Review Summary: Justifiably hallmarks the development of contemporary Rock music, and could possibly stand as one of the greatest debut albums ever produced.
To get some idea of the vast ability Hendrix possessed one only has to examine the immediate reactions of leading British guitarists from the era. A startled Pete Townshend watched Hendrix perform as support to The Who, and frozen by the maestro’s supernatural gifts could only find the mental strength to strum simple chords when his band stepped up to headline. Jeff Beck confessed that he needed to go home to practice after witnessing a sparkling Hendrix show, and Eric Clapton sought self reassurance from his own guitar fraternity, which would include an already mesmerized Townshend.
Continually frustrated by jealous co-performers who restrained him from expressing himself in his native U.S, Chas Chandler met Hendrix in New York and immediately invited him back to England, where there was already a vibrant Blues scene. Forming The Experience with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, the three piece moulded together an incredibly tight sound that combined elements of Blues, Rhythm & Blues and Jazz. “Are You Experienced”, their eponymous debut remains an incredible recording, a vital stepping stone in the creation of modern Rock music, and a showcase for Hendrix to launch his superior talents on an unsuspecting world. In addition to the masterful musicianship, Jimi could write great songs too, and of all his subsequent releases, this album holds the greatest concentration of top quality songs. The re-mastered and repackaged 1997 version combines all of the material from the original U.K. and U.S 1967 releases complete with singles and B sides from the period and for that reason is a truly essential purchase.
Frankly there isn’t one single moment of filler, from the jagged acid classic of what many consider to be his signature tune “Purple Haze”, to the stunning Blues workout that closes the album (“Red House”). The single cover song, the Billy Roberts penned “Hey Joe” is what initially drew Chandler’s attention to Hendrix, with the slow smoldering cycle of fifths chord progression, and a blistering lead break that adds to the sense of tension. There are moments of rich tenderness too, as on the Curtis Mayfield influenced “The Wind Cries Mary”, an apparent lament to his then girlfriend Kathy Etchingham. The band weave credible experimentation with effortless confidence, significantly on the despairing “Manic Depression” which rhythmically runs as a fast waltz, and the distorted guitar and fused musical elements (Rock and Jazz) that loosely hold together “Third Stone From The Sun”. The explosive, if sexually ambiguous “Fire” is a perfect example of the value of Redding and Mitchell’s contribution to the project, along with the reversed rhythms of the psychedelic title track ensuring that this isn’t just Jimi’s masterpiece.
In hindsight, “Are You Experienced” justifiably hallmarks the development of contemporary Rock music, and could possibly stand as one of the greatest debut albums ever produced. In 1967 it introduced the world to Jimi Hendrix, a figure of immense talent, showmanship, imagination and animalistic charisma.