500 Greatest Albums of All Time

15

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, 'Are You Experienced?'

Reprise, 1967

This is what Britain sounded like in late 1966 and early 1967: ablaze with rainbow blues, orchestral guitar feedback and the personal cosmic vision of black American émigré Jimi Hendrix. Rescued from dead-end gigs in New York by ex-Animal Chas Chandler, Hendrix arrived in London in September 1966, quickly formed the Experience with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell and in a matter of weeks was recording the songs that comprised his epochal debut – which stands four and a half decades later as rock's most innovative and expressive guitar record. Hendrix's incendiary playing was historic in itself, the luminescent sum of his chitlin-circuit labors in the early Sixties with Little Richard and the Isley Brothers and his melodic exploitation of amp howl. But it was the pictorial heat of songs like "Manic Depression," "I Don't Live Today" and "The Wind Cries Mary" that established the transcendent promise of psychedelia. Hendrix made soul music for inner space. "It's a collection of free feeling and imagination," he said of the album. "Imagination is very important." Widely assumed to be about an acid trip, "Purple Haze" had "nothing to do with drugs," Hendrix insisted. "'Purple Haze' was all about a dream I had that I was walking under the sea."

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