Fed up with
nobody in his home town recognising his talents as a guitarist, James Marshall Hendrix took the advice
of Animals bass player Chas Chandler and headed off to London where they found him a band and
put him in a recording studio. That year of 1967 will go down in history for
many things, among them for the Cultural Revolution that the young, black
musician sparked off among Britain's musical elite and the influence it all had
in a society not overly accustomed to such excesses of creativity and lifestyle,
and this from a man that was just out looking to find his own freedom… in every
sense of the word.
His first record, whose title was a typical hippy catchphrase, is a psychedelic landmark that we invite all Guitars Exchange readers to enjoy, and a turning point for the instrument that became lord and master of the past century: the electric guitar. The rock gods of the six strings such as Eric Clapton though that they had seen and done it all and were taking it easy up on Mount Olympus when Hendrix descended from above to unleash havoc on the British rock scene. They say that The Who's Pete Townshend assured that he would never again play the guitar after having Hendrix as a support act. His famous windmill was child's play compared with this guy who, literally, set his guitars on fire.
The young Hendrix was technically perfect and a master of the few tricks that technology allowed back then. The wah-wah and of course the incredible use of feedback set his songs apart from the rest, together with the usual psychedelic effect of inverse drum playing and other such gems. Mitch Mitchell, a percussionist with a jazz background and Noel Redding the bassist, kept up with him both in the wild carries-on of Third Stone From the Sun and the resounding Foxy Lady, the song's first track that was just a taster of what was to come on this legendary LP.
For the purist collectors among you in this digital era, it must be said that several tracks, which were released as singles, were not on the original album such as Purple Haze, Hey Joe and The Wind Cries Mary. This was the case up until 1997, when Eddie Kramer, the sound engineer that worked with Hendrix on the original album, included them in the re-mastered CD.
This is one of the few 'crimes' that have been committed against Hendrix's memory that simply enhance his greatness. Many producers literally scraped the barrel to find 'uncut' Hendrix material to take advantage of, but with these three tracks the album offers a more complete vision of the artist at his best and most prolific that can be appreciated, before the world came tumbling down on top of him.
His was a vision of what rock would be like from that moment on in an empire ruled by the almighty six strings. A form of guitar playing that couldn't care less if the solo was spot on, crystal clean or overdriven. You could even pick it out with your teeth if you wanted to, as long as what you played was what you felt. Without all that inner torment, choked in a pool of diluted heroin, in all probability it wouldn't have been so 'authentic'. But we would of course have forgiven him anyway, given the chance to continue hearing him play…