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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Axis: Bold As Love"

The Jimi Hendrix Experience
"Axis: Bold As Love"
Reprise (1967)

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

Jimi Hendrix is probably the most revered guitar-god ever, and with good reason. What many fail to understand is that what justifies his no. 1 ranking by Rolling Stone Magazine isn’t the mere fact that he could shred. Hendrix pushed the evolution of the instrument forward with his use of the technology available to create new sounds that set the band apart from its cohorts. “Axis: Bold as Love” was a big developmental step from “Are You Experienced,” which had debuted that same year.

An interesting point about “Axis” is that its hits also tended to be the most experimental of the tracks on the album. Generally, when bands push the boundaries of musical norms, the songs don’t become singles. “Little Wing,” “If 6 Was 9”, “Bold As Love” and “Castles Made of Sand” are the most revered songs on the album however.

Hendrix fans will argue incessantly over which of these tracks are the best on the record, but my money’s on “Castles Made of Sand.” The introduction and outro of the song both feature a dramatic wavering effect, and the solo sounds extra peculiar. The latter is because on the record, Hendrix’s recorded solo is played backwards, a touch that is not obvious on first listen, but off-putting with additional consideration.

“Little Wing” features Hendrix’s guitar run through a Leslie speaker, an amplifier that sat on a rotating table, creating an effect similar to sonar. Add glockenspiel to the percussion, and the track is calming and ever-so-slightly-psychedelic.

“If 6 Was 9” stands out for its guitar features as well, but it stands out even more for its confrontational lyrics, which contrast the rest of the songs strongly. The solo features a fuzzbox to add distortion and stereo panning to shift the balance of the recording. Most interesting is the echoing wind instrument in the outro. Experts still argue today whether Hendrix was playing a flute or a recorder (the liner notes say flute, but many aren’t convinced).

Although the star of the Experience was clearly Hendrix, I feel the need to credit bassist Noel Redding, who both wrote and sang, not too badly I might add, “She’s So Fine” on the album, and excellent drummer Mitch Mitchell. Hendrix is a once-in-a-lifetime talent, but he had help making the Experience a success.

INTERESTING FACT: Hendrix wasn’t a fan of the Indian motif on the album’s cover. Rumor has it he meant for the art to represent an American Indian theme, because he himself was part Cherokee and there are numerous references to Native American culture in the record’s lyrics.

"Castles Made of Sand"

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