The Jimi Hendrix Experience was under contract to release two albums in the year of 1967. The early part of the year saw the release of Are You Experienced, a landmark album that broke ground in numerous ways. So much so that Axis: Bold As Love, the follow-up LP released in December, is often overlooked. This is sad, as the album shows Jimi employing more of a songwriter-based approach. There is plenty of great lead guitar, but it also highlights Hendrix’s all-around musical talent more than his debut in many ways.
The first track “EXP” is a psychedelic tune with references to UFOs. It starts off with an interview with “Paul Caruso” that is in fact Hendrix voice-acting. Using his guitar to emulate flying saucers and other space effects, it was reported that Hendrix literally melted speakers on this 1:55 track. One might think from the massive introduction that we are being set up for an album full of feedback and crafted distortion that will leave the predecessor in the dust. However, the second track, “Up From The Skies,” is set to a nice, mellow groove that shows Hendrix as a phenomenal rhythm guitarist. Drummer Mitch Mitchell kicks it off, and sets the tone for great things to come.
With track number three, “Spanish Castle Magic”, Hendrix once again cranks up the volume and brings out one of his best tunes. This was a constant showcase in his live shows right up to the end of his life. But “Wait Until Tomorrow” brings the volume down a notch again, and puts us into a mellower mood. The lead breaks are classic Hendrix, using single notes mixed with chords to fill the gaps as only Hendrix can.
“Ain’t No Telling” leads us into one of Hendrix’ most copied tunes—and with good reason!–only to be followed by “Little Wing,” which has been done and redone by countless artists over the years. The song is classic Hendrix: great lyrics and chord work in the service of all-around great guitar playing.
Recorded during the Summer of Love, “If 6 was 9” was a track the psychedelic/ hippie movement could completely relate to. Lyrically the track reflects on the state of the nation during this time.
“You Got Me Floatin'” is a fun track that takes the listener to the other end of the spectrum from “If 6 was 9.” It is a perfect segue into “Castles Made Of Sand” which once again focuses on Hendrix’s great rhythm playing. “She’s So Fine” was a tune written by the great Experience Bassist Noel Redding, and is said to have been the very first track eve
r recorded for the album.
“One Rainy Wish” and “Little Miss Lover” build the album’s finale up to the finale, “Bold As Love.” With this track Hendrix and the Experience used the studio to all its effect and blast off into the stratosphere, taking the listener with them. It is a classic ending to a classic album.
Many great stories go along with the recording of Axis, but the best might be that the scheduled release date was almost delayed due to Hendrix leaving the master tape of side one in the backseat of a London taxi. Deadlines had to be met, and producer Chas Chandler and sound engineer Eddie Kramer had to remix the entire side in one night. Hendrix often said he wasn’t completely satisfied with the remixed versions because they had been done in such a rushed fashion. He also voiced his opinion over disliking the album art.
The album was recorded and all the contracts were fulfilled, but in the U.S. it was held back for a 1968 release, as executives didn’t want to interfere with the Experience’s debut sales, which were still going strong at the time. But the phenomenal Electric Ladyland was released in 1968, too, and the fact that Axis: Bold as Love is sandwiched between an outstanding debut and the band’s magnum opus has a lot to do with why it gets overlooked. Still, it’s one of the all-time great albums, showing Hendrix maturing in a very short amount of time as a songwriter, arranger, and studio craftsman. It may not be the most flamboyant of his releases, but it shows the depth of the man perhaps better than the other. It’s a shining example of all things Hendrix.