Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Albums of 1967: The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Are You Experienced?

Release Date: May 12, 1967
The Jimi Hendrix Experience Were: Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding, Mitch Mitchell
Produced by Chas Chandler

Side One

Purple Haze
Manic Depression
Hey Joe
Love or Confusion
May This Be Love
I Don't Live Today

Side 2

The Wind Cries Mary
Third Stone From the Sun
Foxy Lady
Are You Experienced?

Two different versions of Are You Experienced were released, one for the European market and one for the North American. I listened to the North American release.

On vinyl, the Jimi Hendrix Experience sounds more raucous and psychedelic than they do on FM radio. In stereo the record sounds more . . . revolutionary. Hendrix took the London scene of the mid-60s and brought a new sonic dimension that was driven by soul. Using the blues as a foundation point, Are You Experienced delves into many genres - folk, jazz, and rock. The record is a genre onto itself.

"Purple Haze" opened the American version, a song for the Vietnam War that was raging at the time. In the film Apocalypse Now as Willard's crew are traveling down the Mekong River they get deluged with purple smoke at one point and the surfer soldier Lance revels in the psychedelic journey of the war, "purple haze in my brain/lately things don't seem the same." Like Revolver and Highway 61 Revisited, Are You Experienced takes you on a metaphysical journey.

"Manic Depression" used distorted guitar, while Hendrix's bluesy vocal channeled a state of mind that broke new ground for a rock record in terms of content. "Hey Joe" took a classic folk/blues trope of the avenging lover into a three minute epic of heavy guitar, upstaging Led Zeppelin by a few years. "Love or Confusion" is another head trip with a more melodic guitar, a Beatles song from an alternate universe. "May This Be Love" could be a Motown song with its catchy melodies, prodded along by Mitch Mitchel's drumming.The rambling "I Don't Live Today" ends side one on what sounds like an impromptu jam session.

"The Wind Cries Mary" became one of Jimi's most memorable hits, a melodic and haunting love song with some seductive guitar playing. "Fire" became another hit, a commercial jingle in its brilliant simplicity. "3rd Stone From the Sun" is an extended psychedelic jam with some Sci-Fi overtones. The unforgettable riffs of "Foxy Lady" speaks to pure desire. The title track "Are You Experienced?" calls on the listener to expand their mind with its looping guitars, a call from the cosmic mountain top.

Are You Experienced introduced Hendrix to the world and we are the better for it. The year 1967 featured an abundance of riches that would be spearheaded by the June release of Sgt. Pepper by the Beatles to which Hendrix would acknowledge in his live shows. As history has proven: Hendrix could not only emulate his contemporaries, but also expand their music. No one could imitate Hendrix. 

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