Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Jimi Hendrix - 1967 - Axis - Bold As Love

Jimi Hendrix 
Axis: Bold As Love

01. EXP
02. Up From The Skies
03. Spanish Castle Magic
04. Wait Until Tomorrow
05. Ain't No Telling
06. Little Wing
07. If Six Was Nine
08. You've Got Me Floating
09. Castles Made Of Sand
10. She's So Fine
11. One Rainy Wish
12. Little Miss Lover
13. Bold As Love

Noel Redding: Bass
Mitch Mitchel: Drums
Jimi Hendrix: Guitar, Vocals

The original UK Track issue [Dec 1967] is a gatefold. Cover image is oriented 90-degrees right to spine and is laminated, with an unlaminated inside [flipback] spread of a Silverstein photo of the trio. It has an orange-printed 4-page insert with red text lyrics. 

There is no insert in the US issue [1968], which has the lyrics on the inside spread. Polydor issues in Europe do not have printed lyrics and the French has a different sleeve. The mono issues were available in UK, US, Australia and New Zealand [US issues on cover have "mono" in l/c on 1st issue & "mono" or "stereo" in serif caps on 2nd+ issues] - stereo available worldwide. All issues have a 2nd A-Side mix, after the original A-side Master was lost. The mono has distinct differences in the [separate] mix to the stereo, most noticeable in the vocals. EXP is lot shorter in mono mix than in stereo.

Axis: Bold as Love is the second album by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, released on December 1st, 1967 in the United Kingdom, and January 15th, 1968, in the United States.

The album had a much less hard rock feel than Are You Experienced, and featured much more mellow compositions, as well as blues-phenomenon "Little Wing" and a song without Hendrix on vocals; "She's So Fine". Much of the focus during recording was on studio techniques, including the first recorded phasing effect on the title track, and various other effects and techniques.

These techniques and effects, along with the amount of guitar and backing vocal overdubbing, meant that many of the songs could not be performed live. Only "Little Wing" and "Spanish Castle Magic" ever made it into any sort of regular setlist. Despite this, a number of songs from the album have been covered live (as well as recorded in the studio), namely "One Rainy Wish" by Brian May, "Wait Until Tomorrow" by John Mayer, and "Little Miss Lover" and "Castles Made of Sand" by Red Hot Chili Peppers. "Bold as Love" has since been covered by artists such as Joan Osborne, The Pretenders, Phish, and previously mentioned John Mayer.

The Experience released only one single from Bold as Love: "Up From the Skies", backed with "One Rainy Wish", saw release - in North America only - on March 16th, 1968. "Little Wing" was released posthumously in 1998.

Recording for Axis began at Olympic Sound Studios on May 4th, 1967, when the first songs to be completed were "If 6 Was 9" and "She's So Fine". The next day saw the inclusion of "EXP", which was then followed by five months worth of gigs, including The Experience's performance at the Monterey International Pop Festival.

The band returned to London and recorded "Little Miss Lover" on October 1st, followed by "You Got Me Floatin'" two days later. After a few weeks, the band were under pressure from management and record labels (namely Track Records) to complete and release the album before the end of the year, and so "Little Wing" was finished on October 25th, "Wait Until Tomorrow" and "Ain't No Telling" were recorded on the 26th, "Spanish Castle Magic" saw completion on the 27th, "Castles Made of Sand" was finalised on the 28th, and the album was finished on October 29th with the recording of the final three songs: "Up From the Skies", "One Rainy Wish" and "Bold as Love".

Near the end of recording and mixing, it was discovered that Hendrix had left the LP's master tapes of side one in the backseat of a London taxi. This meant that, with the release deadline looming, producer Chandler and engineer Kramer were forced to remix much of the tracks again. It was then found that they could not match the lost mix for "If 6 Was 9", but they were in luck as bassist Noel Redding was found to have his own copy. Said copy was extremely wrinkled, and had to actually be ironed out in order for it to be fit for use. Subsequent to release, Hendrix claimed that the first mixes were much better, and given more time, the album could have sounded a lot higher quality than it eventually did.

Axis: Bold As Love sounds as fresh to me today as it did when I first heard it as a teenager some 40 years ago.  I can only guess how it might have sounded when it first landed in 1967.  Because it falls between the powerhouse debut Are You Experienced and the double LP tour de force Electric Ladyland in Hendrix' catalog, Axis: Bold As Love seems to get lost in the shuffle.  But it is a diverse album that showcases Hendrix as both a rocker and balladeer.  Though it may be a notch below his best work, I rank it as my personal favourite Jimi Hendrix album.  (Hey, I'm an underdog kind of a guy.)   

The album is credited to The Jimi Hendrix Experience, carrying the same racially integrated power trio line-up that was on the debut, with the black American Hendrix on guitar, and the white, British rhythm section of Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums.     

The album opens with a short, quirky skit on the existence of UFOs, entitled "EXP" (short for "Experience," I'm guessing).  While it is slightly amusing to hear Jimi and drummer Mitch Mitchell in this mock interview, which echoes the debut album's "Third Stone From the Sun" in subject matter and use of slowed-down vocals, it doesn't hold up to repeated listening, even if you are a fan of Jimi's feedback playing.   

After that, the first song is a bit of a surprise.  Instead of a guitar-driven powerhouse, "Up From the Skies" is instead a laid-back tune with Mitchell using brushes on his drums to provide a distinct jazz flavour.  (Hendrix would also employ this type of album beginning, a heavy reverb intro followed by a slow tune, on Electric Ladyland.)  On this number, Hendrix adopts a space traveler persona, innocuously questioning why we live in cages of our own making and why we don't take better care of our world.   

From there the album does a nice job of alternating the revved up rockers with the slower-paced tracks.  "Spanish Castle Magic," "Ain't No Telling," "You Got Me Floatin'," and the funky "Little Miss Lover" all deliver the goods from this guitar god, as Hendrix utilizes wah-wah pedals and studio technology to create tasty solos on each number.  Noel Redding handles the vocals on the self-penned "She's So Fine," offering proof that the leader treated The Jimi Hendrix Experience as a band.   

"If 6 Was 9," the title a double-entendre, is actually Jimi's political diatribe, but this five and a half minute psychedelic piece goes on a tad too long for my taste, especially the wild flute solo at the end.  However, as a period piece it's not bad, with hippies and conservatives both vying for a place in Jimi's world.   It culminates in what sounds like Jimi chewing gum as he speaks directly into the microphone: "I’m the one that’s gonna die when it’s time for me to die/So let me live my life the way I want to."     

The strongest songs on the album are the more mellow ones.  The delicate "Little Wing" is possibly the greatest song Hendrix ever wrote.  It has a child-like innocence about it, from the maternal caretaker whose thoughts turn to butterflies and fairy tales to the sparse use of the glockenspiel.  Hendrix' beautiful guitar solo was played through an organ speaker, giving "Little Wing" its ethereal tone. 

Another strong song is the world-wise "Castles Made of Sand."  Hendrix bookends the moving song with a Far East riff, echoing the philosophy that all things are in a constant state of flux.     

"Wait Until Tomorrow," with its taboo subject of interracial dating, finds Hendrix trading riffs with bassist Redding as he tries to coax sweet Dolly Mae to climb out her window and run away with him.  But her father lies in wait, shotgun in hand, apparently having familiarized himself with "Hey Joe."    

The closing title track is a metaphor for diversity, using the colours of the rainbow to portray the various emotions and characteristics found within us all.  That belief is symbolized on the album cover, which features a painting of the group, a three-headed afro-wearing Indian shaman.  

Jimi Hendrix's second album followed up his groundbreaking debut effort with a solid collection of great tunes and great interactive playing between himself, Noel Redding, Mitch Mitchell, and the recording studio itself. Wisely retaining manager Chas Chandler to produce the album and Eddie Kramer as engineer, Hendrix stretched further musically than the first album, but even more so as a songwriter. He was still quite capable of coming up with spacy rockers like "You Got Me Floating," "Up from the Skies," and "Little Miss Lover," radio-ready to follow on the commercial heels of "Foxey Lady" and "Purple Haze." But the beautiful, wistful ballads "Little Wing," "Castles Made of Sand," "One Rainy Wish," and the title track set closer show remarkable growth and depth as a tunesmith, harnessing Curtis Mayfield soul guitar to Dylanesque lyrical imagery and Fuzz Face hyperactivity to produce yet another side to his grand psychedelic musical vision. These are tempered with Jimi's most avant-garde tracks yet, "EXP" and the proto-fusion jazz blowout of "If 6 Was 9."

1 comment:

  1. Mono + Stereo + CD