Jimi Hendrix released three original studio albums before his death. Axis: Bold As Love tends to get lost next to the impact of his debut album, Are You Experienced, and the sheer brilliance of his third release, Electric Ladyland.
Axis: Bold As Love however, stands as a unique and creative release, as it finds Hendrix experimenting in the studio in ways that were new to the rock idiom.
The music of Are You Experienced was performed live before Jimi Hendrix would actually record the album. Axis: Bold As Love was put together in less than four months and included all new material especially created for this release. The album would show tremendous technical advances as Hendrix would experiment with various guitar sounds.
He tuned down his guitar to create a sound like none that had preceded it. He also began his extensive use of feedback within the context of the song structures. Hendrix also developed the use of a wah-wah sound, which has now been copied thousands of times since its invention. Lost sometimes in all this experimentation, was the fact that Axis: Bold As Love contained some of Hendrix’s most melodic songs.
The first song contained on the original release was “EXP.” This song began with a strange interview, but it is the use of guitar feedback and distortion within a stereo framework that makes the cut so remarkable. “Up From The Skies” finds Hendrix moving toward a rock/jazz sound. This is the cut where Hendrix would first establish his wah-wah guitar sound, and integrate it into the song's melodic structure. Drummer Mitch Mitchell is often overlooked but here he provides a solid foundation for Hendrix’s flights of fancy.
“Wait Until Tomorrow’ is about two minutes of straight forward rock ‘n’ roll. “Little Wing” would become a concert staple for Jimi Hendrix, and would probably never be performed the same way twice. The song is introduced here with a slow tempo and an almost pulsating guitar sound that washes over the listener in waves. “If 6 Were 9” concludes the first side of the original LP release and sets the standard for psychedelic rock.
Side two begins with a guitar feedback feast. “You Got Me Floatin’” finds Hendrix distorting and literally bending his guitar sound, yet always returning to the songs structure. “Castles In The Sand” is the sort of beautiful mid-tempo ballad that Hendrix would produce upon occasion. The simplicity of the lyrics would show Hendrix’s poetic side, which was often lost because of his guitar virtuosity.
“She’s So Fine” is a unique song in that it was written and sung by bassist Noel Redding. It may not be of the quality of Hendrix’s creations, but does re-enforce the fact that Hendrix was still working within a group setting at this point in his career.
“One Rainy Wish” finds Hendrix overdubbing his sound, yet his playing maintains an almost ethereal sound. “Bold As Love” concludes the album with one of the best, controlled solos of Hendrix’s career.
Are You Experienced was a tough act to follow but Axis Bold As Love showed growth and an increasing technical sophistication. It takes a rightful place as a part of a trio of albums that changed rock music.