This week on The Bucket Tracklist, I’ll be looking at the legend of Jimi Hendrix. Within the first ten seconds of a Wikipedia search, I’ve already seen him described by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music”, so no pressure Jimi. Much like Buckley last week, the name Jimi Hendrix is so familiar to me that I feel like I’ve been listening to his music for years. Here’s what I actually know about him: he died young (which seems to be a theme of these columns, but I promise it’s not on purpose) from drug-related circumstances; he was quite the good-looking lad in his time; he’s one of the best guitarists of all time; he played Woodstock. More than anything, I know Hendrix has a reputation as one of the best instrumentalists of all time which I feel I have to respect going into what many describe as his best album: Are You Experienced?
The first track on the album, Purple Haze, is immediately familiar to me, and Foxey Lady was also instantly recognisable, and is quite the sexy tune (regardless of how uncomfortable the word “foxey” makes me feel). Continuing through the album, I understand why this is the Jimi Hendrix “experience”. Like with Buckley’s album last week, the instrumentation on this album is such that it feels like a whole experience for the mind, rather than just listening with the ears. Is that corny? Probably, but the only other way I can describe the general vibe of the album is “trippy”. If something makes you feel trippy, surely it must be more than just auditorily that you’re connecting with it?
Hendrix seems to ooze an arrogance that is translated into sex appeal through his music. The constant addition of “baby” to the end of his spoken-sung lines makes it sound like he’s trying to seduce whoever he’s singing to, which was probably somewhat second nature to him. This apparent self-awareness is present throughout, especially in tracks such as Manic Depression, 51st Anniversary and Stone Free. The latter seems to describe Hendrix’s relationship with his fans, and the pressure that must have come with being labeled a legend. He seems to struggle with the fame aspect of his career (“They talk about me like a dog / They talk about the clothes I wear”) but refuses to engage with it (“Stone free do what I please / Stone free to ride the breeze”), sentiments reflected in Highway Chile. In Manic Depression, Hendrix cloaks a troubling topic in driving guitar riffs and strong drums which make it sound like a dedication to the disease, rather than a struggle with it.
Overall, the album strays from psychedelic rock, like that in Love or Confusion, to full on blues in Red House, stopping everywhere in between. It seems wherever he dabbles, he does it well, and makes it his own. I have to say though, this is a long album with 17 tracks, and I think the potential of the latter part is wasted on me, as I got a little bored with the similar vibes throughout. That being said, I can imagine this being an amazing album to lie in the dark listening to while under some sort of influence (not that I condone that). I can also see why Jimi Hendrix is such an inspiration, as his sound is so perfectly crafted, and yet gives off an air of being a spontaneous jam. That’s without even reading up about the way he pioneered music by using the guitar as an “electronic sound source” according to Rolling Stone, and revolutionising the use of certain pedals and other technological things that are beyond my grasp.
Overall, I loved the first part of this album, but lost interest by the second, which I blame more on my poor attention span than on the album itself. I have to respect an artist that did so much in so little time, and became known as the best in his field. More than that, I have to respect an album crafted around an ebb and flow of subtly different genres. While I think I’d have to be in a certain mood to play this start to finish, there are definitely some tracks I’ll be adding to my playlist. That way, I can finally say I’m experienced.