We have already seen some amazing debuts in 1967, today is no exception. The world of guitar and the world of rock music would never be the same after the debut album from James Marshall Hendrix, aka Jimi Hendrix. “Are You Experienced”, from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, entered our world in the spring of 1967. It is currently rated as the #30 album on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
From the initial blunt impact of the opening power chords of “Purple Haze”, it was clear the electric guitar was on a new level. As Eric Clapton, the reigning king of guitar said after the first time he saw Hendrix play, “He walked off, and my life was never the same again.” His style, his sound, his flair, and his technical innovation and creativity were something the world had never seen up until this time. This first release is loaded with Hendrix hits, most of which were his original songs. The album was released in many formats, so I’m citing the current version available on my streaming service. “Manic Depression” and “I Don’t Live Today” stand out on side one, as well as his passionate cover of “Hey Joe”, his bluesy and lamenting take on a relationship that goes way, way off track.
Side two is a bit more experimental, after the first two songs. With “The Wind Cries Mary”, like many dual instrumentalist-vocalists, Hendrix was very self-conscious as a singer, but this song proves he absolutely could hold his own as a singer with his one-of-a-kind guitar playing. The pace then dramatically shifts with one my all-time favorite Hendrix songs, “Fire”. Hendrix is certainly the centerpiece, but Noel Redding on bass, and particularly Mitch Mitchell on drums, absolutely stand out on this track, with Mitchell doing his best Keith Moon impression. I love this song so much that I featured it during my junior year in high school in the annual air guitar contest. Like my hair, my earring, and my jump-shot, my basketball coach was not very impressed with my performance, but it is a great memory nonetheless.
After the title track and an assortment of psychedelia and cosmic sounds, this version of the album wraps up with my all-time favorite Hendrix song, which doubles as my all-time favorite blues song, another Hendrix original, “Red House”. The authenticity, tone, and sound of his guitar are just perfect, as are the lyrics and his vocal performance. Jimi confronts the sadness and surprise of a departed love, but demonstrates the art of picking himself up and moving on.
“I might as well go back over yonder, way back upon the hill, ‘cause if my baby don’t love me no more, I know her sister will”.
Way to stand back up Jimi, and like Eric Clapton, once I heard Hendrix, my view of the music world would never be the same again.