ON THIS DATE (53 YEARS AGO)
December 1, 1967 – The
Jimi HendrixExperience: Axis: Bold as Love is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 5/5
# Allmusic 5/5
# Rolling Stone (see original 1968 review below)
Axis: Bold as Love is the second studio album by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, released in the UK on December 1, 1967 (January 15, 1968, in the US). It reached both the Billboard 200 Top LP's (#3) and Top R&B LP's (#6) charts and reached #5 in the UK. In 2003, the album was ranked #82 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Under pressure from their record company to follow-up the successful debut of their May 1967 album Are You Experienced, the album was recorded to fulfill the band's contract, which stated that they must produce two albums in 1967. Even so, it was not released in the USA until 1968 due to fears that it might disturb the sales of the first album. Bassist Noel Redding has noted that this was his favorite of the three Experience albums. He plays eight-string bass on some tracks.
Just before the album's completion, Hendrix left the master tapes of side 1 in a taxi. They were never found again, and thus the A-side had to be mixed again quickly.
Many of the album's songs were composed with studio recording techniques in mind and as a result, were rarely performed live. Only "Spanish Castle Magic" and "Little Wing" were performed regularly. The lyrics of "Spanish Castle Magic" were inspired by The Spanish Castle, a dance hall in what is now Des Moines, Washington near Seattle where Hendrix jammed with local rock groups during his high school years. On "Little Wing" Hendrix plays his guitar through a Leslie speaker (a revolving speaker which creates a wavering effect, that is typically used with electric organs) for the first time.
The intro track, "EXP", begins with a few notes from "Stone Free" (although played one-half step down) and then features a conversation between Mitchell and Hendrix about UFOs, where Mitchell plays a radio host, and Hendrix plays an outerspace alien in the guise of a human named Mr. Paul Caruso, whose voice is gradually slowed down until he eventually takes off in his spaceship, much to the host's consternation ("But-but-but", he splutters). Paul Caruso was actually a friend of Hendrix's from his days in Greenwich Village. "Up From the Skies" is a jazzy number featuring Mitchell playing with brushes. The song is about a space alien who has visited the earth thousands of years in the past, and returns to the present to "find the stars misplaced and the smell of a world, that has burned."
"Wait Until Tomorrow" is a pop-song with an R&B guitar riff with Mitchell and Redding singing backing vocals. The fourth track, "Ain't No Telling", is a rock song with a complex structure despite its short length. "Little Wing", as Hendrix himself said, was his impression of the Monterey Pop Festival put into the form of a girl. "If 6 Was 9", the last song on side one, is the album's longest track and arguably the most psychedelic; Gary Leeds (from The Walker Brothers) and Graham Nash use their feet during the outro to make some stomping. The song features prominently on the soundtrack for the 1969 counterculture film, Easy Rider.
"You Got Me Floatin'", a rock song opening with a swirling backwards guitar solo (which is absent on the mysterious, differently mixed Polydor version of this LP (only available in stereo), which outside of France & UK was the only one available in Europe), opens the second side of the album. Roy Wood and Trevor Burton from The Move, who toured with Hendrix on a package tour through Britain during winter 1967, supplied background vocals. The following track, "Castles Made of Sand", is a ballad also making use of a backwards guitar solo. "She's so Fine", Redding's contribution to the album as a composer, a very British pop/rock Who-influenced affair features Redding on lead vocals with help from Mitchell. "One Rainy Wish" begins as a ballad but develops a rock feel during the chorus that is in a different time signature than the verses.
The song "Little Miss Lover" was the first to feature a percussive muted wah-wah effect (with the fretboard hand "killing" notes) - a technique that was later adopted by many guitarists. The final song of the album, "Bold as Love", opens very abruptly and segues into a mellow groove similar to "Little Wing" and "Castles Made of Sand". With a psychedelic chorus and an extended solo at the end it fades out the album.