Jimi Hendrix sounds like a junk heap (Ben Calder crushed monolithic mobiles bulldozed), very heavy and metallic loud. Rock’s first burlesque dancer, superman in drag, his music is schizophrenic. Axis: Bold as Love is the refinement of white noise into psychedelia, and (like Cream) it is not a timid happening; in the vortex of this apocalyptic transcendence stands Hendrix, beating off on his guitar and defiantly proclaiming “if the mountains fell in the sea, let it be, it ain’t me.” Such cocky pop philosophy shall not go unrewarded.
“EXP” is Hendrix’s white tornado advertisement aperitif (come-on), “my God Martha, it’s a white tornado”: “There ain’t no life nowhere.” The science fiction continues (Mose Allison) in “Up from the Skies,” while “Spanish Castle Magic” transforms the Clovers; in fact, much of Axis demonstrates that Hendrix stands in relation to rhythm and blues of the fifties as the Who stand in relation to mainstream rock of the fifties — “two useful transplants, indeed. “Ain’t No Telling” is all Mitch Mitchell, who is by now definitely one of rock’s most frantic drummers (from Moon to Baker). “If 6 Was 9” cracks foundations with banalized hippie lore (“wave my freak flag high”), while “She’s So Fine” positively destroys walls. If “One Rainy Wish” repairs everything (like “May This Be Love”), pomp and circumstance ushers out “Bold as Love” — “we all know that she by now has to be experienced.
Jimi Hendrix may be the Charlie Mingus of Rock, especially considering his fondness for reciting what might loosely be called poetry. But his songs too often are basically a bore, and the Experience also shares with Cream the problem of vocal ability. Fortunately both groups’ instrumental excellence generally saves the day, and Hendrix on Axis demonstrates conclusively that he is one of rock’s greatest guitar players in his mastery and exploration of every conceivable gimmick. Uneven in quality as it is, Axis nevertheless is the finest Voodoo album that any rock group has produced to date.