"I just want to talk to you. I won't do you no harm"
Before finding fame in 1967 in Britain, Jimi had recorded as a band member
with the likes of Little Richard, The Isley Brothers and various lesser known artists (see "Before Fame" section).
The recordings of that era are really only of interest to the out-of-control collector.
So The Jimi Hendrix Record Guide begins with the artists own cherished works.
ARE YOU EXPERIENCED
AXIS: BOLD AS LOVE
In the three and a half years or so in which Jimi recorded in his own right, he personally put out only these three albums (his fourth release "Band Of Gypsys" was an obligation to settle a lawsuit - see bottom of page). Any collection of Hendrix albums should begin here. These classic albums have been re-released many times over the years and we are already at the third generation of Compact Discs, after many remasterings.
Note that originally, the American vinyl versions of these albums had better sound than the European pressings, and remain the reference in terms of sound quality, even ahead the CDs.
Also, check out the site Jimi Hendrix Vinyl for an in-depth analysis of vinyl pressings through the years.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY:
For younger readers, a bit of history is perhaps needed here, to understand the impact that The Jimi Hendrix Experience and the first album had at the time (1966/67).
One of the best illustrations of Jimi's impact was recounted by Mike Nesmith of The Monkees who heard the band's first single "Hey Joe" for the first time, in the company of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The music was amazing he said, but even more impressive was the sight of The Beatles with their jaws dropped in awe.
Also, how about the time when Jimi's new manager Chas Chandler persuaded The Cream to let the then unknown Jimi join them on stage at the end of one of their London concerts in the fall of 1966 ? Jimi just ripped into "Killing Floor" with Bruce and Baker trying to keep up. Clapton couldn't beleive his ears and simply put his guitar down and stood aside, to watch in amazement.
At that point, in late 1966, rock music was just beginning to stretch out of the "guys in suits" era. The undisputed kings of pop, The Beatles, had developed a more sophisticated and complex technique, showcased on the album "Revolver" of August 1966. The Stones (who had never been into suits) had all but deserted their beloved blues and rock'n'roll in pursuit of the "fab four" to become recognised as songwriters in their own right. Other British bands like The Who, Small Faces, Kinks and Yardbirds were also becoming more adventurous in their writing and arrangements. However nothing had prepared Britain for the revolution that was The Jimi Hendrix Experience, with their brilliant fusion of rock, R&B, blues and psychedelic pop. "Jimi destroyed everybody. Beatles, Stones, everyone came to see him and just freaked out because he was such an original" - Eddie Kramer
This was how Jimi's arrival in London was described in The NME Book Of Rock (1973): "Hendrix had unbeleivable impact with amazingly powerful psychedelic blues, the heaviest rock ever heard at that time, a supremely cool vocal drawl, dope-and-Dylan-orientated lyrics, the acid dandyism of his clothes, and the stirring element of black sexual fantasy." Evidently, it was not only his guitar playing that impressed !
The Animals bassist Chas Chandler, who along with other British stars had discovered the unknown Hendrix in New York clubs, had perfect timing in persuading him to go to back to England with him, where blues-based rock was about to make a big comeback (since the early days of the Stones, Them, Animals and Yardbirds). After his stint with blues ace John Mayall, the already elected "God" of the electric guitar Eric Clapton, had just formed the blues/pop/rock outfit Cream, who were in a way the blueprint for the Experience (Jimi was interested in Clapton's playing even before he went to Britain). In fact Jimi's arrival in London at the end of 1966 did undermine everything that poor old Cream set out to do. Also, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page (who was a session musician at that stage) and any other top musician of the day, whatever their instrument, froze in awe on seeing or hearing Jimi for the first time.
No other guitarist had ever seemed quite so relaxed and at one with their instrument as Jimi. He brought to rock a previously unseen theatricality, using all the attention grabbing gimmicks he could think of. On stage he would play his guitar behind his head, behind his back, between his legs, with his teeth, with one hand or while rolling on the floor. He would drag his guitar across the mike-stand, thrust it or rub it with his groin into the amplifiers and later, to take the things to the limit, he would then smash it to pieces or set fire to it, in a mock love-death ritual. The explicit sexuality of his act was completely unheard of in rock, and even more so from a black artist. Elvis's hips had caused a scandal in fifties America and Jagger's gesticulating raised a few eyebrows but here was Hendrix rubbing the neck of his guitar up and down like a giant phallus while flicking his tongue at girls in the audience, then ultimately going down on the floor, to simulate the sexual act ! All of this in fact rather overshadowed his revolutionary musicianship. The review of the very first Experience concert (Evreux, France Oct.13, 1966) went something like this: "...a singing guitarist with bushy hair. A bad mixture of James Brown and Chuck Berry who did contorsions for a good quarter of an hour on stage sometimes playing the guitar with his teeth". The set list that night was: In The Midnight Hour, Have Mercy, Land Of A Thousand Dances, Everyone Needs Someone To Love, Respect, Johnny B.Goode (don't look for a bootleg, no tape exists, unless Chas stashed it somewhere !).
As well as Clapton and Jeff Beck, there were other great guitar players in England in 1966. Pete Townshend of The Who, Stevie Marriott of The Small Faces and Dave Davis of The Kinks had all shown off some great power chord rock and subtle rhythmic patterns. In fact Townsend was one of, if not the first, to use feedback to add dynamics to his playing (Eddie Phillips of The Creation deserves some credit too). The Small Faces also put out some great pioneering hard rock on their albums and B-Sides in 1965/66 and some wild effects even appeared on their 1965 hit "Watcha Gonna Do About It" which, as John Cale later confessed, had greatly influenced him and New Yorker Lou Reed, in their crafting of the sonic assault that was the Velvet Underground (at the same time as Jimi's emergence)*. One must not forget also, the even earlier contribution of the American rocker Link Wray, to noisy guitar. To trace things even further back, perhaps it was Muddy Water's amplified Chicago blues which set things off. He was obviously a great influence on Jimi, as were other blues greats Elmore James, Lightnin Hopkins, John Lee Hooker or the very innovative Johnny Guitar Watson.
*According to Bruno Blum, in his biography of Lou Reed titled "Electric Dandy", Jimi attended a Velvet Underground performance in New York in 1966 ! John Cale and Lou Reed's feedback drenched experimentations were obviously a great influence on his future guitar playing.
Gradually, Clapton and Jeff Beck (who had both found fame with The Yardbirds) had brought more dexterity and controlled distortion to electric guitar playing. Session man Jimmy Page (who would soon join The Yardbirds) had also made his mark and built up an admirable reputation thanks to his uncredited session guitar work on a host of hit songs for numerous artists. However, before Hendrix, the instrument had not really soared as such. Some aspects of Jimi's playing achieved a depth of expression that was previously the attribute of sax or harmonica players. Listen to Little Walter's amplified harmonica, it's pure Hendrix before Hendrix.
When Jimi played live, his instrument was not just his guitar, but the whole sound system. He used all the raw, jacked-up energy of his amps and speakers, integrating the distortion and feedback into his music, to create a whole whirlwind of sound, giving his playing an orchestral feel. Jimi had been lucky to meet the inventor Roger Mayer who's effects pedals for electric guitar greatly contributed to the creation of the Hendrix sound. To add to this, Jimi's solo playing had a depth and sophistication which could be compared with great jazz musicians such as Charlie Parker or particularly John Coltrane. Then he would hit a powerful chord structure, put in an abstract feedback break, then off into a beautifully played soft ballad. His techniques in fact completely redefined the whole approach to the instrument.
Jimi wouldn't have made it on guitar playing alone of course . His musicianship might have left even jazz musicians gob-smacked, but then he could also pen a neat little Top Ten hit. He wrote superb rock songs and, even if it wasn't really acknowledged initially, he was also an excellent singer. Jimi wasn't too confident about his own vocals but he soon asserted his cool rapping style, which was, like his guitar playing, ahead of it's time.
What also impressed British audiences was the fact that he was a true black American musician. The rock aristocracy and through them the record buying public, had been in awe of black American artists for years and here was one of them who fused all of what they loved together. He came across as a Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, James Brown, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, ... all rolled into one, with a little Dylan, Clapton and Townshend thrown in for good measure !
Jimi's influence on the developping rock scene was enormous. Another ex-Mayall guitarist Peter Green would soon form the successful rootsy blues band Fleetwood Mac and eventually (into 1968/9) came other guitar based bluesy rock combos such as The Jeff Beck Group (with Rod Stewart), Humble Pie (Steve Marriott again), Ten Years After, Free, Jethro Tull, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. Not forgetting that The Stones then made their triumphant return to blues-rock and eventually replacing their faltering ex-leader Brian Jones with a fantastic guitarist - Mick Taylor, another ex-John Mayall musician.
In the USA the whole "hippy" movement was beginning in 1966/7, and in Dylan's wake came the folky rock/pop bands such as The Byrds* (with David Crosby and Roger McGuin), The Buffalo Springfield (with Niel Young and Steve Stills), Love, Country Joe And The Fish and The Jefferson Airplane. Other bands like The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messanger Service, Big Brother And The Holding Company (featuring Janis Joplin) and especially The Doors, were also integrating blues into their repertoires (they were all fans of The Stones and The Animals in the first place). Not forgetting that even before all these artists, back in 1965, there had been the The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Blues Project with Al Kooper. Along with Dylan and earlier folk artists, all these musicians played a role in introducing the blues to predominently white audiences who might not have otherwise acknowledged its beauty.
In mid-1967, Jimi's triumphant return to his homeland similarly inspired the American rock scene and soon came the hard rock or blues artists like Canned Heat, Blue Cheer, The Allman Brothers, Santana, MC 5, The Stooges, Alice Cooper, Mountain, Steppenwolf, Johnny Winter, ...
*The Byrds, Love and the lesser known Leaves had covered Billy Robert"s "Hey Joe" before The Jimi Hendrix Experience, but it was a version by Folk singer Tim Rose that had inspired Jimi.
SEE RELATED ALBUMS
Here we go,
The Jimi Hendrix Record Guide really begins here, with Jimi's own releases.
Tracks in yellow represent their first appearance on record.
ARE YOU EXPERIENCED
Released UK May 1967 (Track)
SIDE 1: Foxy Lady, Manic Depression, Red House (Version 1), Can You See Me, Love Or Confusion, I Don't Live Today,
SIDE 2: May This Be Love, Fire, 3rd Stone From The Sun, Remember, Are You Experienced.
In the UK, before this album was put out, the band had released the two classic singles: "Hey Joe" (written by Billy Roberts) /"Stone Free", and "Purple Haze" /"51st Anniversary". At the same time as the album came "The Wind Cries Mary" / "Highway Chile" (all included later , along with their respective B-sides, on CD re-releases of this album). - See also "Original Singles" section.
Those singles set the pace for this album which took those initial ideas even further. The tracks here were recorded in late 1966 and early 1967 by The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Jimi on public saxophone, I'm sorry, electric guitar, with the magnificent and jazzy Mitch Mitchell (ex Georgie Fame's Blue Flames) on drums (he won the toss over Aynsley Dunbar) and guitarist Noel Redding got the job as the bass player.
The album was originally released on the Track label (which belonged to The Who managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp) and distributed by Polydor in Europe. It was produced by Jimi's manager Chas Chandler, the ex-Animals bassist and the man who had persuaded Jimi to leave the states in September 1966 to become a star in Europe.
This first album captures the raw excitement of the band and shows great originality in writing and studio techniques. Chandler played a key role in all of this, guiding Jimi in his choice of material, keeping things to the right length and crafting the band's sound on record with the help of engineers Mike Ross, Dave Siddle and Eddy Kramer (not forgetting the ideas and technical skills of Roger Mayer who assisted Jimi in his exploration of new effects for the guitar and amplification). Eddie Kramer in fact worked with Jimi right to the end (and went on to work with many big names in rock) and today he still pilots the production of all releases for the Hendrix Estate.
Jimi's formative years in the states had not at all hinted at his phenomenal talents as a writer and complete master of his whole spectrum of sound, as illustrated on this album. Powerful rock songs like "Foxy Lady", "Fire", "Manic Depression" "Can You See Me" or "I Don't Live Today" contrast with the gentler "May This Be Love" or the spacey rock tracks "Love Or Confusion", "Are You Experienced" and "3rd Stone From The Sun". Jimi also finds time to acknowledge his roots with his classic blues "Red House" and the R&B "Remember".
This album had a great impact, not just because of the previously unscaled heights of electric guitar playing, but also because of the inventive studio techniques, the overall sound and more importantly, the quality of the songwriting. The whole thing slotted-in perfectly with the on-going psychedelic scene and the second British blues boom. The album reached Number Two in the British charts, the top spot being blocked by The Beatles' unstoppable "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band".
Mono or stereo ?
In the UK in 1967, home stereos were not very widespread and stereo radio didn't exist, so mono was the mix that received the most attention. Many consider that the mono version of "AYE" is the real thing. It is true that in those days, stereo mixes were often bashed off as a gadget after-thought, although here, Chandler and Kramer made a very good job of theirs. The stereo mixed version wasn't released in the UK until the early seventies ! USA got mono and stereo editions of the US version of "AYE" a little later in 1967 (see Other Albums In Jimi's Lifetime section).
The now rare mono mix has a more direct punch to it perhaps, but I somehow feel that "psychedelic rock" deserves stereo, to add multi-layered richness.
The mono version has a few tiny differences. On "Third Stone From The Sun" Jimi mutters "War speak war" which is absent in stereo. On "Foxy Lady" Jimi's "Here I come baby…" is missing ! Polydor censorship ? At the end of "Red House", as Jimi says "How's that one ?", we hear Chas reply "Great, I think we should put that on ..." ! Another minor difference, Jimi turning the page in "May This Be Love" is masked in mono (in Sean Egan's book about the making of this album, he says that the opening drum roll of that track is absent in stereo, but it is there on all my stereo copies). The mono version of that song is also without the fuzzy "Jimi-jimi-jimi..." at the very beginning.*
Beware of some European 1970s releases which had "mono enhanced for stereo" (a fake stereo effect, much used at the time).
*I must verify that. I'm not sure if the version with "Jimi-jimi-jimi..." appeared only on a French single release.
Here is an in-depth analysis of the Mono and Stereo mixes
> See my "Hendrix: song by song" section for a breakdown of individual songs.
The Experience resembled Cream and the cover here adopts a similar approach to their first album "Fresh Cream" of 1966 - a three man portrait plus psychedelic lettering. In the sixties, photographers exhausted every possibiliy of shooting a band in a studio. Here, the idea of Jimi taking two English guys under his wings is quite fitting. Jimi appears confident, wise and in command. A rising star. Photographer Bruce Fleming had recommended a view which had more perspective but Track used a blunt head-on shot instead. Also, Fleming had photographed the band against a rich green backdrop but the colour was unfortunately deadened by the print processing, resulting in a rather dull sleeve. You can see Fleming photographing the band at a later session in the "Experience" video (see Film section).
Owing to Jimi's already galloping success, the initial UK release gambled confidently without the band's name, which explains that space at the top. However, for the other European editions "Jimi Hendrix" was kept on, in the same psychedelic typeface. - 6/10
The album was not released in the USA at this stage as the band were still unknown. By September however, after they had completed a brief tour of the States (including the important Monterey Pop Festival), a revamped version of "Are You Experienced" was issued using a different sequence and selection of tracks which were chosen by Jimi's American label Reprise (the label originally created by Frank Sinatra). - see "Other Albums In Jimi's Lifetime" section.
> Check out Sean Egan's book: "Not necessarily stoned but beautiful - The making of Are You Experienced"
A look at the UK album chart on July 17, 1967 (from Disc and Music Echo) shows just how conservative the record buying public was at the time (and this was the "Summer Of Love" !):
1. Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles
2. Are You Experienced - The Jimi Hendrix Experience
3. The Sound Of Music - Film Soundtrack
4. More Of The Monkees - The Monkees
5. Fiddler On The Roof - Film Soundtrack
6. Release Me - Engelert Humperdink
7. A Drop Of The Hard Stuff - The Dubliners
8. The Best Of The Beach Boys
9. The Green Green Grass Of Home - Tom Jones
10. This Is James Last - The James Last Orchestra
"Sgt. Peppers" was finally shunted off the top spot by the album "Val Doonican rocks, but gently" ! Older Brits will remember him well, a sort of British Andy Williams. Easy listening at it's most tepid.
AXIS : BOLD AS LOVE
Released December 1967 (UK-Track, US-Reprise)
SIDE 1: EXP, Up From The Skies, Spanish Castle Magic, Wait Until Tomorrow, Ain't No Telling, Little Wing, If Six Was Nine
SIDE 2: You've Got Me Floating, Castles Made Of Sand, She's So Fine (Redding), One Rainy Wish, Little Miss Lover, Bold As Love.
The follow up - more poetic and with a refined sound. Just great.
Recorded immediately after "Are You Experienced" (from May to November), released in December 1967 and again produced by Chas Chandler. The tone is more subdued here (Up From The Skies, Wait Until Tomorrow, Castles Made Of Sand, Little Wing, One Rainy Wish) with a determined lyrical approach which gave more depth to Jimi's music. A few tracks may have dated slightly ("Ain't No Tellin","She's So Fine") but again this album offers a rich spectrum of musical styles.
Like on "Are You Experienced", the title track closes the album and it's a musical tour de force, beginning as a soft ballad and building to a dazzling classical-inspired crescendo of guitar. That track features a superbly confident rock vocal from Jimi. The magnificent"If Six Was Nine" was later well known for its inclusion in Dennis Hopper's legendary 1969 film "Easy Rider". The beautiful "Little Wing" was to become one of the most covered Hendrix songs (Clapton, Sting, Stevie Ray Vaughan…) and was, with the hard rocking "Spanish Castle Magic", a stage favourite of Jimi's. Noel Redding sings the lead vocal on his own composition "She's So Fine" and Mitch plays the role of Jimi's interviewer on the opening spoof "EXP". Guests on the album were reportedly Graham Nash of the Hollies and members of The Move (who had toured with The Experience).
"Are You Experienced" looked impossible to follow, but Jimi succeeded with this beautiful album.
There are no bonus tracks on the CD because no singles of new songs were released around the same time as the original album. In fact no single at all was released in the UK between "Burning Of The Midnight Lamp" (August 67) and "All Along The Watchtower" (October 68). In the states however, "Up From The Skies"/"One Rainy Wish" had been a March 68 release.
Trivia: On the Axis" mono mix , "Castles Made Of Sand" has a very slightly longer (and in fact better) intro. Fellow Hendrix fan Luke informs me that there are actually two stereo mixes of Axis. The original stereo mix, found on both the Reprise and Track stereo LPs, has Jimi's vocal going back and forth in stereo each time he sings "endlessly" on Castles Made of Sand. The stereo remix, found on later LPs and at least some Polydor CDs, doesn't have this effect, and has a slightly shorter intro. There are other differences as well, but that one is easy to spot. The original "Ultimate Experience" CD uses the alternate mix, while the HDCD reissue uses the original mix.
Check these forum discussion for more details about the different mixes: Link 1 - Link 2
> The mono mix of "Axis" is available on vinyl from Authentic Hendrix (see official site) .
Axis: Bold As Love - Mono vs Stereo reissues
After Peter Blake's revolutionary cover for The Beatles "Sergent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Band", just about every other band made pains to present their work in similarly rich packaging. "Satanic Majesties Request" (Stones), "Disreali Gears" (Cream), "The Grateful Dead" ,… all followed suit and The Experience were no exception. Here, the designers David King and Roger Law inserted the band's portraits into a lavish Indian mythological painting with Jimi as the central guru. This made a great gatefold sleeve and eventual poster and T-Shirt. The original Track inner featured a photo of the band in black and white. The inner of the Reprise edition carried all the lyrics and a small negative line illustration of the band to be found today in the CD booklet. - 10/10
Released September 16 1968 (US-Reprise Records) and October 25, 1968 (Track records UK)
(Yes, six !)
SIDE A: And the Gods Made Love, Have You ever Been To Electric Ladyland, Crosstown Traffic, Voodoo Chile
SIDE B: Little Miss Strange (Redding), Long Hot Summer Night, Come On (Part One) (King), Gypsy Eyes, Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
SIDE C: Rainy Day, Dream Away, 1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be), Moon, Turn The Tides Gently Gently, Away
SIDE D: Still Raining, Still Dreaming, House Burning Down, All Along The Watchtower (Dylan)*, Voodoo Child (Slight Return).
The original vinyl editions had sides A&D on one disc and sides B&C on the other. Does the current MCA vinyl feature the same configuration ?
* "All Along The Watchtower" had been released as a US single just before the album ion September 4, 1968 and on September 18 in the UK.
This is it, the greatest album of "rock" music ever to be released. (Phew!)
I say that, because it is difficult to think of any other album by an artist in that field which comes close to the richness, the scope, and the mastery that runs through this awesome musical experience. We're not just talking "greatest guitarist" here, it's important to understand that the man's music goes far beyond that. This album is also a majestic display of songwriting, arrangement and production.
The album is crammed full of sumptuous works such as the complex "Gypsy Eyes", "House Burning Down", "Long Hot Summer Night" and the cool jazzy blues "Rainy Day ..." which in it's reprise "Still Raining .. ." transforms into a devastating rock guitar workout. Note that Jimi's friend Buddy Miles (the drummer with The Electric Flag, who later played an important role in Jimi's evolution) plays on those "Rainy Day" tracks.
The title track is a beautiful soul ballad sounding like Curtis Mayfield, which segues into the tough rock/rap of "Crosstown Traffic" (a successful single in the nineties thanks to it's use in a jeans commercial).
To broaden the sound, Jimi brought in Stevie Winwood (Spencer Davis Group/Traffic) and Mike Finnegan on keyboards, Al Kooper on piano, Chris Wood (Traffic) on flute, Freddie Smith on saxophone, Larry Faucette on congas, and Jack Casady of The Jefferson Airplane (who occasionally guested on stage with the band) plays bass on the terrific slow blues "Voodoo Chile". On the unbelievable last track "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" Jimi takes the blues to its outer limits. The song seems to capture everything that Jimi was about. It became a Hendrix standard and was a British Number 1 just after his death (surely the most intense piece of music ever to top the singles charts).
On vinyl Side C is "1983...", Jimi's cosmic "sound painting", which even the likes of Pink Floyd never managed to equal in my opinion. The band's fourth UK single "Burning Of The Midnight Lamp", of a year earlier, is included on the album which is surprising as, in the sixties, singles were not normally put on UK released albums (it was the US B-side of "All Along The Watchtower" which had been released a month earlier than this album).
"Little Miss Strange" is another Noel Redding composition, and there are the brilliant cover versions of Earl King's "Come On - Part One" and Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" which was the band's fifth UK single release at the same time as the album. It features Dave Mason (Traffic) on acoustic guitar and Brian Jones on percussion. Jimi's remarkable reading of "Watchtower" was so good that it became, like with "Hey Joe", the definitive version and is generally considered as the best ever cover version of a song (recently voted as such, for example, by the music critics of Britains Daily Telegraph).
In an interview with Douglas J. Noble (Univibes), Nils Lofgren reckoned that Side D of "Ladyland", is probably the best side of an album that there has ever been. I think he was right. Nothing else was going on in rock (or jazz) that equalled this level of perfection in 1968 and not a lot, if anything, has matched it since.
Jimi had been very disappointed with the final product of the first two albums, so for the American edition of "Ladyland" he made sure the tapes were better transferred to vinyl. His relentless quest for perfection in putting all this together took its toll on relations within the band. Chas Chandler soon quit, leaving to Jimi the task of putting together all the endless takes. He made a superb job of it. A rift was also growing between Jimi and Noel who quit the band about eight months later.
* Read these interesting comments from fellow Hendrix fan and writer Jacek, about the "Electric Ladyland" phasing techniques.
Was there a mono mix ? Hard to imagine the album in mono.
> A documentary about the making of this album exists in the Classic Albums series - see DVD
> Check out also the book "33 1/3: Electric Ladyland" by John Perry (yes, The Only Ones guitarist !)
Towards the end of the sixties in Britain, what was termed "full frontal nudity" was making headlines everywhere, what with "Oh Calcutta" on the West End stage, "Blow Up" and "The Girl On The Motorcycle" in the cinemas and every other "Play For Today" on TV. John and Yoko also caused a scandale in 1968 when they appeared naked on the cover of their avant garde (unlistenable)"Two Virgins" album. Track commissioned David King again to design the cover of The Experience's third album with David Montgomery as photographer. What they came up with was an imaginary portrayal of Jimi's harem of electric ladies. Two ladies hold images of their keeper (another holds a copy of "Axis"). The disposition of the girls is perfect page layout and the grainy wide angle image gives the whole thing a rather sleazy and subversive atmosphere. Some record shops refused to display the album, so it was put out in a brown wrapper ("Two Virgins" had received the same treatment).
The inner sleeve featured a superb colour portrait of Jimi swathed in plumes of smoke* plus two old black and white portraits of Mitch and Noel (from the same series as those used for the "Axis" inner). See "Alternate sleeves"section, page 5 - 10/10
*Another frame of Jimi from the shoot for the inner sleeve was used more recently for the cover of the MCA compilation "Experience Hendrix" - see Compilations section.
Jimi didn't like the UK sleeve as it happens. For the American edition, he had wanted to use a simple band portrait (which was eventually used on the back) or a photo by David Sygall and Linda Eastman (future Linda McCartney) of the band surrounded by children on the Central Park statue of Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland (photos from that shoot were respectfully installed at the back of the booklet of the present MCA CD edition).
In Atlanta in 1968, Jimi had this tio say about the cover "Well, we have this one photo of us sitting on Alice in Wonderland, a bronze statue of it in Central Park, and we got some kids and all. First I wanted to get that beautiful woman, about 6 foot 7 – Veruschka - she’s so sexy you just want to hmmm. Any way, we wanted to get her and have her leading us across the desert, and we have like these chains on us but we couldn’t find a desert ‘cause we was working and we couldn’t get a hold of her ‘cause she was in Rome."
In the end, Reprise used that firery enhanced image of Jimi (from a photo by Karl Ferris) which nicely conveys the intensity and abandon of his music - 9/10
The European sleeve which Jimi had reserves about.
The Central Parc photo (or one of them) that Jimi suggested for the cover of "Electric Ladyland". A photo from the session eventually appeared on the back of the MCA CD booklet. The new 40th anniversary deluxe edition of "Ladyland" uses this photo for the cover of the Digipack !
The group photo that he also suggested which ended up on the back of the original US Reprise L.P.
In the UK, to get round the problem of the controversial sleeve and to make the music more affordable for some,
"Electric Ladyland" was re-released in 1969 split onto two single albums with individual covers:
ELECTRIC LADYLAND Part One
Released 1969 (Track)
SIDE 1: Still Raining, Still Dreaming, House Burning Down, All Along The Watchtower (Dylan), Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
SIDE 2: Rainy Day, Dream Away, 1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be), Moon, Turn The Tides Gently Gently, Away
Part 1 grouped together Side C and D of "Electric Ladyland" but with an inversed running order.
If we follow on from what Nils Lofgren said (Side D of "Ladyland" being the best ever side of an album) then this album, which opens with that side, coupled with the awesome Side C, must make it the greatest single L.P. of all time ! Lock me away.
"David King's artwork for "Part 1" pictured the band playing aloft a futuristic vehicle as it cruises through a New York fantasy land (Electric Ladyland of course) and it remains my favourite Hendrix sleeve. This was quite prophetic as New York was where Jimi eventually chose to build his dream studio: Electric Lady Studios. New York was of course the city in which he had broken through - 10/10
ELECTRIC LADYLAND Part Two
Released 1969 (Track)
SIDE 1: And the Gods Made Love, Have You ever Been To Electric Ladyland, Crosstown Traffic, Voodoo Chile
SIDE 2: Little Miss Strange (Redding), Long Hot Summer Night, Come On (Part One) (King), Gypsy Eyes, Burning Of The Midnight Lamp
"Part 2" was simply a tighter cropping of the UK inner photo (see Alternate Sleeves Page 5). A superb portrait of Jimi with good off-the-shelf impact - 8/10
> Yet another single album of "Ladyland" tracks was issued on the Track label (on mail-order) called "Electric Jimi Hendrix", but was immediately withdrawn - see "Other Albums In Jimi's Lifetime" section
The band continued to tour in the final months of 1968 but announced in December that they would separate the following year in order to persue personnel projects. Jimi talked of his own album evoking its title as "Freedom", "Both Ways", "Band Of Gypsys" or "First Rays Of The New Rising Sun". He also envisaged an album featuring acoustic work, a string section and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, to be called "The End of The Beginning".
So The Jimi Hendrix Experience finally broke up while on tour in June 1969, putting an end to the tensions that had been growing since early 1968.
Jimi had announced his intention of taking "a year off" but this didn't fit in with his managements plans for him to tour at the end of 1969 ! Jimi just couldn't face the relentless pressure, having been on tour solidly since October 1966, so he declared that he was not in a fit state to go back on the road once again. He settled back in America and took things easy through the rest of 1969 (and in fact getting his year off touring, well 10 months, as he came back to the road in April 1970).
Straight after the Experience break up, he began working on a new looser band concept to which he gave the name Gypsy Sun and Rainbows or A Band Of Gypsys for short. He saw this as an ever changing ensemble of musicians and appeared at the famous Woodstock festival in August 1969 (just two months after The Experience break up) with five other musicians (including Mitch Mitchell still on drums). He began recording with them but soon trimmed things down to a trio, keeping Billy Cox (his pre-Experience bass partner) and bringing in his other old friend Buddy Miles (ex Wilson Pickett and Electric Flag) on drums.
To settle the lawsuit that was hanging over him since he had jumped contracts to go to England, he had been ordered to issue an album as a payment to PPX Enterprises via Capitol Records. Jimi had already evoked the possibility of issuing an Experience jam album to be titled "Little Band Of Gypsys" but now, with an entirely new band, he worked on, and planned to record some concerts at the end of the year. Even though he assembled the resulting live album called "Band Of Gypsys" (being the name he had finally adopted for the new trio), he was not really happy with it and put it out reluctantly. The album didn't satisfy PPX Enterprises either, they were waiting for a Jimi Hendrix Experience album !
BAND OF GYPSYS
Released April 1970 (UK-Track, US-Capitol)
SIDE 1: Who Knows, Machine Gun
SIDE 2: Changes (Miles), Power Of Soul, Message To Love, We Gotta Live Together (Miles).
In mid 1969 after the split of The Experience, Jimi teamed up with Billy Cox (his old friend and bass partner from 1961 to 1965) and the ex-Wilson Picket and Electric Flag drummer Buddy Miles (who had already played on "Electric Ladyland")*. An all black "power trio" therefore, which retained the name A Band Of Gypsys that Jimi used in introducing his bigger band at Woodstock (his idea behind the "Gypsys" was of a continuously evolving ensemble of musicians). The three of them jammed intensively for many months as Jimi restructured his music. When he came under pressure from a lawsuit by publishers PPX Enterprises (with whom he was still technically under contract as a member of Curtis Knight's band The Squires), Cox and Miles decided to help Jimi out of his mess by performing live shows for an eventual settlement album.
This release (assembled by Jimi) captures them during their public debut performances at the Filmore East, New York on the 1/1/70 (they played 4 shows over two evenings). Despite the fact that the band seem ill prepared for the event, there are some great moments on this record. Buddy Miles with his tight funky style packs alot of power and it brought out a different aspect of Jimi's playing.
Jimi presented some new songs here,"Message To Love", "Power Of Soul" and the awesome "Machine Gun" and all three remain the definitive versions. In fact this version of "Machine Gun" (the first to appear on record) is one of Jimi's most impressive works. On the night he was on stunning form (despite some sketchy new songs) with the sound system perfectly responding to his every whim. "Machine Gun" is incomparable and as Lenny Kravitz points out on the "Band Of Gypsys" DVD, it goes beyond "guitar playing. It is Jimi's very soul flowing out through the amps. We also learn from the DVD that "Machine Gun" was the one that really got through to Miles Davis (as if "Ladyland" wasn't enough !).
There is also"Who Knows" , an interesting funky soul composition of Jimi's with a lot of vocal interplay between him and Miles and seems to have been performed only at these Fillmore concerts (Was it a cover version ? Check my Song By Song page for more information).
This band wasn't exactly a "supergroup" (like Blind Faith) but Miles had made quite a name for himself, after his stint with Electric Flag and his own band, Buddy Miles Express. His song "Them Changes" was already quite well known, so the band play it here, as well as his Sly Stone tribute "We Gotta Live Together" (which combines Sly's "Sing A Simple Song" and "Everyday People" as well as a snippet of Joe Hick's "Home Sweet Home" - which was a Sly Stone produced song). Emeretta Marks (who recorded later with Jimi as he prepared his 1970 album) was invited by Miles to add backing vocals for the Fillmore shows. She has said that she did sing accompaniement backstage on a couple of numbers but was put off by the fact that she felt that Miles was beginning to dominate Jimi and take over the band. Miles himself later said that he was the leader of The Band Of Gypsys!
Eventually Jimi himself felt that the soulful style of Miles's playing was in a way taking him back to his pre-Experience days. More than just a drummer, Miles was a strong singer, supplying lead vocals on his own compositions and providing soulful backing vocals on other numbers. This, coupled with his fatback drum style, made a radical change in the overall sound of Jimi's music. Jimi ultimately had doubts and he was also under pressure from his management to cater more for the enormous white record buying public, with their love of his hard rock style. Despite all this, Miles' stint with Jimi did contribute to his gradual shift towards a more R&B feel to his music, as was revealed on the post-Experience material.
After a disastrous gig at Madison Square Gardens 28/01/70 (their fifth public performance), where Jimi had walked off stage after just two numbers (it is said he'd been slipped some bad acid) he felt forced to admit that the group was going nowhere. Soon after, the group was disbanded.
There is some great music on this famous album, but in the final analysis, I suppose one realises how well Mitch Mitchell's playing really complimented Jimi's music overall.
*Jimi and Buddy knew each other for years, having crossed paths frequently when the two cut their teeth as backing musicians. They met again at Monterey as Electric Flag were also on the bill, and later, the Buddy Miles Express were support band to the Experience on many occaisions). The two often jammed together, even while The Experience were together and Jimi wrote the sleeve notes for Miles's first solo album 'Expressway Of Your Skull" in 1968. The second album from Buddy Miles Express in 1969 was called "Electric Church" and Jimi was guest producer on four tracks. That same year, Jimi had dubbed his own tour "Electric Church Music". The two jammed together on stage at the Newport Pop Festival (22 June 69) performing already embryonic versions of "We Gotta Live Together" and "Power Of Soul" . Later, after the Band Of Gypsys concerts, Miles had a (hit ) single and a solo album titled "Them Changes" and a follow up album called "We Gotta Live Together"!
More tracks from these concerts were released on future releases "Band Of Gypsys 2", "Lifelines", "West Coast Seattle Boy" (box set) and more extensively on "Live At The Filmore East". The complete concerts may be released before 2020.
A documentary film about the Band Of Gypsys was put out on video - see DVD
Fillmore set lists
The American cover (above right) has a rather fuzzy photo of Jimi performing at the Fillmore. - 7/10
The strange British sleeve featured dolls of Jimi, Dylan, Brian Jones and, correct me if I am wrong, the famous British radio presenter John Peel (already an important figure in rock by then). Saskia De Boer made the dolls. The Hendrix doll on the back made the error of portraying a right handed Hendrix (see Alternate Sleeves Part 4) was later used on the cover of "The Singles Album" (See Compilations). - 5/10
Track would soon re-issue the album with a photo of Jimi performing at the Isle Of Wight of all places (see Alternate covers Part 1).
> Other albums in Jimi's lifetime
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