Retro Review: Jimi Hendrix Experience – ‘Are You Experienced’

Jimi Hendrix Experience – ‘Are You Experienced’ on iTunes.

Jimi Hendrix

by Walter Price

 

One of the greatest rock albums in recorded history, Jimi Hendrix Experience’s brooding-psychedelic masterpiece, ‘Are You Experienced’, blatantly destroyed what folks thought they knew about rock’ n’ roll in 1967. Subsequently changing the sonic landscape forever.

I’ll spare everyone the history of the album as I have come to know it, but what I did find intriguing is what critics thought of the album on release. So, I dug through hours of reviews and thought I’d share a few of the most interesting thoughts from back then.

Let’s start with a mesmerizing negative review from the first issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, penned by no other than Jon Landau.

“Everything else is insane and simply a matter of either you dig it or you don’t. Basically, I don’t for several reasons. Despite Jimi’s musical brilliance and the group’s total precision, the poor quality of the songs and the inanity of the lyrics too often get in the way. Jimi is very much into state-of-mind type lyrics, but even so, lines like ‘Manic depression is a frustrating mess,’ just don’t make it. It is one thing for Jimi to talk arrogantly and without any pretense at artistry; it’s another to write lyrics in that fashion. In this context ‘I Don’t Live Today’ can be seen as both the best and worst cut on the album. The best because it is performed with such exquisite precision and control, and the worst because what Jimi is trying to get across is such a drag: ‘There’s no life nowhere … Dig it if you can, but as for me, I’d rather hear Jimi play the blues.'”

 

Jimi Hendrix

 

Also from Rolling Stone August 1967, this was said, “Jimi Hendrix’s first album is one of the most exciting and important records ever made, a reconception of the electric guitar as a symphonic instrument that still sounds fresh and unprecedented. So does Hendrix’s fusion of Galactic imagination, intense self-examination and deep-blues roots in the raging “Manic Depression,” the R&B sigh “The Wind Cries Mary” and the sexy whiplash “Foxey Lady.” Hendrix, bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell made Experienced? on the run, on rare days off the road. Hendrix wrote “Purple Haze” backstage at a London club; “Red House,” a blues on the British version of the LP, was cut in fifteen minutes. But Hendrix also spent several sessions building the orchestral howl of “Third Stone From the Sun,” with the passionate diligence he would soon apply to his magnum opus, 1968’s Electric Ladyland.” (credited to Robert Christgau and David Fricke)

In later years Richie Unterberger celebrated the album in this glowing homage, “One of the most stunning debuts in rock history, and one of the definitive albums of the psychedelic era. On Are You Experienced?, Jimi Hendrix synthesized various elements of the cutting edge of 1967 rock into music that sounded both futuristic and rooted in the best traditions of rock, blues, pop, and soul. It was his mind-boggling guitar work, of course, that got most of the ink, building upon the experiments of British innovators like Jeff Beck and Pete Townshend to chart new sonic territories in feedback, distortion, and sheer volume. It wouldn’t have meant much, however, without his excellent material, whether psychedelic frenzy (“Foxey Lady,” “Manic Depression,” “Purple Haze”), instrumental freak-out jams (“Third Stone from the Sun”), blues (“Red House,” “Hey Joe”), or tender, poetic compositions (“The Wind Cries Mary”) that demonstrated the breadth of his songwriting talents. Not to be underestimated were the contributions of drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding, who gave the music a rhythmic pulse that fused parts of rock and improvised jazz. Many of these songs are among Hendrix’s very finest; it may be true that he would continue to develop at a rapid pace throughout the rest of his brief career, but he would never surpass his first LP in terms of consistently high quality.”

 

JIMI HENDRIX

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Foxey Lady (Miami Pop 1968)

 

 

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