Are You Experienced?

the_jimi_hendrix_experience___are_y_2005697470Ryan Palko `14

This week’s throwback album is Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?” This album lacks a sense of throwbackness due to its deep roots in present day American culture. This album and later work by Jimi Hendrix has had a profound impact on music since its debut. Originally released in 1967, this album is The Jimi Hendrix’s Experience first studio production. This album shocked the music community with is psychedelic, blues and R&B roots. This combination of sounds was new and fresh causing many critics to regard it as one of the greatest albums of all time. This album was not a fluke or a one-hit wonder. The subsequent albums released by The Jimi Hendrix Experience continued to shock the world.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience was composed of Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell.  Hendrix was guitarist and lead vocals, Redding was bass guitar and backing vocals, and Mitchell played percussion. This album was produced by Chas Chandler. He was originally a member of the band The Animals. Chandler left the band and went into album production. He got word of this guy named Jimi Hendrix from America and liked his sound. He invited him to London to form a band. Chandler recruited Redding from an audition and invited Mitchell, a friend of his, to form a triage with Hendrix. This was the birth of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The team got to work on their first studio album, “Are You Experienced?” It was recorded from December 13, 1966 to April 3, 1967 at De Lane Lea, CBS, and Olympic Studios in London.

Hendrix’s sound launched him to legendary status. First, let’s put Hendrix and this album in perspective. The late 1960s were a tumultuous time in America. Notable events were the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, President Kennedy’s assassination and the Civil Rights movement. To top these monumental events off, the 1960s were a wildly experimental time. Musicians were creating new sounds. Hendrix’s sound is rooted in psychedelic rock blended with blues and R&B. “Are You Experienced?” showcased this experimentation of sound. It ushered in the age of acid, psychedelic, and hard rock. Hendrix physically created this sound by playing a right-handed guitar flipped upside down and restrung. To compound this awkward style, he distorted and heavily used the wah-wah pedals to create new sounds that were never heard before. Complementing his sound are his poetic lyrics. The lyrics are majestic and flow eloquently to match the melodies he plays. He is a poet at heart.

Notable songs are Purple Haze, Hey Joe, The Wind Cries Mary, Foxy Lady and Are You Experienced? Out of these tracks Purple Haze is probably the most famous and widely played. It is the first song to the album and sets the tone for the upcoming tracks. This song is excellent because of its comprehensive blend of lyric and sound. Hendrix sounds like he is in a deep haze. Voices are set forward and backward in the song. The echo effect and distancing creates a new dimension. I believe he structured the song this way to highlight how spaced out he was. This calls into question the meaning of this song. Is it about an acid trip? This is a common interpretation of this song. I disagree. I think this song is about a state of mind.  Specifically, it is an insight into the mind of Hendrix. Jimi was spaced out from society and beat to his own drum. Yes, Hendrix used LSD frequently, but I do not think this song is directed at recounting an acid trip. Despite the evidence that leads one to believe it would be about drugs, this song is told in the first person, which only shows that Hendrix is simply speaking his mind. Overall this album is rated 37/40. One of the best ever produced.

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