The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced? (1967)
Welcome back to Your Dad’s Car Stereo! This week we’re tackling one of the big ones; one of the most influential and recognizable albums in the history of rock and roll. First though, remember that next week starts Led Zeppelin month where I’m covering Led Zeppelin I-IV back-to-back, so if another couple of the best rock and roll albums suit your fancy, make sure to check them out! Now this week, we’re taking a listen to the debut album from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced?. Contrary to popular belief, Hendrix was never a solo artist, but the Jimi Hendrix Experience, was formed to place his guitar abilities in the front and center. Experienced was an immediate commercial success and landed the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Monterey Pop Music Festival two months after the album released in the U.K. and before the album even released in the U.S. This performance, amongst the likes of the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Who, and Jefferson Airplane, launched Hendrix’s career in the U.S. and generated excitement for his upcoming debut album.
Jimi only released three studio albums before his untimely death in 1970, but each one furthered the development and legitimacy of the rock genre. Specifically, Experienced features a wide variety of genres and musical influences, from R&B to jazz and contemporary rock. The album itself can be best characterized as psychedelic rock, and no song on the album sounds quite like another. Listen straight through the album and you’ll hear Hendrix’s range of ability, from straight rock songs like “Manic Depression,” to ballads like “The Wind Cries Mary,” to funk and blues inspired “Fire.” This may be one of the best albums we’ve listened to on this blog, so I hope you can take some time to listen to this piece of history from start to finish. As an aside, note that I’m covering the album as it was originally issued in the United States, not the United Kingdom nor re-issued albums that have different track orders. No matter which version you listen to, I hope you enjoy the album!
Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown
Purple Haze: What a way to start a song! Think about what people must have thought back in the 60s when they put this record on and they’re assaulted with this huge guitar sound and Hendrix’s filtered vocals. Are You Experienced? opens with one of my favorite Hendrix tracks and I think it will always hold up as a classic rock staple and a song that’s had a significant cultural impact on the development of rock and roll. Dad’s Rating 10/10
Manic Depression: “Manic Depression” has a much different sound than Purple Haze, and most of that can be attributed to the time signature that the song is written in. We talked a little bit about time signatures in the “YYZ” review on Moving Pictures, but the gist of it is that the song is written in the style of a waltz but performed like a rock song! The instrumental section on this song after the second verse might be one of my favorites on the album and the frenetic drumming really adds to the manic feeling. Dad’s Rating 8/10
Hey Joe: When people think of Hendrix, they either think of bombastic guitar solos and modernization of electric guitar techniques or they think of his blues and folk roots. Those roots can be heard in most of the songs on the album and across his discography, but there may not be a better example of it on Experienced than “Hey Joe.” This track was one of the few that weren’t actually written by Hendrix on this album. Instead, it was written by a man named Bill Roberts in the early 1960s and has been covered by multitudes of artists. The Hendrix version is usually the most well-known, and I think listening to it shows why. Dad’s Rating 9/10
Love Or Confusion: “Love Or Confusion” wasn’t my favorite track on the album, but it has some redeeming qualities that I actually enjoyed. I found the song more muddied than purposeful distortion should create, and because of that, the individual parts didn’t shine so brightly. I will say that the guitar is great in the way that it builds up from the beginning towards the chorus before heading into a top-notch solo. Overall, this was a good track, that if it had been cleaned up, it would have been a stronger song. Dad’s Rating 6/10
May This Be Love: “May This Be Love” is one of the two ballads on the album, the other being “The Wind Cries Mary.” Hendrix is usually not remembered for his ballads, despite the fact that “Little Wing” is often cited as one of his best songs. With this song, I particularly like how the guitar manages to be a focal piece of the song, both in how it’s used to accent Hendrix’s voice and to accompany it, but never overshadows it. The vocals are soft but strong, and they carry the song very well. Dad’s Rating 8/10
I Don’t Live Today: “I Don’t Live Today” is one of the songs that surprised me the most. It’s a very heavy, distorted track that doesn’t pull any punches. Hendrix is almost yelling the lyrics and his playing is equally as strong and forceful. Musically I heard some elements of the psychedelic rock that he was known for and the solo at the end is a face-melter of heavy guitar distortion and wild drumming! This is one of those deep cuts that you just have to listen to. Dad’s Rating 7/10
The Wind Cries Mary: We go from one of the most high-energy songs on the album into one of the most laid-back songs on the album. “The Wind Cries Mary” is actually one of my favorite Hendrix songs (“Little Wing” is my favorite) and it’s a standout feature on the album. “May This Be Love” is like the warmup for this song. Everything just feels tighter, more polished, and better planned out, in a way, than the former. Where “May This Be Love” has a more drum driven sound, “Mary” is much more vocally and guitar driven, and I think that makes the biggest difference in why I prefer this song over the other. Dad’s Rating 9/10
Fire: This is a straight funk and soul inspired song here! Listen to the opening and compare the vocals to James Brown’s, for example. Hendrix has the same kind of energy in his voice that Brown does and he uses it perfectly! This is a groovy song that starts off as a soul track before launching into a solo straight out of a rock track. It doesn’t sound like anything else on the album and I’ve never heard another song like it before. This is really good stuff! Dad’s Rating 8/10
Third Stone From The Sun: How does one best describe “Third Stone From The Sun?” I offer that it’s the musical equivalent of being led through an acid trip. The vocals were purposefully slowed down to make the listener feel like they were flying through space, and it worked for me! The un-distorted guitar is like a hand reaching through the acid dream to lead the listener through to the other side. This is worth a listen once so that you can say you’re experienced, then leave it at that. Dad’s Rating 5/10
Foxey Lady: This is Garth Algar’s best performance (Thanks Wayne’s World!). But actually, this was one of the Hendrix songs that made it big, and for a good reason. That held note at the beginning of the song that leads you in to a rocking guitar riff lets you know that you’re in for something special. The guitar work is really the feature here and the solo is ah-mazing. This is still one of my favorite solos to play the air guitar on, and you have to do the Garth dance during the song too. Dad’s Rating 8/10
Are You Experienced?: The lead track on the album is a return to Jimi’s blues and folk roots with a little twist. The distorted wah throughout the song is truly unique and sounds almost like a tape was skipping during recording. Everything was actually perfect with the recording equipment, but that sound was created by running the loop backwards! This is just another example of Hendrix’s innovation behind the guitar and what he would come to influence in the future. I think we can firmly say that he was quite experienced with that guitar and continued to pass that along to future generations. Dad’s Rating 7/10
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