The saying, “Only the good die young” certainly seems to apply to the great Jimi Hendrix. As an iconic guitarist, he paved the way for other musicians in the world of Psychedelic Rock. Many who followed tried to copy his look and sound while emulating the niche he created for himself in the world of music.
Hendrix’s success was not brought to the United States until he made his debut as Jimi Hendrix and The Experience (his backing band) at the Monterey Pop festival in 1967, where he is famously known for burning his guitar. There he played one of his famous songs off of Are You Experienced, “Hey Joe.” Sometimes with recordings, the soulful elements of a live performance are lost; however, this is not at all the case with “Hey Joe.” All of the heart Hendrix sings and plays with is impressively captured in the studio.
At Monterey, Hendrix demonstrated that his talent went beyond the music. Not only was his stage presence provocative, it was what gave him a reputation for being a legendary performer. Hendrix became known for certain stage antics such as playing with his teeth, or overtly sexual movements. Many describe his guitar as a phallic extension of himself. Mixing the blues and rock influences of his time with experimental sounds, Jimi Hendrix formed the sonic texture of his first album Are You Experienced.
This album is the quintessential showcase of Hendrix’s guitar skills and experimentation with electronic sounds. Although slightly unconventional at the time, his use of distortion allows him to explore the mechanical capabilities of his instrument. The versatility of Are You Experienced is displayed as he moves seamlessly from proto-noise rock to classic blues progressions.
“Red House,” the last song on the album is where obvious blues influences can be heard. Lyrically it tells the story of a man who lusts after a woman who lives in a red house, but it doesn’t matter if she wants him back because he will always have his guitar. From the drum groove to his style of singing, the song employs different musical techniques that are typically attributed to blues. Delving into other musical stylings, the song, “Fire” has a funky James Brown-esque style with a moving and repeating bass line. This track includes a call and response between rhythmic instruments and drum interludes, a common trait in funk music.
Throughout the album there are allusions to many hot topics of the time period such as drugs, political opposition and sexual exploration. The most overt drug references on the album can be found on the track “Third Stone From The Sun,” which emulates the feeling of being in a synesthetic daze. It is hard not to get completely entranced and lost in the auditory atmosphere. Random phantom-like sounds are dispersed throughout the song foreshadowing the poetic spoken words that compliment the drug induced feeling. Overall, the whole song sounds as if Hendrix and the Experience are in a well-orchestrated jam alternating between Jazz and Blues-Rock grooves. This particular song periodically features each individual instrument.
Similar to most great albums, Are You Experienced contains a ballad entitled “The Wind Cries Mary”, in which Hendrix croons in an almost nostalgic manner with artfully constructed lyrical images such as “A broom is drearily sweeping up the broken pieces of yesterdays life.” Despite never considering himself a good singer, “Manic Depression” disproves this and highlights the complete control Hendrix has over his vocals.
The album references feelings of curiosity, desire and hope. As one of the classic albums in the Psychedelic Rock universe, Are You Experienced goes down in history as a double platinum selling album and is a huge part of the legacy Hendrix has left behind.
It is undeniable that Jimi Hendrix was one of the most definitive self-taught musicians of the 20th century. His work is widely recognized for his exploration of the varying sounds of the electric guitar. Hendrix pioneered a new musical style using effects and toying with volume. By adding in some spoken word, Hendrix gives his songs a distinct, trippy vibe.
The album was released twice, once in the UK and once in the US with different cover art; yet both were wildly successful proving Hendrix to be an internationally accepted commodity. Today, Hendrix’s success is celebrated and he is appreciated and idolized for all that he contributed to the world of music.
Are You Experienced was only the beginning of Hendrix’s short career. His success with the album led him to create following albums with almost paralleled success such as Axis: Bold as Love (1969) and Electric Ladyland (1969.) Both dove deeper into the world of the imaginative with ballads and more experimentation.
After playing at the infamous Woodstock Music Festival in 1969, Hendrix started another project with members Buddy Miles, Billy Cox, Juma Sultan, Mitch Mitchell and Jerry Velez, called ‘Gypsy Sun and Rainbows Band of Gypsies.’ Later the name was shortened to Band of Gypsy’s which shared the same title as their album released in 1970.
Tragically, at the age of 27 Jimi Hendrix passed away due to drug related complications. Hendrix is not soon forgotten as he left behind an unparalleled reputation and memory, and he was commemorated in 1992 when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Reviewer: Arielle Gelb
IRC: Bill Pulice
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