When the world had not yet recovered from the tremendous impact of Are You Experienced?, released barely 7 months before, the Jimi Hendrix Experience was back with his 2nd masterpiece from 1967. It was December 1, 1967, and the world of rock and thus the electric guitar, returned to bow at the feet of its new Master and Lord.
Of course Hendrix didn’t rest on his laurels, before his debut Are You Experienced? was released, in May he got back to the studio with his faithful Mitch Mitchell on drums, Noel Redding on bass, and the usual team behind the mixing table, Chas Chandler was back as producer, and the essential Eddie Kramer as sound engineer. The funny thing was the first song they recorded was a song Redding had written about hippies, She’s So Fine. It was not that wonderful but everything the left-handed guitarist touched in those days became something very special. And the Seattle native had things really special waiting to pop out, like a rabbit from his top hat.
It may be that Axis: Bold as Love is the lesser known of the essential trilogy with Experience, but don’t forget that this album was the one in which Hendrix matured remarkably as a composer, delivering a trio of the most incredible ballads of his career, Little Wing, Castles Made of Sand, and Bold as Love, true ambrosia to the ears.
They are all full of beautiful, surrealistic images, in the title song there was a correlation between colours and moods that led to what is probably my favourite studio solo in his career. With the innovative use of the ‘flanger’ and the Fuzz Face set at 11, here are almost 2 minutes and a half of guitar glory, where his Strat is able to sound like an entire orchestra, recreating the Phil Spector’s ‘wall of sound’ in the magical hands of a special person. Castles Made of Sand had another one of these guitar intros which show he was a great guitarist beyond his solos, able to create a song from the 6 strings of his guitar, it is a sad song yet beautiful and ends with a brief story of his Indian lineage, where a young warrior is murdered the night before his first battle. And the fact is that dreams, like castles, are built of sand and dissolve in the sea...
But the crowning work on the album, and possibly of Hendrix’s career, is Little Wing, a perfect song from top to bottom, from the most exciting intro in history to the final solo where, with just a few notes, he is able to rival in subtilty and feeling B.B.King himself (to get this sound, Kramer plugged the guitar into a Leslie amp, normally used for organs). Here too, he again uses inspiration from his Indian roots, Little Wing being the name he gave the spirit that, supposedly, served as a guardian angel (and he would pay homage to the same guardian angel in Angel).
Of course Axis went far beyond those three monuments, there was also the hard rock Spanish Castle Magic (one of the few songs from the album he played regularly on stage), the experimental If 6 Was 9, the direct Wait Until Tomorrow, and the depth of One Rainy Wish. Even the weakest songs were imbued with this spirit of the times that made nothing of what this man played normal, taking on an aura of the extraordinary. It was in December of 1967, in less than a year, Jimi Hendrix had reached immortality, giving rock its definitive sound. Monterrey had crowned him at last in his homeland, the U.S.A, and now the world of rock was definitely at his feet.