With Byron Bay Blues & Roots Festival just around the corner and the posthumous release of People, Hell and Angels, a record containing twelve unreleased studio performances by Jimi Hendrix, it seems more than appropriate to provide an homage to one of the greatest electric guitarists of all time. Without the past, there is no present. Without Hendrix, there would be no Stevie Ray Vaughan or Lenny Kravitz. He was the first guitarist to expose the infinite possibilities of electric guitar, including the use of the wah-wah pedal, an accessory which was used to boost frequency and create fundamental psychedelic distortions which would become a ubiquitous feature of modern rock music. The release of Are You Experienced in London in 1967 was the catalyst for Hendrix’ US fame.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience was formed in London in 1966; a three-piece band made up of Hendrix on vocals and lead guitar, Noel Redding on bass and backing vocals and Mitch Mitchell on drums. Both Redding and Mitchell provided the debut album with a blues and jazz grounding that complemented Hendrix’ innovative sound. The jazz and blues undertones diversified the album into a multi-layered record, paving the way for contemporary blues, heavy rock and metal. Each track was different to the one preceding it, offering various generic tones, including psychedelic rock, blues, smooth jazz, ballads and soul. The opening track, ‘Foxy Lady’, is the perfect self-explanatory prelude
to Hendrix’ signature. Sexy, psychedelic, heavy and aggressive, this track personifies his wild sexuality and charisma. ‘The Wind Cries Mary’ demonstrates Hendrix’s vocal range and the mellow blues backing of Redding and Mitchell. ‘Purple Haze’, one of the heavier tracks on the album provides a glimpse of Hendrix at his most manic. Are You Experienced reached number two in the UK in 1967 and in 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it as number 15 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
For those of you who have never given The Jimi Hendrix Experience a chance, do yourself a favour and listen to Are You Experienced, it will change your life and enlighten your knowledge of twentieth century music. For those who have, treat yourself by listening to it again. This album is a feast for the ears, a fundamental artefact of rock history.