While not necessarily a heavy metal guitarist himself, Jimmy Hendrix laid some of heavy metal's most important foundations. Are You Experienced?, the 1967 release by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, is a treasure chest of metal's DNA.
Hendrix took the blues guitar and contorted it enough to blow the doors off traditional electric guitar sounds, creating hitherto impossible music, and inventing the dominant guitar solo in the process.
Hendrix proved that music can be driven primarily by the power of the guitar. He also demonstrated how much sound and fury can be generated by relatively few musicians, and his range as a songwriter from slow tempo brooding songs (Red House) to fast paced rockers (Stone Free), all powered with his magical guitar, placed bookends for what was possible with guitar-dominated metal.
Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding on bass deserve enormous credit, not just for keeping up with Hendrix, but for prominently holding their own in the spotlight. Both the bass and the drums are outstanding throughout Are You Experienced? and indeed take centre stage on some tracks (Fire). Mitchell puts many modern drummers to shame with a display of enormous energy on what sounds like the definition of a basic drum kit, while Redding holds together most tracks with a bass sound that is both lively and steady.
The 1993 CD release of Are You Experienced? includes six classic, awe-inspiring Hendrix compositions: Hey Joe, Purple Haze, Highway Chile, Foxy Lady, Red House, and Fire are simply genius, filled with breathtaking and groundbreaking inventiveness.
Hey Joe immediately drops into an unrelenting, hypnotizing groove; Purple Haze, Highway Chile and Foxy Lady are Hendrix at his most playful and energetic. Red House, while being a beautifully haunting song, is also the purest fusion of blues and metal, while Fire is a mesmerizing example of how to construct a classic song from one bar of four bass notes and a drummer who peeks through all the gaps.
This being the work of uncontrolled genius, and with 17 tracks on the CD, Are You Experienced? also includes some horrible, intolerable music, none worse than I Don't Live Today and May This Be Love. These are not songs that should have ever been recorded; they are initial sketches of material that with a lot more work could have become decent music, but never did. Nevertheless a batch of sub-par material is crammed into the second half of the album, and these tracks do detract from the overall listening experience.
But this is a case where the many gems on the CD are well worth wading through the thatch of lesser material, and to answer the question, yes Jimi, once we've listened to your music, we are experienced in the art of recognizing inspired creativity.
Jimi Hendrix - Vocals, Guitar.
Mitch Mitchell - Drums.
Noel Redding - Bass.
Songlist (ratings out of 10):
1. Hey Joe - 10
2. Stone Free - 8
3. Purple Haze - 10
4. 51st Anniversary - 6
5. The Wind Cries Mary - 7
6. Highway Chile - 10
7. Foxy Lady - 10
8. Manic Depression - 7
9. Red House - 10
10. Can You See Me - 6
11. Love Or Confusion - 6
12. I Don't Live Today - 4
13. May This Be Love - 4
14. Fire - 10
15. Third Stone From The Sun - 7
16. Remember - 5
17. Are You Experienced? - 7
Produced by Chas Chandler.
Engineered by Mike Ross, Dave Siddle, Eddie Kramer.
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