That is not the case with Axis: Bold As Love. While not as strong as Are You Experienced (which had some padding in the form of hit singles) it still shows a progression in sound and vision. Much of the credit should go to Eddie Kramer, who worked very closely with Jimi to translate the sounds in his head to tape.
Jimi hated convention, particularly those imposed on him by pop management, and so determined to do things his way. The first track on the album is a giant middle finger to anyone not ready to be experienced. “EXP” begins as a mock radio talk show about extraterrestrials and becomes an excuse to put a minute’s worth of the most distorted feedback ever on a mainstream LP. It really is painful, making the jazzy “Up From The Skies” that much more of a relief. “Spanish Castle Magic” is a seeming paean to a mysterious place up to par with anything from the first album. “Wait Until Tomorrow” is a silly little song with a joke ending, and a riff that likely inspired “Free Ride” by the Edgar Winter Group. At just under two minutes, “Ain’t No Telling” sounds like it took about that long to write, but that can’t be said of “Little Wing”, one of his best-loved songs. It ends much too quickly, which is why nearly every cover of it is twice as long. “If 6 Was 9” occupies the “I Don’t Live Today” spot at the end of side one, a personal statement wrapped up in tightly executed free-form leaps.
“You Got Me Floatin’” comes from the same page as “Ain’t No Telling”, complete with backing vocals, beginning with a cool effect skittering across the stereo spectrum. That panning effect also colors “Castles Made Of Sand”, so complicated on the surface, but excellent in simplicity. Noel gets thrown a bone for “She’s So Fine”, suggesting that maybe Jimi was short on material; he still gives an excellent performance here. “One Rainy Wish” continues the search for the underwater sound, while “Little Miss Lover” is an early clue to his funk direction. “Bold As Love” provides something of a title track as finale, and a good one, whatever the hell it’s about.
The moderate rating below notwithstanding, Axis: Bold As Love is a worthy volume in the Hendrix story. It’s not the first one we reach for, but he was just getting started. As for the cover art, he wasn’t thrilled with it either, but it is what it is. (The 1993 reissue used a completely different idea, which for consistency’s sake didn’t carry over to later editions, thankfully.)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience Axis: Bold As Love (1968)—3½