Sunday, November 29, 2009
The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Axis: Bold as Love
Back in the day, there used to be albums known for the uniqueness of how the sound traveled from ear to ear, right to left, rather than just what the tune was. One of these such "headphone albums" was Axis. And it was friggin' awesome!
My first memory of this album is my dad playing it for me on vinyl on his record player. With his big-ass headphones. Koss Pro 4 A studio headphones which I later took with me to college and have in my basement to this day. Great set of headphones:
We would sit in the den of our townhouse on Jefferson court in Bensalem (funny that I now live with my wife in a townhouse on a different Jefferson court), which had a pretty psychedelic-ish carpet and paint scheme. And my would introduce me to a world of music I would come to know and love. You will definitely hear more about these listening sessions in future posts, as it had such an influence on what I listened to from that time on. Axis is no exception.
One of the things that made Axis such a great headphone album was that it was recorded in Mono. That had been a standard recording method in earlier times but when stereo came along, most rock recordings ditched the mono. There were a handful of other albums recorded in this method, and you can tell the difference when you hear it. Picture like your head is the single microphone in the room and the musician is standing in front of you. You hear him in both ears. If he moves himself all the way to one side of the room, you hear him mostly out of only the one side they moved to. Then if he moves to the other side, same thing. It can be used to create a really neat effect, one that Hendrix took great advantage of from the get-go.
The first tune, which isn't really a tune, is called "EXP". It's a radio station intro/interview with Jimi in character as "Paul Caruso" and immediately launches into a guitar screech/wail that travels from ear to ear, back and forth, a number of times in a really short period. It's totally cool. If you listen to this album, you MUST listen to it in headphones. Also, I know that there are remaster versions out there and I don't know if those still keep the mono or moved to a stereo recording so be aware to look for the mono to get the full effect.
I think the other thing that drew me to this album as a young child was that the songs were short, and had stories that were easily understandable. The longest track on the album is only 5:30 and all the others are 3-4 minutes. And if you look at the lyrics to some of the tunes you can see what I mean. "Wait until tomorrow" is a cute yet heartbreaking story of a man waiting outside his true love's window but unfortunately gets shot by her father while he is waiting for her. My favorite song on the album as a child, "Castles made of sand" is a life lesson wrapped in a little package. It talks of a few different little stories where unfortunately things don't turn out the way you would hope for the characters Jimi sings about. And lastly, I liked that the title track, Axis: bold as love, listed all the colors of the rainbow (hey I was a little kid, what do you want??!!)
I think that the headphone album is a lost art. There are some great other ones I would recommend checking out, though. Dark side of the Moon is probably at the top of the list. If you have any others, please share them in the comments section below!
Now, I'm gonna pop on some headphones and listen to some Jimi before I watch the Eagles game. GO BIRDS!