In one way, Axis: Bold As Love is the "ultimate" Jimi Hendrix Experience album. By this time the band had gotten much more comfortable with each other, and Noel and Mitch were finally being taken seriously as contributors to the band's overall direction (to some extent, anyways). For this reason, Axis most effectively highlights the unique stylistic roles each member brought to the band:
- Noel: British psychedelic rock guitarist/vocalist, forced to play bass.
- Mitch: Jazz and session drummer, inspired by the hard-bop polyrhythmic stylings of Elvin Jones and Philly Joe Jones.
- Jimi: Maverick American blues and soul guitar genius, interested in outer limits sonic experimentation.
The Burning of the Midnight Lamp & The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice
Released August 19, 1967
The Experience's debut at the June 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival was a legend-making performance, climaxing with Jimi lighting his guitar on fire during the ending "Wild Thing" rave up. After some scattered follow up dates around California, Jimi and his crew landed in New York, where Jimi reunited with his old Harlem gang. The Experience performed a triumphant set at Central Park, but his old "mates" seemed a bit taken aback by the abrupt change in style from the kind of soul music Jimi was doing back in his Greenwich Village "Jimmy James" days. This was followed by a brief (and disastrous) tour opening for the Monkees. In order to get off the Monkees' circuit, a fake story was circulated, reporting that the "Daughters of the American Revolution" had found Jimi's music too "immoral" for young Monkees fans. Apparently this only added to the growing reputation of the JHE in America.
A couple months into the American tour, Jimi's UK label released a new single, "The Burning of the Midnight Lamp", which was backed with "The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice" (with initials standing for drug terms STP and LSD).
Prior to Monterey, a harpsichord demo for "Midnight Lamp" had been recorded at Olympic. Later while in America, the JHE tried to record a basic track in Los Angeles (Houston Studios), but were never fully satisfied with the results. Finally, in New York City's Mayfair Studios, basic tracks for "Midnight Lamp" were finally completed after 32 takes (this was engineered by Gary Kellgren, who had earlier contributed to the Velvet Underground's debut album, as well as Frank Zappa's Lumpy Gravy). Female backup vocals were provided by the Sweet Inspirations. The B-side track, "The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice", was also attempted in LA, but these takes were essentially redone/finished at Mayfair in NYC.
"The Burning of the Midnight Lamp" has a fairly progressive/psychedelic feel, as it features a strange-sounding harpsichord doubled by a clean wah-wah guitar melody line. Additionally, the added choir and organ-like textures give it the air of a gospel concert (or an old-time revival tent rave up). Noel actually takes credit for the idea of using wah-wah on the guitar part, but Jimi created the harpsichord part while fooling around with studio inventory at Olympic. Naturally, the "faux-classical" texture of the harpsichord part gives it a post - "Sgt Pepper" psychedelic vibe. The mix for "Midnight Lamp" was also processed with healthy helpings of phasing/flanging and stereo panning effects. "The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice" opens as an uptempo British pop single, but a snarling wah-wah guitar break signals a transition into a "Hey Jude"-style psychedelic anthem, dominated by a thick collage of spoken word, free-form guitars and crowd noises (the Beatles' "Hey Jude" would actually be released only a week after this single).
Unfortunately, when released, this single fared less successfully in the charts than its predecessors, causing Jimi to express some disappointment (especially since he was especially proud of "The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp"). It's possible that the lukewarm reception to this particular thread of experimentation cooled Jimi's enthusiasm for the British sound previously explored on Are You Experienced...
|The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp||3:36||0:00: Theme on harpsichord and wah guitar, joined by bass accents and hi-hat. Final chord uses fast wah vibrato.
0:27: Verse harmony accented by organ stabs, joined by choir and swirling harpsichord figure.
1:04: Intro theme, 2nd verse.
1:53: Wah guitar solo with choir backing.
2:24: Intro theme, 3rd verse, additional vocal flanging for outro.
|The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam's Dice||4:17||0:00: Rising fanfare figure, pause.
0:06: Galloping pop groove.
0:35: Accented bridge leading to wah guitar solo.
0:54: Psychedelic anthem with fuzz guitar solo, spoken word, chanting, crowd noises.
Axis: Bold As Love
Released on December 1st, 1967.
After returning to England, the Experience began recording additional tracks for Axis: Bold As Love, hoping to release it in time for the Christmas shopping season ("EXP", "If 6 Was 9" and "She's So Fine" had already been mostly completed during Are You Experienced sessions in May). Recording at Olympic resumed in early October, with additional UK and European tour dates interspersed in between.
"In Axis there are more gentle things, more things for people to think about, if they want to...On our first LP we emphasized maybe the sustain notes and the really free scene, and then on this LP it's quieter as far as guitar. Maybe it might be dull to some people, but then we're emphasizing the words and the drums."As mentioned earlier, this album represents a more balanced amount of contributions from the three band members. Surprisingly, however, Jimi's more active role actually resulted in a "softening" of the band's dynamic. In contrast to the primal, lascivious, riff-based grinders found in Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love saw Jimi reaching deeper into his R&B soul guitar bag. It's possible that the chart failure of "The Burning Of The Midnight Lamp" and the unenthusiastic reception of AYE from his Harlem gang nudged Jimi towards a sound closer to his "roots" style, rather than the British acid-rock direction explored while in London. However, Jimi's passion for sonic exploration in the studio through panning, effects and feedback was undimmed, to say the least. The result was a fusion of Dylan-esque vocals over smoking American soul guitar, backed by a British progressive rock rhythm section, all heard through a filter of "avant-garde" electronic effects. Jimi was playing more "recognizably soulful" in his rhythm guitar parts, but the sonic freak flag was still waving high.
A satisfactory test pressing was completed November 7th (with a last minute mix tape misplacement causing at least one long night), and a week later the JHE embarked on another UK tour. The LP was released a few weeks later on December 1st, only a little over 7 months after Are You Experienced was released. Axis' Indian-themed LP cover was designed by David King and Roger Law. King had purchased the original poster from the Indica Gallery, and Roger Law incorporated the band members into its existing design. Jimi was impressed, but actually would have preferred an American Indian theme, as he had Cherokee ancestry, not Asian.
The album title itself is a bit more enigmatic, and Jimi has explained it's meaning this way:
"It's love... Like the axis of the Earth, if it changes, it changes the whole face of the Earth, like every few thousand years, new civilizations come every time it changes, or another age comes about. And it's like love that a human being has. If he falls in love deep enough it will change him, might change his whole life, so both of them can really go together. In other words, the axis changes the face of the Earth and it only takes about a quarter of a day. The same with love: it can turn your world upside-down, it's that powerful, that bold. People kill themselves for love, but when you have it for somebody or something, an idea maybe, it can beat anger any time and move the sea and the mountains. That's the way it feels, that's what I'm trying to say - Axis: Bold As Love - 1-2-3, rock-around-the-clock. The way I can explain myself thoroughly is through songs."
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Axis: Bold As Love
Recorded at Olympic Studios
Engineered by Eddie Kramer (assisted by George Chkiantz)
Produced by Chas Chandler
(Timings below based on the Experience Hendrix/Legacy release from 1997/2010)
|1||EXP||1:55|| "We've tried to get most of the freaky tracks right into another dimension so you get that sky effect, like they're coming down out of the heavens... I want to have stereo where it goes up and behind and underneath... Musically, 'freak out' is almost like playing wrong notes. It's playing the opposite notes to what you think the notes should be. If you hit it with the right amount of feedback it's like playing wrong notes seriously, dig?"
Opening with a very similar harmonic/hammer-on lick to the one used for "Stone Free" (a kind of "radio jingle"), this "interview" features the speed-manipulated voices of Mitch and Jimi, followed by "flying saucer" sound effects by Jimi and Noel. Initially dubbed "Symphony of Experience", this track was engineered and mixed by Terry Brown when Kramer was unavailable (although Brown's mix had to be redone when the tape was later lost). Noel reports that he and Jimi were kicking the guitar and bass around on the floor, and others recall a 6-foot horn used with the amps. Another key factor was probably Roger Mayer's pedal modifications, as he experimented with "tuning up" the circuitry in Jimi's Arbiter Fuzz Face pedals (especially the earlier Germainium transistor models).
0:00: Open string harmonic "jingle", Mitch & Jimi "expose" interview.
0:34: Panned saucer effects from whammy guitar, bass, feedback (the feedback-saucer is supposed to be flying around the listener, but personally I hear it more like the saucer is flying in a counter-clockwise circle in front of me, with me on the southern edge).
|2||Up From The Skies||2:55|| "It's a story of a guy who's been on Earth before but on a different turning of the axis. And now he's come back to find this scene happening."
This song is like a futuristic jazz shuffle. Mitch uses brushes here (Noel's suggestion), and Jimi plays jazz chords in a straight, 1920's swing rhythm. However he also uses wah-wah on every beat to give it a "cosmic vibe". In America, the "Midnight Lamp" single was delayed, so this single was actually the first time that most American listeners were exposed to the wah filtering effect. Later released as a single with "One Rainy Wish", it ultimately didn't have a big impact on the charts and was rarely performed live (noted only at a January 1968 gig in Stockholm).
0:00: Drum break intro into 1st verse (swing shuffle groove with wah-wah sweep on every guitar strum).
1:11: Bridge with accented wah-wah power chords.
1:41: Wah-wah guitar solo over a 2 chord bridge vamp.
2:04: 2nd verse (wah-wah continues).
2:23: Outro wah-wah guitar solo over verse groove (panning).
|3||Spanish Castle Magic||3:00|| This song is reportedly a tribute to the '50s Seattle jazz club "Spanish Castle". The groove here is closer to the ones found on Are You Experienced, in that it's riff-based and uses stop-time rhythms (ala "Fire", "I Don't Live Today", etc). However, it's different in that the accents also develop new "asymmetrical" rhythms during these sections. Noel plays a Hagstrom 8-string bass with the treble turned up full (an 8-string bass has 4 octave strings paired with the usual 4 strings). On the basic track Jimi also played a Hagstrom 8-string through an Octavia, but this channel is mostly buried in the mix by the main guitar part. The riffing piano parts were overdubbed by Jimi, inspired by Kramer's piano jazz noodling.
0:00: Accented fanfare, theme A pedal riff groove with piano accents.
0:13: 1st verse: Stop time rhythm (asymmetrical sequence).
0:32: Theme A chorus (a modulating variation of the intro).
0:52: 2nd verse: Stop time rhythm (asymmetrical).
1:12: Theme A chorus.
1:31: Guitar solo over Theme A pedal groove supported by piano.
2:00: Theme A chorus.
2:26: Outro solo over Theme A pedal groove (panning).
|4||Wait Until Tomorrow||3:00|| This tune features the soulful virtuosity of Jimi's rhythm-guitar playing, as well as plenty of tasty Mitchell drum breaks. Kramer reports that Jimi had a lot of trouble with the opening soul guitar lick for some reason. Jimi doesn't play a lead solo here, but the evolving rhythm guitar part is essentially one long chordal funk solo (or musical commentary). Another live rarity, this was only performed once in December 1967 on a BBC session (possibly as a request from the show producer).
0:00: Funk-soul guitar intro with bass accents.
0:11: 1st verse with funk guitar comping, solo cadence.
0:31: Chorus (with falsetto backup vocals), drum break, intro.
0:52: 2nd verse, cadence.
1:12: Chorus, drum break, intro.
1:37: 3rd verse, cadence.
1:57: Chorus, drum break (repeat and fade).
|5||Ain't No Telling||1:46|| This guitar boogie highlights Mitch's drumming. It also features the funk-jazz "Hendrix chord" (7th #9), and during the song the key modulates from C# to A. There's no "guitar solo section" here either, but the lead guitar part plays melodic lines throughout the entire song.
0:00: Scattered guitar accents, diving harmonics, and a drum break lead into the 1st verse in an uptempo boogie. The rhythm guitar part features accented jazz chords, as the second guitar lead line adds unison wails and reinforces the vocal melody.
0:13: Accented transition.
0:19: 2nd verse, accented transition.
0:31: Bridge A: rhythm and lead guitar parts complement each other in modulating riff figures and ostinato trills.
0:48: Bridge B: Syncopated accents transition, followed by variation on verse rhythm, lead guitar break.
1:03: 3rd verse, interrupted by accented transitions, ending in a reverbed fanfare.
|6||Little Wing||2:24|| "A lot of them are ideas I've had from the Village, some of them. Like, we just got around to recording Little Wing, based on a very, very simple American Indian style. I got the idea when we was in Monterey and I was looking at everything around. I figured that I'd take everything around and put it maybe in the form of a girl, and call it Little Wing, and then it will just fly away. Everybody was really flying, and there was really a nice mood, the police and everything was really great out there. And so I just took all these things and put them in one very small little matchbox, into a girl, and then do it."
"We put the guitar through the Leslie speaker of an organ and it sounds like jelly bread."
Probably Jimi's first compositional masterpiece, this tune has often been covered by jazz musicians, as well as the more progressive-minded rockers, like Jeff Beck. As Jimi attests above, the guitar and vocal were fed through a Leslie organ speaker, which has a rotating baffle system (causing a kind of wobbly Doppler effect). Jimi also overdubbed the glockenspiel melody.
0:00: Opening verse on solo guitar (Leslie speaker effect) and glockenspiel accents, drum break.
0:35: 1st verse, drum break.
1:07: 2nd verse, drum break with whammy dive bomb.
1:40: Guitar solo over verse structure.
2:11: Outro solo continues over verse structure (joined by vocal adlib).
|7||If 6 Was 9||5:32|| "I don't say nothin' bad about nobody. It just says, man, let them go on and screw up theirs, just as long as they don't mess with me. Quite naturally, you try to help people out here and there if they can appreciate it. This means that it really doesn't matter if anything is upside down as long as it doesn't bother you, and you can cope with it."
This psychedelic track was recorded on same day as "EXP" (something must have been "in the air" that day...). The guitar in this song has a tight delay, gives it a "noirish" blues flavor. Employing another stop time rhythm, the groove eventually changes to something more complex and somewhat reminiscent of "May This Be Live" (Noel reports that the polyrhythmic ideas in the ending were his idea). It's worth noting that Mitch really stretches out on this song (although he's all over this album, really). Later, Jimi added some improvised recorder overdubs (as a kind of "free folk Indian flute" element), and the echoed footsteps were contributed by Graham Nash and Gary Leeds. This tune was featured in the film "Easy Rider" (which later inspired the song "Ezy Rider").
0:00: Brittle guitar/bass accents answered by expanding hi-hat and whispers.
0:13: 1st verse: Bass continues accents, but guitar follows vocal line (a classic blues device).
0:41: Falling harmony transition, guitar break (blues lick).
0:55: 2nd verse: Guitar abandons vocal line and develops the previous accent figure as power chords.
1:22: Transition, silent pause.
1:32: Swampy vamp bridge.
1:48: Double-time walking bass with panned guitar textures/fills (footsteps sounds begin and continue from here on out to varying degrees).
2:32: Cadence vamp, echoed string noise guitar break.
2:51: 3rd verse, highlighting Mitch's drums (panned spoken word).
3:54: Cadence vamp variation, featuring panned guitar and Jimi's overdubbed recorder improv (and more footsteps).
|8||You Got Me Floatin'||2:45|| Here, Jimi delivers a heavy funk groove on guitar, while Mitch and Noel employ a more British rock rhythm. The highlight is probably Noel's 8-string Hagstrom bass solo, followed by Jimi's overdubbed backwards guitar. The backup vocalists include members of The Move (Graham Nash, Trevor Burton and Roy Wood).
0:00: Backwards/panned guitar noise.
0:06: 1st verse: Funk groove, a guitar "swish" signals bass entry.
0:28: Chorus: same rhythm groove but guitar/bass add a connective walking line.
0:43: 2nd verse.
0:58: Chorus (some subtle backwards textures surface).
1:12: Bass solo over pedal vamp with various backwards/tremolo guitar textures (all panning around).
1:41: Chorus and 3rd verse with more backwards guitar creeping in.
2:03: Bass drops out, backwards tape/drums break.
2:15: Aggressive funk guitar over chorus groove with added guitar/tape effects.
|9||Castles Made Of Sand||2:46|| In some ways a sequel to "The Wind Cries Mary", this song also features virtuosic, highly-embellished soul guitar, with the opening guitar lick acting as a developing melodic refrain. This track is also spiced up with a short backwards guitar solo.
0:00: Backwards guitar leads into sliding chordal guitar intro.
0:07: Solo guitar refrain (used in chorus).
0:19: 1st verse: pensive rhythm guitar comping with backwards guitar textures lurking in the background.
0:47: Chorus with guitar refrain.
0:58: 2nd verse.
1:25: Chorus with guitar refrain.
1:31: Backwards guitar solo over pedal chord, 3rd verse.
2:11: Chorus with guitar refrain (extended variation).
2:32: Reprise of opening sliding chords as reverb increases.
|10||She's So Fine||2:37|| Written and sung by Noel, this is a strong example of his British psychedelic rock tendencies, but also features skillfully-woven, double-tracked guitars from Jimi (Jimi also suggested the key modulation in the middle section). Some overdubs may have been added at Rye Muse Sound.
0:00: Drum intro, bass and guitar enter with accented verse groove figures.
0:11: Transitional guitar figures (2nd guitar enters).
0:14: 1st verse with fuzzed out psychedelic guitar.
0:35: Chorus (harmonized guitar lines).
0:46: 2nd verse, chorus.
1:14: Bridge ("doo-wop" backup vocals, Chuck Berry-style rhythm guitar).
1:30: Modulated interlude featuring tremolo-picked guitar figures.
1:46: 3rd verse.
2:03: Pedal vamp.
2:14: End jam on descending verse variation with panned guitar.
|11||One Rainy Wish||3:40|| Sometimes referred to as "Golden Rose", this song has a similar meditative, pastoral vibe to "May This Be Love", although the middle section has a much more passionate dynamic. To be more specific, the verse features a triplet meter, but a straight groove in the interlude. This song also used Noel's 8-string Hagstrom bass, and the Octavia was used on Jimi's guitar to similarly add sustain and a higher octave texture. Jimi's lead line actually adds "commentary" throughout the song, just as it did in "Ain't No Telling". This track was also put on the back side of the 1968 "Up From the Skies" single.
0:00: Drum rolls, rumbling bass and swirling guitar figures.
0:31: 1st verse (rhythm and lead guitars) in 6/8.
1:16: Interlude: Heavy 4/4 groove with panned fuzz guitar lead line and solo.
1:50: Transition (solo continues).
2:01: 2nd verse (lead guitar more present).
2:45: Verse harmony modulates to a 2-chord vamp, as lead and rhythm guitars dance around each other. Drums build during final vocal adlibs.
|12||Little Miss Lover||2:20|| This heavy, propulsive funk workout is probably the funkiest the JHE ever got (in fact Jimi demonstrated the drum part he wanted to Mitch for this tune). This kind of monster groove would later be further explored in the Band of Gypsies and the Cry of Love bands. This song was also the first to feature Jimi's muffled/clipped wah-wah rhythm technique (later a major element to the opening of Voodoo Child (Slight Return)). Again, Noel plays the 8-string Hagstrom bass, and the guitar solo employs the Octavia pedal (Jimi's vocal was also filtered through some flanging). The only record of this tune ever being performed live was in 1969, Toronto, after his drug bust arrest, and during a BBC session.
0:00: Fat, funky drum groove intro.
0:11: 1st verse with muffled wah rhythm guitar.
0:30: Transition, back to verse groove.
0:40: 2nd verse, transition.
1:05: Bridge (descending figure).
1:19: Guitar solo (Octavia) over pedal vamp.
1:37: 3rd verse with groove variation (added backup chants, lead guitar line).
|13||Bold As Love||4:09|| "Some feelings make you think of different colors...Jealousy is purple; I'm purple with rage or purple with anger, and green is envy. Like you explain your different emotions in color towards this girl who has all the colors in the world. In other words you don't think you have to part with these emotions but you're willing to try."
"...we don't want to use tapes of jet airplanes. We want the music itself warped."
"Bold As Love" opens with a passionate declaration of "Anger", but by the end everything is essentially melting together into one great orgy of sound. The song is not only built on an inspired chordal guitar accompaniment, but also stands out for Jimi's passionate, soulful vocal delivery, his epic guitar solos and the display of cascading sonic wizardry in the outro section. In fact, "Bold As Love" features the first example of stereo phasing on record, inspired by earlier work pioneered by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (Doctor Who) and George Martin with Beatles (Jimi has also cited "The Big Hurt" by Toni Fisher and the Small Faces' "Itchykoo Park" as sources of inspiration, production-wise). The flanging effect on Mitch's drums was a complicated procedure, but Mitch absolutely insisted on it (despite Chas' impatience). Jimi later replaced some of Noel's bass parts (especially for the outro section) and overdubbed a harpsichord part over the rhythm guitar in that section. Although the seams were probably starting to show behind the scenes, the band ends this second album triumphantly.
0:00: 1st verse begins with vocal on the opening accent, leading to a groove with bass and drums.
0:29: Chorus with added tremolo guitar textures ("mandolin-style"), chordal guitar break.
0:55: 2nd verse.
1:23: Chorus, break.
1:46: Guitar solo over verse harmony (tremolo rhythm guitar), modulating to minor modes.
2:35: Accented fanfare figures, flanged drum break.
2:54: Outro guitar solo with Jimi on harpsichord and bass. The entire mix is gradually flanged and processed (into infinity).