At the beginning of 1966, JIMI HENDRIX was struggling to even make minimum wage playing R&B covers. By the end of 1966, he had finished recording his first album “Are You Experienced?” and released it to great success as THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE band giving the rock world a must needed kick in the arse. By the beginning of 1967, the band was famous worldwide and penuriousness was replaced by every pressure known to the successful musician and piled upon the trio due to contractual obligations, thus a second album was demanded to be released within the same year of 1967. Sooooo THE EXPERIENCE rushed into the studio and recorded their second album AXIS: BOLD AS LOVE which came out in December, 1967 in the UK but was held back in the US because it was feared it would interfere with sales of the first album, so it was released in May of 1968. Typical record company malarky of the day!
AXIS: BOLD AS LOVE basically continues offering the same psychedelic, energetic and innovative blues rock concoctions that HENDRIX was so successful in constructing on album number one with his elegant display of melodic expansion in the most creative ways. The fact that this band so deftly and proficiently pumped out a majorly spectacular array of brilliant songs is a testament to the power of JIMI HENDRIX and explains how he was able to record decades worth of music in a very short time span when new material is still being released almost fifty years after his untimely passing. The tracks on this album were done with a healthy dose of studio recording techniques of the day and as a result most were never performed in a live setting with the exception of “Spanish Castle Magic” and “Little Wing” but THE EXPERIENCE successfully conjured up a brilliant followup to their spectacular ground breaking debut with grace.
Neck in neck with The Beatles in innovating rock’n’roll, AXIS: BOLD AS LOVE begins with the lysergic mind expansive trip of “EXP” which takes the art of microphone and harmonic feedback to new extreme levels for the day and simulates a strange close encounter of the third kind with extraterrestrial contact. After this strange album introduction, we get some more familiar HENDRIX action with a psychedelic funk rock narration of concerned extraterrestrial life returning to the Earth concerned of the abuses of the top dog species, namely, homo sapiens and how they are degrading the ecosystems upon which their lives are dependent. HENDRIX was totally in tune with the ecological issues plaguing humankind and was ahead of the rest of the world in adapting these issues to music. That would have made a great concept album actually but the album continues on a track by track basis with each song having its own theme and meaning.
Brilliantly THE EXPERIENCE eschews AXIS: from being a clone of “Are You…?” Instead it creates a somewhat similar but more nonchalant way of incorporating the recent upgrades in the rock universe with the usual psychedelic rock guitar riffage of HENDRIX himself with the jazz inspired drum workouts of Mitch Mithcell while the bass guitars of Noel Redding provide the most stable and grounding attributes of the music with the occasional jazz inspired methods as well. The album also adds lots of new instruments to the mix adding a more diverse feel from the debut. HENDRIX contributes piano and recorder, Mitchell adds some glockenspiel and Redding offers his best foot stomping percussion. AXIS: also has the best album cover of all THE EXPERIENCE years releases!
THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE is certainly an archival type of band beyond most our musical experiences unless you are well into you 60s at this point. I did not start out loving this album by any means. In fact i always thought HENDRIX was fairly boring! However, there is something about these albums including this second one that has the power to burrow into the future and into my DNA that has infected me with admiration. True this is not technically as adept as what has come to develop over the decades that follow, but this was truly innovative at the time and if the listener simply resonates with the music, it will surely reveal its time period prowess and charm with merely a few attentive and open-minded listens. I now regard this album as much as a brilliant masterpiece as the debut. The musical elements sewn together with the concepts are outstanding and considering this was a trio makes it all the more impressive.