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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Axis Bold As Love by Jimi Hendrix

Classic Albums Reviews - Axis Bold As Love by Jimi Hendrix

While it’s hardly an obscurity (it does, after all, feature Jimi Fucking Hendrix), there’s a commonly held view that the second of the three Jimi Hendrix Experience albums is the least remarkable. ‘Are You Experienced?’ has the advantage of being the album on which the world met The Greatest Guitarist Ever, while the last, the sprawling, expansive 'Electric Ladyland’
is held up as The Masterpiece; one of the defining records of the psychedelic era and one that people with more time on their hands than you and I have written entire books on. But ‘Axis: Bold As Love’? Well, it’s neither as furiously in yer face as its predecessor, nor as out there as its follow up. It’s seen by many as a mid-point; a transitional phase
- the sound of group on cruise control. And you know what? They are kind of right. But that’s no bad thing: rather, it’s these qualities that nearly 40 years on from its inception make this his most enduring album. Can you listen to ‘Foxey Lady’ or ‘Purple Haze’ without smirking? Without thinking of hairy blokes in guitar shops, or of Wayne’s World, or of your dad doing air teeth guitar at closing time? Of course they're incendiary pop perfection, but the truth is that overfamiliarity has rendered Hendrix's first album hard to take seriously as a contemporary force. Similarly, ‘Electric Ladyland’ bears the hallmarks of a period piece: all LSD-drenched, overblown, strung-out histrionics. Sure, it sounds mindblowing on acid, but who does acid these days (Erm, if you can get any, I will - Ed)?

By contrast, one of the things that's most striking about the third Jimi Hendrix Experience album is, paradoxically, how gentle some of it is. The likes of ‘Up From The Skies’, ‘Wait Until Tomorrow’, ‘One Rainy Wish’ and most famously ‘Little Wing’ and 'Castles Made Of Sand' are all beautifully laid back: here is a band definitely not adhering to the accepted perception of what they were supposed to be about; a band wallowing in their love of jazz and Philly soul rather than relying on the rock’n’roll energy with which they had previously blown the world’s mind; a band enjoying themselves. The contribution of the two often overlooked conspirators in this Experience bass player Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell are as evident as their leader's. And while ‘Axis: Bold As Love’ may, in the likes of 'Spanish Castle Magic’ and 'You Got Me Floatin’’ have its moments of distorted, high octane geetar (it does, after all, feature Jimi Fucking Hendrix), they’re not what characterise this amazing record.

‘Axis: Bold As Love’, then, partly by virtue of being the least coveted, is the Jimi Hendrix album that has aged most gracefully. It’s bluesy, it's mid paced, it’s meandering, yet with most of its tracks clocking in around the three-minute mark, it’s also concise: it’s innovative and, er, cosmic, but doesn’t feel like some grand drug-induced vision. Here The Greatest Guitarist Ever, known then, as now, primarily for his flamboyance (he playing, literally at times, with fire) wanted his guitar to blend in with, rather than be the focal point of, his group. He wanted this to be a record about songs rather than showmanship, about a band rather than one man. He succeeded. Cruising never sounded so good.

Track Listings

01. EXP
02. Up From The Skies
03. Spanish Castle Magic
04. Wait Until Tomorrow
05. Ain't No Telling
06. Little Wing
07. If 6 Was 9
08. You Got Me Floatin'
09. Castles Made Of Sand
10. She's So Fine
11. One Rainy Wish
12. Little Miss Lover
13. Bold As Love

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