"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace" - Jimi Hendrix
Are You Experienced? (1967)
Foxy Lady/Manic Depression/Red House/Can You See Me/Love Or Confusion/I Don't Live Today/May This Be Love/Fire/Third Stone From The Sun/Remember/Are You Experienced?/Hey Joe/Stone Free/Purple Haze/51st Anniversary/The Wind Cries Mary/Highway Chile
1967 was one hell of a year. Never mind Sgt Pepper. There was The Doors’ first album and this, the debut album from The Jimi Hendrix Experience. What a debut it was too. Critically acclaimed as one of rock music’s best ever debut albums, or indeed any albums. It was psychedelic, it was hard rock, it was heavy rock. There were elements of jazz on occasions and certainly big elements of the blues. It was, and is, a delight.
Foxy Lady has that killer riff and is bluesy, powerful and instant. The stereo on his whole recording is, however, very “early stereo” i.e. very obvious speaker separation - vocals clearly from one side. Manic Depression has a chugging, rolling drum sound, some great guitar and the usual effortlessly good vocal from Jimi. Red House is a superb slice of searing, red hot blues rock. A throbbing, bassy backbeat, superb guitar and one hell of a vocal. Jimi Hendrix at his very best. Can You See Me is more heavy rock-ish as opposed to blues. It ends a bit abruptly though. Love Or Confusion is a wonderful pice of sixties trippy rock - guitar swirling all over the place, great cymbal action and bass too. Just wonderful in places. I Don't Live Today was dedicated to the Cherokee heritage that Hendrix had, and the music supposedly reflected that tribal aspect. I can’t see it myself. It just seems to be a strident piece of pounding heavy rock to me.
May This Be Love is a tender ballad, displaying a variety to Hendrix’s skills as a writer. Some lovely, laid-back guitar in the middle and a chilled-out vibe to it. Fire is classic Hendrix. A now iconic song. Hypnotic, rhythmic drums and a superb continual r’n’b guitar riff and Hendrix’s amusing lyric sung to the bassist Noel Redding’s mother’s dog - “move over Rover and let Jimi take over”. Third Stone From The Sun is an extended instrumental and wonderful it is too, with an atmospheric, spacey recognisable riff. It is jazzy and psychedelic in many places. An excellent cornerstone to the album. A few weird spoken parts too, inspired by Hendrix’s love of science fiction.
Remember is a catchy, lively and punchy song, almost commercial in its feeling, Lovely rich bass sound abounds throughout the track. The title track is a sprawling dollop of blues rock - big and throbbing and suggestive in its leery lyrics. Some excellent riffage all over it.
The latest remastering has six extra tracks not included - three well-known singles and ‘b’ sides and outstanding they are.
The singles are the melodic blues rock of Hey Joe, the trippy, hippy rock of Purple Haze and The Wind Cries Mary, which is a return to the blues. A truly superb blues rock song. The ‘b’ sides are the rhythmic free-living anthem Stone Free, the upbeat, rocky and jazzy in places 51st Anniversary and the riffy rock ’n’ roll beat of Highway Chile. All great tracks which, added to the original album, turn it into a kind of double album. One of the best you’ll ever hear.
Axis: Bold as Love (1967)
EXP/Up From The Skies/Spanish Castle Magic/Wait Until Tomorrow/Ain't No Telling/Little Wing/If 6 Was 9/You Got Me Floatin'/Castles Made Of Sand/She's So Fine/One Rainy Wish/Little Miss Lover/Bold As Love
This was the transitional album sandwiched between two classics in Are You Experienced? and the behemoth that was Electric Ladyland. It is probably the group's most experimental, diverse album. It mixes hard rock, psychedelia, r 'n' b and, at times, jazz. There are no lengthy, extended semi-jams like Voodoo Child, the longest track is five and a half minutes. Most are around the two and a half to three minute mark, giving the album a brisk, breezy, upbeat feel. In many ways, it is Hendrix's most accessible, dare I say it, almost "pop" album. Not really, of course, but when compared to the other two, it seems slightly that way. It has considerable psychedelic beauty, a spaced-out druggy masterpiece that certainly should not be dismissed. It tapped into the zeitgeist of late 1967, following Sgt. Pepper and coming out at the same time as Their Satanic Majesties Request, and having an Indian-inspired cover. Far out, man.
EXP is a minute or two of silliness that wastes everyone's time, unfortunately. The album really starts with Up From The Skies - an unusually jazzy number with a laid-back groove and soulful vocal. Spanish Castle Magic, while having some heavy guitar, also had some funky moments. Wait Until Tomorrow is quite melodic and again has a soulful vibe to it, especially to Hendrix's vocal and the infectious bass line. It also has a very funky guitar riff.
Ain't No Telling is a catchy, lively rock number, while Little Wing is a slow, deep blues-influenced rock ballad. If 6 Was 9 continues with the muscular, slow blues sound and it flirts with jazz rhythms at times. You Got Me Floatin' is a perfect piece of slightly Eastern-influenced upbeat psychedelic rock. Castles Made Of Sound has an intoxicating drum sound and a sightly rap-ish vocal from Hendrix. You know, stuff like this would prove to be so influential. She's So Fine actually sounds like The Small Faces meet Cream and then let The Who join in. Very late sixties. It has a huge rumbling bass too. The guitar is wonderful. I love this one.
One Rainy Web is dreamy and bucolic, with Hendrix all hippy and going on tunefully about flowers and fields. It still finds time to have a solid, thumping chorus part, though. Little Miss Lover has a funky drum intro and some huge, chunky guitar from Hendrix. Axis: Bold As Love is a sumptuous, addictive soul/rock number with some excellent guitar near the end.
The sound, as on all the Hendrix albums, is a bit hissy, but there is none of the strange dropping out of sound between the speakers that so blights some of Electric Ladyland. It is a most interesting album and, very like The Doors' The Soft Parade and, to a certain extent, Waiting For The Sun, its shorter tracks are worthy of more attention than they seem to get. Yes, the other two albums are better, but this one is not without its appeal.
Electric Ladyland (1968)
...And The Gods Made Love/Have You Ever Been To (Electric Ladyland)/Crosstown Traffic/Voodoo Child/Little Miss Strange/Long Hot Summer Night/Come On (Let The Good Times Roll)/Gypsy Eyes/Burning Of The Midnight Lamp/Rainy Day, Dream Away/1983...A Merman I Should Turn To Be/Moon, Turn The Tides...Gently, Gently/Still Raining, Still Dreaming/House Burning Down/All Along The Watchtower/Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
This was the third and final Jimi Hendrix Experience album of psychedelic rock/funk. It was a double album and Hendrix takes the sound to its absolute limit, one feels. It was genuinely ground-breaking, musically, despite often being thought of as merely a drugged-up masterpiece. This was 1968, nobody had done anything like this before, they really hadn’t. It took the mid-sixties blues rock sound, mixed it with some serious psychedlia and searing lead guitar and set it all loose, man. The sessions for the album saw a jam-packed studio that made it seem like one huge party, according to bassist Noel Redding.
...And The Gods Made Love is an ambient intro of sound effects that lead into the dreamy rock of Have You Ever Been To (Electric Ladyland). This is a strangely laid-back track, almost soulful in its vocal delivery. Crosstown Traffic has that catchy “doo-de-doo-de-doo-doo” high pitched kazoo noise that Hendrix played over its delicious bluesy/acid rock rhythm. Voodoo Child is fifteen minutes of stonewall blues rock brilliance. Classic sixties party material. As well as Hendrix’s guitar virtuosity there is some superb Hammond organ from guest organist Steve Winwood. The track has a loose, ad hoc “live” feel to it. Although there is intermittent applause, it comes from those present in the studio for what was basically and extended jam.
Little Miss Strange is the complete antidote to Voodoo Child, being a catchy, sixties poppy number, albeit with some buzzy Hendrix guitar all over it. Long Hot Summer Night is an appetising slice of blues rock, again augmented by some searing guitar and that typical Hendrix sound to its funky bluesiness. Hendrix could adapt all sorts of musical styles to fit in with his own thing and he did just that on the r’n’b of Come On (Let The Good Times Roll). I love this one. There is a flexible, loose rockiness to it, great drumming and rhythm and Hendrix’s vocal is engagingly soulful.
Gypsy Eyes is also incredibly infectious, with a seductive rhythm, intoxicating bass line and sublime drums. Apparently Hendrix insisted on 50 takes of it. His perfectionism has always surprised me. I though that he just picked up his guitar and laid it down, brother. His recordings always sound spur of the moment, anything but painstakingly created. Burning Of The Midnight Lamp is a track that just sums up sixties psychedelia and influenced so much subsequent material, particularly that wah-wah sound and the Eastern guitar lines.
Rainy Day, Dream Away experimented with a jazzy beat behind some semi-spoken pretty meaningless lines from Hendrix. The beat just continued long after the vocals had gone. It is very “jam” in its approach. Finally, near the end, Hendrix sings in a melodic fashion. It fades out as he is singing. Next up is the astonishing 1983...A Merman I Should Turn To Be which is a veritable cornucopia of psychedelic paraphernalia. There are all sorts of sounds in it, the flute of Traffic’s Chris Wood, and a Whole Lotta Love ambient middle part with quiet bass rumblings and delectable guitar interjections from Hendrix. Once again, no-one had done anything like this. Oh, and there is a drum solo too.
Moon, Turn The Tides...Gently, Gently is a minute of ambient interlude until Hendrix’s shredding wah-wah smashes back in on the industrial, solid rock of Still Raining, Still Dreaming. House Burning Down has one of those classic Hendrix rock riffs. I can’t get enough of it. Despite the longer workouts, sometimes Jimi could lay down a short, sharp, concise rock number really well. This was one of those. The stereo sound on it is a bit dodgy, however, fading in and out very clumsily. The sound is improved on Hendrix's iconic, some would say definitive cover of Bob Dylan's All Along The Watchtower. Surely everyone knows this one by now and it doesn't need me to say how great it is. Needless to say the guitar on it is spellbinding. Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) starts with some trademark wah-wah guitar and, for many, is an archetypal Hendrix track. There is terrible sound in places, though, the guitar wavering willy-nilly from right to left. This was deliberate from Hendrix at the time, I believe.
Of course, many over the years have pointed out that the sound at times is pretty ropey, wandering from speaker to speaker and making you think there is something wrong with your system. I guess you just have to put up with it. The sound is powerful enough if you overlook that particular annoyance. Overall, this is one copper-bottomed classic album despite its flaws. Love the original cover too!
Band Of Gypsys (1970)
Who Knows/Machine Gun/Changes/Power To Love/Message To Love/We Gotta Live Together
After The Jimi Hendrix Experience disbanded in July 1969, Jimi Hendrix got together with bassist Billy Cox and funky, larger than life drummer Buddy Miles to initially fulfil contract obligations for a further album but also to showcase some new material and a new, more concentrated, serious playing style. They recorded the material live on 31st December 1969 and January 1st 1970. Hendrix played in a far less flamboyant fashion in that he stood pretty still for the performances, concentrating in his work as opposed to playing on instinct. He also used the guitar fuzz box together with other pedals and the like for the first time and the results are pretty impressive, putting down markers for so many subsequent guitarists to follow.
Although the tracks can be a bit rambling at times, they are full of innovation from all three players involved, it is pure, live music of the sort that characterised the late sixties and through the seventies but is now seemingly something to look back on nostalgically and think “was live music really that good?”. It has gone down as one of the greatest live albums of all time.
Who Knows has some seriously good guitar, clear sound snd a wonderful, deep, rumbling bass. I have read some criticisms of the sound quality, but it sounds great to me - warm, deep, raw and “live” - exactly as it should be. Hendrix’s intense guitar power is mind-blowing, he is in total control here. Yes, lengthy tracks like this have that improvised “jam” feel about them, but they are all the better for it, as far as I’m concerned. Buddy Miles indulges in some madcap “scat” singing at one point, which is momentarily irritating, but don’t let that distract from the quality of the musicianship. He also contributes some funky drumming that gives Hendrix’s music a different dimension to that of previous drummer, the more jazzy Mitch Mitchell. Billy Cox is an excellent bass player too, whereas Noel Redding had been a converted lead guitarist.
Machine Gun is a twelve minute number that is possibly a bit to long but it is incredibly atmospheric, particularly when Hendrix replicates the sounds of war such as bombs, guns and grenades using his guitar. This was at the height of the Vietnam War, remember, and serves as a scathing, potent protest song. Miles matches Hendrix at points with some rat-a-tat, gunfire drums. Brian May of Queen was surely influenced by this when he did his guitar stuff on Brighton Rock and Now I’m Here a few tears later. Listening to the track again it actually flew by (comparatively) so maybe it wasn’t too long.
Changes would seem to be a version of Buddy Miles’s upbeat, funkily captivating Them Changes. It is shorter than the previous two tracks and more instantly appealing. Hendrix’s guitar is outstanding, it goes without saying. Listen to the three of them interact at 2:50. Wonderful stuff. Power To Love manages to merge rock with a loose but muscular funkiness that obviously comes from Miles. Once again the chemistry between the three musicians is breathtaking. Up there with Cream and Blind Faith from the same period. The same applies to the rhythmic Message To Love. These last two tracks have shown an appealing catchiness to Hendrix’s approach as rock and soulful funk are brought together into a most attractive melting pot. The sound is great on these tracks too, by the way, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Jimi don’t need no audiophiles, man, you dig?
Buddy Miles’s We Gotta Live Together has a riffy, easy vibe that has the audience clapping along - to Hendrix, wow. There is real sense if everyone enjoying themselves here, such a shame it would all come to an end tragically soon after this. This is a truly great album and has suffered unfairly over the years but it would seem that these days its greatness is generally acknowledged.
The Winterland Box Set
This is a thoroughly superb, if slightly bloated box set of storming live material from The Jimi Hendrix Experience. I say bloated because you get live cuts from six shows spread over four CDs, dating from October 1968. Many of the songs are repeated, of course. However, such was Hendrix's inventiveness that no two performances are completely the same. The sound quality is incredibly good - full, powerful and wonderfully bassy. Yes, there is a bit of hiss every now and again but personally, I don't care. There is an authentic live feeling to it and Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell are just on superb form throughout.
It is the sort of box set you can dip in and out of, discovering new treats every time you do. Something I have done is make a playlist of one rendition of each of the songs played on the box set and sequenced it into one full "set list" of eighteen songs. That is quite a good game to play. Otherwise just pick any individual Cd and play that set. You will not be disappointed in any of them.
You can't really listen to this box set as one whole entity, but it is excellent for just picking out a CD and playing that, or doing as I do and making your own playlist. There is some excellent stuff on here, no rendition is without its interest and inspiration and there are the covers of Like A Rolling Stone and Wild Thing to salivate over. The sound quality is actually better on these live recordings than it is on the three studio album the band released. Just check out that big, booming bass sound. Turn this up loud, man.