Two things happened to me in 1967. First, I worked at a summer camp and one of the female staff members introduced me to folk music via Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Phil Ochs. Later that same year, I traveled into New York City with a friend to take in a concert at a small club.
Let me go on record by saying that I would have never let one of my 17 year old children travel into New York City, but times were different. From the opening guitar notes struck by Jimi Hendrix that night, my secure musical world of the Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, and The Four Seasons, expanded, changed, and was never the same.
Jimi Hendrix was a star in England before returning to his home country. He released Are You Experienced in the United States on August 23, 1967. The album went beyond hit status, as it became one of the most influential album releases in history, and changed a generation’s perception of music. The British invasion and the simplistic, good time pop/rock of the 1960s were over. Rock ‘n’ roll would move in a different direction and Jimmy Hendrix would lead the way as its creative messiah.
It is difficult to believe that anyone who listens to rock music is not familiar with this album. Are You Experienced is essential listening. If you do not own a copy or are from another planet and have not heard its music; stop reading right now, get out of your chair and go find a copy.
Are You Experienced not only introduced Jimi Hendrix to the American music consciousness but changed the very textures of rock ‘n’ roll. Despite only recording with bass, drums, and guitar; Hendrix would be able to create a denseness to his music that could only be penetrated in layers. Hendrix at his best produced music that was almost a living organism that would envelop the listener.
The opening song, “Purple Haze,” ushers in the new era. It was difficult to believe the guitar sounds that were coming from the stereo speakers in 1967. Even today the sounds that Jimi Hendrix could wring from his guitar are unique. “Hey Joe” is a bluesy cover of the Leaves hit. “Fire” was a frenetic rock classic with Hendrix playing at warp speed. “The Wind Cries Mary” was another foray in a blues direction and almost relaxing compared to many of the other tracks. “Foxey Lady” was a concert staple for Hendrix with its staccato beat.
Hendrix could improvise on the guitar better than just about any person in music history yet would rarely become lost or get out of control and would always be able to remain true to the songs structure and integrity. “Third Stone From The Sun” finds a nice mellow Hendrix. The playing is more subtle but the technical artistry is unmatched.
Are You Experienced should be a part of every music library. It was the first of a trio of masterpiece albums created by Hendrix and the start of an evolutionary process that would change the face of rock music.