The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Axisː Bold As Love - Review
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critics' view

In 1967 if you had a record contract it probably called for at least two albums…a year. Following the psychedelic depth charge of the Experience’s Are You Experienced? Jimi Hendrix along with band and producer/manager Chas Chandler headed back into the studio for more far out fun. This time Jimi had had a little more time to craft his own material and it shows. Axis…is Hendrix’s coming-of-age-in-songwriting album.

While criticisms are often levelled at Chandler for his no-nonsense approach to getting a take from the band (he eventually quit over his exasperation at Hendrix’s endless perfectionism, fuelled by large quantities of dope) he still allowed the band to push the boundaries of the time. While hardly approaching George Martin’s collage and laboratory approach that the Beatles benefited from on Sgt Pepper, the second album from the Experience still bristles with new sonic wonders.

Opening novelty track, “EXP” uses varispeeded tape effects, guitar whammy bars approximating the sound of UFOs and more, while “You’ve Got Me Floating” and “Castles Made Of Sand” utilise the signature backwards guitar that a whole generation were to copy. Even more remarkable when you consider that most solos were first takes. Final track “Bold As Love “ uses the first flowerings of phasing to make Jimi’s strat sound more like a whole orchestra on its trick ending.

But probably more important was the development of the aforementioned writing skills. Forced by Chandler to produce concise three/four minute mini-epics, Hendrix easily rose to the challenge turning in some of his loveliest lyrics (“One Rainy Wish”, “Little Wing”) wrapped in his most gorgeous ballads. “Little Wing” shows just how tasteful a player he could be as well. And that’s the beauty of Axis… For every proto metal psych rocker like “If 6 Was 9” or “Spanish Castle Magic” there’s a wry, funky little tale like “Wait Until Tomorrow” or mystical musing like “Bold As Love”. While Hendrix would next go on to produce his masterpiece in technique and innovation on his next album, Axis Bold As Love stands as his peak in crafting pop rock perfection.

Chris Jones
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The BBC's album reviews ended in 2013, although the pages are archived for retrospective reading.
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