Are You Experienced is the debut album by English-American rock band the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Released in 1967, it was the first LP for Track Records. The album highlighted Hendrix’s R&B-based, psychedelic, distortion-and feedback-laden electric guitar playing and launched him as a major new international star.
Are You Experienced has remained a critical and commercial success since its release. The album reached #2 in the UK,behind the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The US version of the album contains some of Hendrix’s best known songs, including “Purple Haze”, “Hey Joe”, “The Wind Cries Mary” and “Fire”. In 1987, as part of their 20th anniversary, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #5 on “The 100 Best Albums of the Last Twenty Years.” In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #15 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The album was an instant success and was a best-selling album in the United States in 1968, and critics subsequently regarded it as one of the best rock albums of all time.
In 2005 Are You Experienced was selected for permanent preservation in the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress in the United States.
Hendrix, along with producer and former bass player for the Animals, Chas Chandler,formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience in England in 1966 with Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding on bass. The band signed with Track Records, a new label formed by The Who’s managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp.
They recorded three singles produced by Chas Chandler while simultaneously touring throughout England: “Hey Joe”/”Stone Free”, which was released in December 1966 through Polydor Records because Track Records was not yet operational; “Purple Haze”/”51st Anniversary”, released in March 1967 and was the first release by Track Records on a special white label; and “The Wind Cries Mary”/”Highway Chile” which was released in May 1967 and is said to be written by Hendrix for his longtime love, Kathy Etchingham (whose middle name is Mary), after he was left alone at home when she stormed out after a fight. All three of these singles reached the top ten in the UK. The Experience’s first single, “Hey Joe”, reached #6 on the UK chart in early 1967, followed soon after by “Purple Haze”, which peaked at #3 on the charts and its double platinum debut album, Are You Experienced.
During the making of the album’s singles, the Jimi Hendrix Experience also cut the tracks that became their debut album, which Chandler produced, again, mostly with engineer Dave Siddle at De Lane Lea Studios, he also used Mike Ross at CBS for several tracks. Some tracks were finished at Olympic Studios with engineer Eddie Kramer, as was the final compilation, mixing and editing of the LP. Are You Experienced was recorded over a five-month period, but relative to his later work, little time was spent in the studio. According to the background information in 2010’s 180-gram vinyl re-release, Hendrix stated he wanted to record with “the best gear and musicians available”.
In Europe this LP was released by three different companies: the new “independent” Track Records, which produced the original cover with a picture by Bruce Fleming; the independent Barclay Records in France, which produced a completely different cover featuring a photo of Hendrix performing on a recent French TV show, surrounded by “psychedelic” painted, swirling graphics; and Track parent Polydor Records in Germany, Italy and Spain. In Germany, Polydor used the original Track Records cover but added “Jimi Hendrix” in similar lime green text above the white Are You Experienced logos on the front; in Italy this added text was red, while in Spain it was yellow. These Polydor releases featured “fake” stereo, processed from mono. The back cover had a track list added.
Barclay Records of France added final punctuation to the album title: Are You Experienced. Some tracklists of the album also add the question mark to the title track. The South African Polydor release (due to the apartheid racial barrier, and that the main customer base was seen to be “whites”) had no pictures, only text on a plain red background (mono only). Japan, Australia and New Zealand Polydor (mono only) copies used the original UK layout.
The original Reprise (US/Canada) CD was originally identical to their original stereo LP version, whereas the European CD release used the original UK track list, but replaced with the Reprise stereo re-mix versions (except for the original mono version of “Red House”, which has never been mixed into stereo and “Remember”, which used the mono version, but processed to “sound stereo”).
The 1993 Alan Douglas re-release (MCA 10893) had a chronological track list, starting with the first three UK singles A and B sides replaced by the Reprise stereo mixes (except for “Stone Free”, “51st Anniversary”, and “Highway Chile”) and followed by the original track list of the UK LP. The version of “Red House” included on this CD edition was the same as that originally included on the US LP “Smash Hits” in 1969, and different from the version of “Red House” present on the original Track UK LP. That original Track UK LP version can be heard on the CD Jimi Hendrix: Blues. It might also be noted that at the end of the version of Red House on the original UK Track LP, a bit of studio dialogue between Hendrix and Chas Chandler can be heard, and that on the “Blues” CD, only a snippet of Hendrix speaking from the beginning of the dialog can be heard.
After Jimi’s father, Al Hendrix, won back the rights to his son’s musical catalogue, Are You Experienced was again reissued in 1997 (MCA 11602) and 2010, now under Sony Music Entertainment worldwide, preserving the UK and US versions in their respective territories and including the extra tracks missing from the respective editions and restoring the original mono version of “Red House” (minus the dialogue at the end). The 2010 release includes a booklet with pictures of the band, lyric sheets (handwritten by Hendrix) and gear rental receipts of a music supplier in London.
Are You Experienced received mostly positive reviews from contemporary music critics. Keith Altham of NME magazine called the Jimi Hendrix Experience “a musical labyrinth—you either find your way into the solid wall of incredible sound, or you sit back and gasp at Hendrix’ guitar antics and showmanship, wondering what it’s all about”.
Are You Experienced has since been regarded by critics as one of the greatest and most influential debut albums in rock and roll. The Guardian wrote in 2003 that it “remains a watershed of psychedelic rock.” American musicologist Gilbert Chase asserted that the album “marked a high peak in hard rock.” The Miami Herald credits it for introducing acid rock, classic rock, and the guitar style of heavy metal music. In his review for Blender, music critic Robert Christgau said that, although the album’s songs are catchy enough to hum, “humming definitely doesn’t capture their essence, a roiling sea of guitar that would change how a generation of fans heard music and conceived their own blown minds.” BBC Music’s Sid Smith similarly hailed it as “the sound of the future arriving; tacky, awkward, inspirational, exciting, perplexing and sometimes contradictory for sure, but the future nonetheless.”
In 2005, Are You Experienced was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry, which selects recordings annually that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. Writer and archivist Rueben Jackson of the Smithsonian Institution said that “it’s still a landmark recording because it is of the rock, R&B, blues … musical tradition. It altered the syntax of the music, if you will, in a way I compare to, say, James Joyce’s Ulysses.”
UK and International editions
All songs written and composed by Jimi Hendrix.
|4.||“Can You See Me”||2:35|
|5.||“Love or Confusion”||3:17|
|6.||“I Don’t Live Today”||3:58|
|7.||“May This Be Love”||3:14|
|9.||“Third Stone from the Sun”||6:50|
|11.||“Are You Experienced”||4:17|
|1997 Experience Hendrix reissue bonus tracks|
|12.||“Hey Joe” (Billy Roberts)||3:30|
|16.||“The Wind Cries Mary”||3:20|
US and Canadian editions