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I am Salty The Beast. I am what you might call a Renaissance man, meaning I find interest in most every medium. I love watching movies, listening to music, writing music, playing video games, making videos, etc.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

ALBUM REVIEW: The Jimi Hendrix Experience "Are You Experienced"

Track Listing:
1. Purple Haze*
2. Manic Depression
3. Hey Joe
4. Love Or Confusion
5. May This Be Love
6. I Don’t Live Today^
7. The Wind Cries Mary
8. Fire*
9. Third Stone From The Sun
10. Foxey Lady
11. Are You Experienced?
12. Stone Free
13. 51st Anniversary
14. Highway Chile*
15. Can You See Me
16. Remember
17. Red House

I have got to say (and I might be the only one that thinks this way) that the debut album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, titled Are You Experienced, shows some clear signs of age. That is not to say the record is bad, because of course there are a handful of good songs to be found. But something about the recording quality and the sound structure seem a bit primitive by today’s standards. Now I know that it was made all the way back in 1967, but truly classic albums in my estimation should make you completely forget about the minor inconsistencies. For example, the Beatles’s work (especially later works) still remains as timeless and youthful as the day they were released. For Are You Experienced, all I can say is that it is a good album. No more, no less.

The opening track “Purple Haze” has since moved on to become one of Jimi Hendrix’s definitive songs. From its dissonant intro guitar riff to its harmonious fade out, the track is iconic. “May This Be Love” is contrarily a softer, dreamier-sounding number that moves along smoothly and without much interference. I enjoy especially the accordance between Hendrix’s voice and his guitar. “Highway Chile” is one of the album’s better overall tracks. It’s the hardest rock song on the whole album and it also moves along with a catchy groove. It is one of the few songs that gets me with every listen.

“51st Anniversary” reminds me a bit of something by The Who (something like “Pinball Wizard”), because the drums are the most prominent instrument but they do not quite overshadow the guitar or bass. Very energetic track this one is. Another rambunctious choice is “Fire.” This one moves at an unexpectedly swift pace and includes some of the album’s best performances on all instruments. Numerous artists have covered this track, such as by Red Hot Chili Peppers and by Crucial Taunt, Cassandra’s fictional band in “Wayne’s World.” However, as good as some of these versions have been, none of them beat the original.

“Love Or Confusion” focuses on the more psychedelic aspects to Jimi’s sound. The whole thing seems like one big impromptu jam session, one experiment after another. Not to say that is a bad thing, but the band could have certainly tightened this one up and made it more tangible. Clearly the better example of psychedelic rock is the title track “Are You Experienced.” With its odd guitar effects, dissonant tones and spacey vibe, the song is much more impressive than the previously mentioned “Confusion.” “I Don’t Live Today” is a slow-speed hard rock number that also has a significant amount of musical energy behind it. However, the final minute of the song feels insubstantial and unnecessary. “Third Stone From The Sun,” for the most part, is a lengthier instrumental track, save for a few spoken lines. The song is a combination of both light rock and smooth jazz and, admittedly, is a nice marriage of the two. That makes it one of the few pure jam session songs that I’ve really gotten behind. Toward the end is another Who-esque track called “Can You See Me” that I actually find favor with. It is a great example of how soulful and rambunctious some classic rock songs can be.

Also appearing on the latter half of the album is “Remember,” a short and simple bluesy track. This is a song in which I have no real opinion toward. I suppose I welcome the fact that they left it on the album, but I would not particularly miss it if it were absent. Do not try to understand the logic behind that statement; your brain will explode. “Foxey Lady,” a fan favorite of the Experience, has also made itself iconic overtime. Whether it is because of the abrasive staccato drone of the main guitar riff or Jimi’s continuous “foxey” chant, this song is just way too catchy. It is, in fact, one of the most memorable from this album alongside “The Wind Cries Mary.” “Mary” is a quietly smooth lullaby with some of the greatest guitar-and-bass partnerships of the Experience’s short career.

Closing the album is a song that sounds like the driving force of what influenced Stevie Ray Vaughan’s musical style. “Red House” is a heavily blues-influenced number that strikes a strong resemblance to “Texas Flood,” maybe without as long of a guitar solo section in the middle. Hendrix peppers several perplexing guitar fills and extras, making this easily one of his most complicated musical compositions.
Good album? Most certainly. Iconic album? No doubt in my mind. Classic album? Questionable. What it really comes down to is how the individual listener interprets the music. I am in the minority of people when it comes to praising Are You Experienced because I simply do not think it is perfect. Hendrix changed the face of the music industry once he arrived on the scene and he broke the color barrier for hard rock. There’s no mistaking these facts. Maybe time has just made me a more jaded person, spoiled with the luxuries of modern-day music quality. However, the album as a whole is still worth your time and/or money for its entertainment value alone.


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