Music Monday: Jimi Hendrix in 1967

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 47/250

AreyouexpUK Axiscover
Title: Are You Experienced
Artist: The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Year: 1967
Position: #13
Title: Axis: Bold As Love
Artist: The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Year: 1967
Position: #168

It’s been a while since I did two albums in one go. Usually because of my job it isn’t the best idea. However, since I have the same artist releasing two albums in one year (the only time I have noticed this in the Top 250) I figured that this was a good time to make an exception.

The first thing to note is that these were both released in 1967 because the contract that they signed stipulated that this must be so. A bit short-sighted if you ask me, but they managed to eke out two highly acclaimed so who am I to judge really. Then again, if you look at the difference in the positioning between the debut album (#13 which makes it the second highest first album in this list after The Velvet Underground & Nico) I do wonder if more time and less pressure might have helped it scooch a few places higher… or maybe necessity is the mother of invention.

Listening to both of these albums all the way through back-to-back there were some things that immediately became apparent to me. Firstly, I am now on board with the commonly held idea that Hendrix is some sort of guitar wizard. Some of the noises that he is able to get out of his instrument during ‘If 6 was 9’ are incredible. The face that he is such an influence is something that I now completely get. I can now listen to St. Vincent’s shredding solo during ‘Northern Lights’ and appreciate the evolution it has made from its origins.

Secondly, it is hard to listen to these albums together without thinking about how much Jimi Hendrix was evolving in such a short space of time. We toss out the phrase “re-invention” way too often nowadays when we usually mean that the singer has put on a new hat and jacket. Here, however, there is a sonic shift from his debut, dabbling in a variety of different genres, to a more focused psychedelic sound. It does mean that, on the first listen Are You Experienced provides the more attention-grabbing listen because of the slightly greater variety, but Axis: Bold As Love does have charms all of its own.

Something that does hinder the listening of Are You Experienced is the fact that the UK and US both had different tracklistings, with the classic track ‘Purple Haze’ only appearing on the US version. As such I have gone for something which marries the two versions and is about 6 tracks longer. I am glad that this is an issue we don’t get as often in music as it is rather tiresome when you want to hear to the definitive version of an album.

As someone who mostly listens to pop music I have come away from this Jimi Hendrix cocoon with a few lessons about how the music I have listen has come about. Hendrix was one hell of an arranger and musician (less sold on his vocals, but it’s unusual for someone to be brilliant at everything). The fact that there are only three albums that were released before his induction into the “27 Club” is rather astonishing when considering the legacy he left behind. A bit like James Dean in that respect.

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