Axis: Bold As Love by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

March 19, 2009

Jimi Hendrix released three original studio albums before his death. Axis: Bold As Love tends to get lost next to the impact of his debut album, Are You Experienced, and the sheer brilliance of his third release, Electric Ladyland.

Axis: Bold As Love however, stands as a unique and creative release, as it finds Hendrix experimenting in the studio in ways that were new to the rock idiom.

The music of Are You Experienced was performed live before Jimi Hendrix would actually record the album. Axis: Bold As Love was put together in less than four months and included all new material especially created for this release. The album would show tremendous technical advances as Hendrix would experiment with various guitar sounds.

He tuned down his guitar to create a sound like none that had preceded it. He also began his extensive use of feedback within the context of the song structures. Hendrix also developed the use of a wah-wah sound, which has now been copied thousands of times since its invention. Lost sometimes in all this experimentation, was the fact that Axis: Bold As Love contained some of Hendrix’s most melodic songs.

The first song contained on the original release was “EXP.” This song began with a strange interview, but it is the use of guitar feedback and distortion within a stereo framework that makes the cut so remarkable. “Up From The Skies” finds Hendrix moving toward a rock/jazz sound. This is the cut where Hendrix would first establish his wah-wah guitar sound, and integrate it into the song’s melodic structure. Drummer Mitch Mitchell is often overlooked but here he provides a solid foundation for Hendrix’s flights of fancy.

“Wait Until Tomorrow’ is about two minutes of straight forward rock ‘n’ roll. “Little Wing” would become a concert staple for Jimi Hendrix, and would probably never be performed the same way twice. The song is introduced here with a slow tempo and an almost pulsating guitar sound that washes over the listener in waves. “If 6 Were 9” concludes the first side of the original LP release and sets the standard for psychedelic rock.

Side two begins with a guitar feedback feast. “You Got Me Floatin’” finds Hendrix distorting and literally bending his guitar sound, yet always returning to the songs structure. “Castles In The Sand” is the sort of beautiful mid-tempo ballad that Hendrix would produce upon occasion. The simplicity of the lyrics would show Hendrix’s poetic side, which was often lost because of his guitar virtuosity.

“She’s So Fine” is a unique song in that it was written and sung by bassist Noel Redding. It may not be of the quality of Hendrix’s creations, but does re-enforce the fact that Hendrix was still working within a group setting at this point in his career.

“One Rainy Wish” finds Hendrix overdubbing his sound, yet his playing maintains an almost ethereal sound. “Bold As Love” concludes the album with one of the best, controlled solos of Hendrix’s career.

Are You Experienced was a tough act to follow but Axis Bold As Love showed growth and an increasing technical sophistication. It takes a rightful place as a part of a trio of albums that changed rock music.

Are You Experienced by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

March 19, 2009

Two things happened to me in 1967. First, I worked at a summer camp and one of the female staff members introduced me to folk music via Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Phil Ochs. Later that same year, I traveled into New York City with a friend to take in a concert at a small club.

Let me go on record by saying that I would have never let one of my 17 year old children travel into New York City, but times were different. From the opening guitar notes struck by Jimi Hendrix that night, my secure musical world of the Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, and The Four Seasons, expanded, changed, and was never the same.

Jimi Hendrix was a star in England before returning to his home country. He released Are You Experienced in the United States on August 23, 1967. The album went beyond hit status, as it became one of the most influential album releases in history, and changed a generation’s perception of music. The British invasion and the simplistic, good time pop/rock of the 1960s were over. Rock ‘n’ roll would move in a different direction and Jimmy Hendrix would lead the way as its creative messiah.

It is difficult to believe that anyone who listens to rock music is not familiar with this album. Are You Experienced is essential listening. If you do not own a copy or are from another planet and have not heard its music; stop reading right now, get out of your chair and go find a copy.

Are You Experienced not only introduced Jimi Hendrix to the American music consciousness but changed the very textures of rock ‘n’ roll. Despite only recording with bass, drums, and guitar; Hendrix would be able to create a denseness to his music that could only be penetrated in layers. Hendrix at his best produced music that was almost a living organism that would envelop the listener.

The opening song, “Purple Haze,” ushers in the new era. It was difficult to believe the guitar sounds that were coming from the stereo speakers in 1967. Even today the sounds that Jimi Hendrix could wring from his guitar are unique. “Hey Joe” is a bluesy cover of the Leaves hit. “Fire” was a frenetic rock classic with Hendrix playing at warp speed. “The Wind Cries Mary” was another foray in a blues direction and almost relaxing compared to many of the other tracks. “Foxey Lady” was a concert staple for Hendrix with its staccato beat.

Hendrix could improvise on the guitar better than just about any person in music history yet would rarely become lost or get out of control and would always be able to remain true to the songs structure and integrity. “Third Stone From The Sun” finds a nice mellow Hendrix. The playing is more subtle but the technical artistry is unmatched.

Are You Experienced should be a part of every music library. It was the first of a trio of masterpiece albums created by Hendrix and the start of an evolutionary process that would change the face of rock music.