Release date: May 12, 1967
Backstory: Anyone who says that Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced is not one of the most stunning rock albums of the last half a century needs a reality check. An album that evokes a range of emotions from the first track to the final song, Are You Experienced is a tour de-force that has the confidence of a seasoned artist’s sophomoric or junior album, not the debut of a then-new artist.
After struggling to make it as a R&B guitarist, Hendrix was referred to Chas Chandler of the Animals, who was leaving the group to manage and produce artists. Chandler and his former Animals manager Michael Jeffery signed Hendrix to a management and production deal. Chandler took Hendrix to London to look for members to accompany him in a band. After finding guitarist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, the Jimi Hendrix Experience was born. The group signed with Track, a new label created by Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp (managers of the Who) after being rejected by Decca Records, and began recording Are You Experienced from October 1966 to April 1967.
The UK version of the album was released in May of 1967 and garnered instant commercial success and critical acclaim, spending more than eight months on the charts, and peaking at No. 2. After the album was released in August of 1967 in the U.S. by Reprise Records, it reached No. 5 on the Billboard Charts and remained on the charts for more than two years.
From Hendrix’s mesmerizing guitar riffs to the psychedelic, futuristic drama of the entire album, Are You Experienced is not only a big part of the hippie and Vietnam War era soundtrack, but it is also chock full of classics which brilliantly interweaves blues, jazz, hard and acid rock, and R&B. The somber, yet hypnotic Hey Joe, the sensitive The Wind Cries Mary, the funky, quick and electrifying Purple Haze and Fire, and the thrilling, spellbinding Foxey Lady were all mega-hits for Hendrix and over the last 49 years have secured their places in countless movies and commercials.
In 2005, Rolling Stone ranked Are You Experienced 15th on its list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. That same year, the album was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Recording Registry, which selects “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” recordings.
Are You Experienced checks all of those boxes and deserves all of the accolades and praise it has received over the last several decades. It is a captivating hell of a ride.
On the charts: On March 19, 1968, Are You Experienced was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) with 500,000 albums sold. By June 18, 2014, the album was certified five-times platinum with 5 million albums sold. Are You Experienced reached No. 2. in the U.S. and No. 5 on the Billboard 200 charts and remained on the charts for over 106 weeks, 27 of those weeks in the Top 40. In the UK, Are You Experienced spent 33 weeks on the charts, peaking at No. 2.
Credits: Jimi Hendrix (composer, lead vocalist, guitars), Noel Redding (bass, background vocals), Mitch Mitchell (drums, background vocals), Chas Chandler (producer), Eddie Kramer (engineer), David Siddle (engineer), Mike Ross (engineer), Billy Roberts (composer)
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