52 Albums That Changed My Life (and Other Exaggerations), Chapter 26: Axis: Bold as Love
I’m not a big fan of “psychedelic” music or at least the music that usually falls into that category. For the most part, it comes down to two different musical acts. The first is Pink Floyd but even then, I’m more a fan of the band after Syd Barrett leaves so maybe that says something. The second act is The Jimi Hendrix Experience and that occurred because of my Dad.
Growing up, my parents had a pretty good vinyl collection but when CDs rolled around, they barely touched it. Their turntable eventually was eliminated from the upstairs stereo system and made its way into my room. I used my CD player more than anything but weirdly it was an odd but cool CD that turned me on to Jimi Hendrix and the album Axis: Bold as Love.
Christmas of 1993, I open my gifts and one of a couple of the CDs I got was Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix. As far as tribute/cover albums go, this one had a pretty solid line up. Eric Clapton, The Cure, Seal with Jeff Beck, Body Count. At the time I really dug the album but there was something about me playing the covers that didn’t sit right with my Dad.
I don’t remember the entire circumstances but I do remember my Dad coming in with his vinyl copy of Axis: Bold as Love and telling me “Here give this a listen… wait…” my Dad disappeared for a minute and returned with a set of old school 70’s headphones. He dropped the record on the player, plugged in the headphones and dropped the needle with the instructions:
“Make sure you listen to it all of the way. Flip it over when the first side is done and listen to that too.”
At first, I thought it was a joke. The album opens with a weird thing about aliens and garbled guitar noises but quickly moves into the slanky shuffle feel of “Up From the Skies” and then just slams into you with “Spanish Castle Magic.” I remember at the time that there were two things that really impressed me about the album.
The first was the sound production. My Dad was right, listening to on headphones made it a different experience. Between the vinyl cracks and pops and just the stereo effects that were employed, you were forced to pay attention to the album. I just laid back in my bed looking at the record sleeve art and listening to the music, allowing the sound to be absorbed into my ears as it drifted through the stereo channels.
The second thing I loved was how effortlessly the Jimi Hendrix Experience could slide through different genres of music. There was a little bit of blues, a little bit of rock, a little bit of the Beatles here, a dash of psychedelia there. The tunes, if you put them by any other artist would have sounded like a jumbled mess. By the Jimi Hendrix Experience, they were a cohesive album. I know this is the feelings of a lot of the Hendrix faithful but maybe it just hit me at the right age and the right way.
The thing that really strikes a cord with me and this album is how my Dad had to share it. I’ve written before how my family and it’s various members are a very important part of my musical DNA but as an adult, I can really see that this was one of those albums that my Dad shared with me almost exactly the way he would have listened to the album when he was around my age. A set of headphones, laying back on the bed and letting the album consume him.
If I were forced at gunpoint to pick a favorite track, it’d be either “Little Wing” or “Spanish Castle Magic” They have just the right amount of oomph to my ears. That being said, I would prefer to listen to the entire album as one piece or at least one side of the album all the way through. Vinyl would also be preferred but if you have to use a CD or a streaming service, try and listen to it all the way through. Maybe take a break right after “If 6 was 9” and stretch and then hit play again so you get that slight feeling of flipping the record.
Next week, we’ll stay with guitar gods and go with a little live Eric Clapton. Stay tuned.