Axis: Bold As Love

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

MCA, 1967

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The older I get, the more I am surprised at how much my musical tastes change. There are hundreds of albums I've got languishing in the Pierce Archives which I loved when I was younger, only to discover that I can barely stand them now.

Today, I'd like to tell a reverse story - an album I didn't much care for years ago, but I now have much more respect for. That album is Axis: Bold As Love, the second release from The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Anyone who picked this album up expecting to hear more of the kind of pop rock that Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell cranked out on Are You Experienced were going to be in for a big shock. While a few songs on this album were catchy enough for the airwaves, the bulk of Axis: Bold As Love was a combination of psychedelic studio flash and waiting-to-explode funk.

To be honest, I hated this album for a long time - I maybe listened to it once every couple of years, and that was out of sheer curiosity to try and discover why I bought the damn thing in the first place. But on this last listen, the message that Hendrix was trying to make known was clear as crystal: This album really was the birth cry of Hendrix the artist, not just Hendrix the guitar god who liked to light his Stratocaster on fire.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The sonic orgasm of "EXP" to open the album is almost the equivalent of Hendrix throwing aside everything he had accomplished on his previous album and starting with a clean slate. From then on, everything is fair game: light jazz ("Up From The Skies"), all-out rock ("Spanish Castle Magic"), ballsy funk ("You Got Me Floating") - even an introspective ballad ("Little Wing").

For most artists, jumping from style to style - all on one album, no less - would be career suicide. But to Hendrix's credit, he makes it work, and it works rather well. There are times that Redding is freed to actually put his bass through a workout - and he does so remarkably well. (I'm guessing that's Redding singing on "She's So Fine" - my cassette has no liner notes. It's also worth noting that this album, along with many of Hendrix's earlier works, has been reissued on MCA.)

Sometimes, it's hard to tell the difference between Hendrix the romantic dreamer ("If Six Was Nine") and Hendrix the funky philosopher ("Bold As Love," "Little Miss Lover"). But if Axis: Bold As Love says anything about Hendrix the musician, it was that he wanted to be true to his own musical roots while still playing music that people would find as popular as his early hits. In effect, he wanted to be able to straddle both sides of the musical fence - paying tribute to the music that made him famous while carving a new niche in black music.

Axis: Bold As Love is not an easy listen at first - when I bought this tape about ten years ago, I was taken aback by its genre shifting and its lack of radio-friendly popness. However, upon repeated listens, this album proves itself to be a worthy, if a slight shade weaker, companion to Are You Experienced, and is, in truth, a logical follow-up. (It also helps to explain Hendrix's next project, Electric Ladyland - another album I didn't like on first listen, and need to dust off to see if I experience a similar rediscovery.)

If you're willing to let Hendrix take you on a wild musical journey that will in some way change your perception of rock music - both Hendrix's and in general - then Axis: Bold As Love is one you should pick up without delay. If you're not ready to take that plunge, that's too bad - you're missing something good.

Rating: B+

User Rating: A



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of MCA, and is used for informational purposes only.