Jimi Hendrix is special. There’s no way around that.
I selected this album for a purpose other than that Jimi Hendrix is awesome, though, although it certainly helps. The real reason that today’s album is Jimi’s 1967 landmark of Psychedelic Rock , Are You Experienced is so that I can make a point. So far in my Musical Training Plan selections there have only been albums which can be considered pieces of entertainment, most of which had very little deep artistic value of note. Are You Experienced is not that kind of album. No, this album is special and is extremely important in the canon of the Musical Training Plan because, as Wesley Snipes as Sidney Deane in White Men Can’t Jump would tell you, it isn’t enough to just listen to Jimi. You need to HEAR Jimi.
What the hell am I talking about? Well, every album that I have recommended so far has been written with the primary intent of entertaining you. Jimi doesn’t care what you think. In order to truly enjoy any genuine piece of art, you need to put something in in order to get anything back. Jimi wasn’t just a musician, he was a true artist. His guitar was his paintbrush, vinyl records were his canvas. For the fact that we get the absolute privelige of being able enjoy what Jimi made, we should be very, very thankful. Jimi Hendrix was not Katy Perry, though. Some of his music was weird, it might not seem the most appealing to the ear, and some of the lyrics might confuse you, but trust me on this one. Are You Experienced is not an album that you passively listen to, it is a subject worth paying attention to and demands that you actively engage with it in order to find out what it’s all about. And part of the beauty of it is that it will mean something different to everybody. Now THAT is what art is all about.
From the opening moments of the opening track, “Purple Haze”, you know that you’re in for a deliciously original experience. Jimi rocks out, gets weird, displays heavy influence from science fiction, is psychedelic, gets serious and emotional, is sexy in a very strange way, and just all around soaks this album in his unique persona. While Are You Experienced is generally not considered the best Hendrix project, it is definitely raw Jimi, untested, fresh and without inhibition, and, ironically, unexperienced. There is a sense that nothing is holding Jimi back while he tries what he wants to try and has fun being creative with his first real work of art. It isn’t perfect, it isn’t his best, it totally accessible, but it is totally awesome all the same. In opinion, this album shines the brightest in the tracks “Purple Haze”, “Hey Joe”, “The Win Cries Mary”, “Fire”, and “Foxey Lady” so if you aren’t quite up for the full hour long 17 track psychedelic experience, just go with those. But I’m still of the opinion that regardless of whether or not you enjoy the whole album, it’s a valuable listen.
Alright we’re at that point where I choose one specific aspect of the album to highlight as the biggest contributor to the album’s greatness. This one is easy: Jimi was revolutionary in the realm of production and he played guitar like nobody ever had before. I said earlier that Jimi was a true artist and the guitar was his paintbrush and I stand by that metaphor. To me what makes this album so great is the music surrounding Jimi’s vocals, especially the guitar. The entire sonic soundscape comes together so well in order to not just give you an easy and fun listen, but creates an experience for you to engage with and really hear.
Ultimately, I know that this is the least accessible album I’ve recommended to date, but it is also far more important and artistically great than most of the other albums I’ve chosen so far as well. Even if it is just to make the point that nobody should expect the art to entertain you, rather, we should be grateful for what we have and let the art give to us what it will, it’s worth the selection. You might not love Jimi Hendrix, but hey, not everybody can hear Jimi.
Thanks for reading.
Rest in Power Jimi Hendrix.