Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Happy Birthday "Are You Experienced?"

Released this day, May 12, back in 1967, fifty three years ago as I write....the debut album from Jimi Hendrix, "Are You Experienced?".

The album made Hendrix a star in Europe and led, a month later (with the help of the Beatles' Paul McCartney) to a slot at the Monterey Pop Festival in Monterey, California...which made Hendrix an international star overnight.

The album spent 33 weeks on the UK charts, peaking at number two, and 106 weeks on the charts in the US (27 weeks in the Top 40), peaking at number five.

The album has featured slightly different track listings over the years, but the original US release included "Purple Haze", "Manic Depression", "Hey Joe", "Love or Confusion", "May This Be Love?", "I Don't Live Today", "Wind Cries Mary", "Fire", "3rd Stone from the Sun", "Foxey Lady", and "Are You Experienced?" (the UK release included "Remember", "Can You See Me?", and "Red House" in the place of "Wind Cries Mary", "Hey Joe", and "Purple Haze").

The album features absolute game changing elements, from Hendrix's revolutionary guitar playing to his experimental recording techniques to near downright anti-pop arrangements. The melding of hard rock, psychedelic, R&B, blues, and more - all played at an extremely high level of instrumental mastery - made it a compositionally ground-breaking album, as well. Volumes could be (and have been) written on the guitar approach on this album alone, but suffice to say it became the standard by which all other guitar players were measured for decades, featuring a spam of stylistic approaches from sublime rhythmic devices to incendiary blue-based rock solos, creating a veritable Copernican Shift in thought towards what was even possible with electric guitar.

It should be noted that the album also features Mitch Mitchell (drums), and Noel Redding (bass), with the recording legend Eddie Kramer manning the console. Chas Chander is credited as producer and worked very closely with the band. Overshadowed at times is the work of Mitch Mitchell, whose drumming was a complete departure from the norm in popular music in the 1960s. Also worthy of mention is the man who helped craft Jimi's custom guitar effects, Roger Mayer.

It's legacy includes millions of albums sold (over a million in the first 7 months) and landing firmly on "best of" lists: #15 on Rolling Stones' "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" (with 4 of the album's songs on the "500 Greatest Songs" list), Mojo Magazine named it #1 on the "Best Guitar Albums of All Time" list, #63 on Colin Larkin's "All Time Top 1000 Albums", and more. In addition, "Are You Experienced?" was one of 50 recordings chosen in 2005 by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry, which selects recordings every year that they deem "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Bottom line: A revolutionary recording for multiple reasons that is worthy of every ounce of praise its ever received. For newer music fans who have yet to hear it, I'd suggest listening to it at first opportunity....but only after listening to an hour of pre-1965 pop music, so the impact of just how different this album was when it landed on Planet Earth from wherever the hell it came from!

Visit the official Jimi Hendrix website.

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