In a past life, Fresh and the Qualifier used to get paid to write about music. For years they toiled through a tag-team article called Counterbalance, going head to head, hashing out the relative merits of new releases for the local Chicken Dinner Newspaper. But that was a long time ago - before the economy crashed, sending their frivolous Arts & Entertainment section down in flames.
After wandering in the wilderness, lost and directionless, Fresh and the Qualifier have returned to take on their most challenging assignment: the Greatest Albums of All-Time. Do these critics' darlings hold up, or are they just hyped up?
Before Jimi Hendrix hit the scene, face-melting guitar solos were an unheard of commodity. But with 1967's Are You Experienced?
The Jimi Hendrix Experience blew the doors of the unmelted face market and began searing flesh with every transcendent guitar lick. Rock, rhythm and blues were never the same afterward but can this all be laid at the feet of Hendrix (and then set on fire) or was it the inevitable evolution of rock and roll? Fresh and the Qualifer investigate in this installment of Counterbalance.Fresh:
We've talked previously about separating the myth from the music, but this one is a doozy. The Jimi Hendrix Experience's Are You Experienced?
has 40 years of mystique to dig through. Where do we begin? The classic rock radio staples, the psychedelic freak outs, the down and dirty revisionist blues?Qualifier:
Let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). The introduction to "Purple Haze," the album's opening track, employs the tritone, also known as the diabolus in musica
. By playing the root note and the flatted fifth, you create an ominous, discordant sound that, believe it or not, was once banned by the church for invoking demons or some such thing. And unlike some of the other famous uses of the tritone ("The Siiiiimmp-sooons!"), Hendrix never resolves the melody by going up to that natural fifth that your brain is expecting. The effect is jarring, and it's a good indication of why Hendrix's music is so well-regarded today.
What I'm trying to say is that in listening to this album anew for this Counterbalance, I was struck by how tightly constructed it all sounds. Hendrix is all over the place, but it never once sounds like he's out of control.