The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced?
Reprise, 1967: Jimi Hendrix (vocals, guitar, died 1970), Noel Redding (bass, vocals, died 2003), Mitch Mitchell (drums, died 2008) That's it! Just three people!
This is one of the greatest debut albums in rock and roll history (by one of the greatest guitarists in rock history), and it is in some fine company with other great debut albums like those by The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Boston, Doors, etc.
The album is also one of the most influential in rock history; many critics and artists have pointed to this record as the start of psychedelic rock. The album is explosive; it's innovative; it's challenging; it burns. Hendrix brought a whole new vision and style to the electric guitar.
It has always seemed very strange to me that Hendrix had to go to London to make himself into a rock superstar; rock super-stardom wasn't going to happen in the United States, but then again London in 1966 was really the center of creativity in the rock universe (Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, Yardbirds, Cream, The Hollies, The Animals, and the list goes on and on). The Hendrix album is "what Britain sounded like in late 1966 and early 1967: ablaze with rainbow blues, orchestral guitar feedback."
After forming his group and releasing the album, Jimi played in the United States for the first time at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. He capped his performance there with a wild version of "Wild Thing" as he played his guitar while it burned, and then he trashed the guitar and threw the pieces to the audience. The scene is captured by D. A. Pennebaker in his 1968 documentary Monterey Pop. There was nothing like that before Hendrix, and there really hasn't been anything since. And while I'm not going to say anything here about the Hendrix set at Woodstock in 1969 (covered on my Cultural History of the Last Fifty Years), that Woodstock performance along with what he did at Monterey Pop has left us with two of the most iconic rock performances ever caught on tape.
OK, back to the album, which is a mix of rock and blues, and great blues at that. Check his version of "Red House," which only appears on the UK version of the album, or "Hey Joe" or "Foxy Lady." Then there are songs like "Are You Experienced" and "Purple Haze," which defy classification. What a guitar!