for Rock Band. The drum fills that lead into each verse give the drummer a moment to shine, the guitar solos are string-bending brilliance (here's hoping you have to add a second button for the unison bends) and the vocal line is clear and melodic. It's a beautiful song about Jimi's late mother but also perfect for a full-band video game. Check out this live version - and try to ignore the awful waves on the video edit.
If 6 was 9 - 6/10
"If all the hippies / cut off their hair / I don't care" That's probably the best thing about this song - its deliberately ponderous verses laced with ironic observations. But does that make a good Rock Band track? For guitar, yes - there are plenty of clear single-note scales, reminiscent of Tom Morello's style, actually. But it's not a classic, if truth be told.
You Got Me Floatin' - 8/10
A good driving beat, interesting vocal and more song-like feel than some of the more introverted songs on this album mean this will play really well. It's not a famous Hendrix track, but it should fit the game just fine.
Castles Made of Sand - 9/10
While the vocal is mostly spoken in the verses, there's a good melody in the chorus. Guitar-wise, this is a superb song for the game. The melodic, clean sound will feel great under your fingers and the fuzzed-up outro would be great - especially if the Rock Band 2 guitar's slide pad is used in conjunction with the strum bar.
She's so Fine - 6/10
This was bassist Noel Redding's addition to the album and sound much more like pop songs of the time than Jimi's trailblazing sound. The drums are very busy so advanced players should get a kick out of this one. The vocal is more traditional too, although there's very little Hendrix-style guitar work for the guitarist to play. It always was an oddity, but it has its charms.
One Rainy Wish - 8/10
The only problem here is that very few vocalists will know the song to be able to do it justice. Ironically, it's one of the best-fitting songs on the album for the game's set-up. The drums are intricate yet predictable so there should be few surprises in playing that line and there are some great guitar wails for tremolo-users to enjoy.
Above: Sad that only about 10 people will get this joke. Hope you liked it
Little Miss Lover - 6/10
Wait a minute - I don't remember this in the Mr Men books! Cheeky title aside, this is another one that's great for the drummer, as Mitch Mitchell goes to town on the snare and toms. The song suits a Red Hot Chilli Peppers-style vocal, but again, it's such an obscure song, it'll only be Hendrix fanatics who 5-star this one.
Bold As Love - 9/10
With glorious shades of light and dark, an interesting drum line and some wonderful, typical Hendrix guitarwork of astonishing complexity and beauty, this one will be the Bemani equivalent of Shadow of the Colossus. It's a great end to the album and - provided your mates are Hendrix fans too - you should have a ball playing this.
Valleys of Neptune (bonus) - 6/10
This track wasn't on Axis, and instead comes from a compilation of previously unreleased material. It's got some good guitar work that we can see fitting the guitar peripheral well and the drums are predictably complex. Mitch loved his fills. However, only Hendrix fans will know it so perhaps not the best choice at a party.
So is it worth it?
In all honesty, if the album comes up online with the option to only buy specific tracks, you'd be best off buying Spanish Castle Magic, Little Wing, Castles Made of Sand and Bold as Love and having done with it. They'll make for great tracks that all the band members can get a kick out of and they're reasonably well known too. And if your mates don't know them, then it might just get them into Hendrix - which is a good thing. Fingers crossed we'll get Are You Experienced? next and the Woodstock Improvisation for the Dragon Force 5-Star crew to have a go at.
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