Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Jimi Hendrix Experience Album Review

     Are You Experienced is the debut album by English/American rock band The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Chas Chandler, the producer of the group, formed The Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1966 with Hendrix as lead vocals and electric guitar, Mitch Mitchell on drums, and Noel Redding on bass. Are You Experienced was released in the UK in May 1967, and held #2 on the British charts for eight months behind the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. However, it was not until after their 1967 performance at Monterey Music festival that his American and Canadian label prepared the album for release, but with some significant changes. These changes include a new album cover, and replacement of some tracks. When the album was finally released in August 1967, the new lineup-proved hugely influential with the album peaking at #5 and remaining on Billboard's album chart for two years. The Jimi Hendrix Experiences' first album highlights Hendrix's R&B voice along with psychedelic, disorienting electric guitar. After the release of this album Hendrix was launched into stardom.

The Songs
The first track, Purple Haze, is a perfect example of a typical psychedelic drug song of the 60s. The song starts off with heavy guitar chords, known as the Hendrix chord, which eventually increase in tempo and blends with the bass and drums. While Hendrix claims that he wrote this track as a love song and the lyric, "Whatever it is, that girl put a spell on me" is key to understanding the songs message; most believe the song is referring to the effects of LSD, commonly referred to as purple haze. However, this link between love and drugs is also addressed in Are You Experienced?, and the beautifully disorienting Love or Confusion:
My mind is so messed up
Goin' round and round
Must there be all the colours
Without names, without sound, baby?
My heart burns with feeling, but,
My mind, it's cold and reeling
Is this love baby,
Or is it confusion?
Hey Joe, one of Hendrix's folk inspired songs tells of his conversation with a man named Joe whom we discovered has just shot his wife after discovering her infidelity. Hendrix expresses his concern for his friend Joe and advises him to run to Mexico where he'll be safe from the law. By the end of the song, Joe agrees and departs. This song is cool because Hendrix provides dialogue from the two men having the conversation over a mellow, steady harmony.

Foxey Lady is known for its' guitar riff, and is one of Hendrix's first uses of feedback in a recording studio. The song is merely Hendrix's reaction to seeing and confronting an attractive woman. Personally, I do not find this to be an impressive song, especially lyrically.

One of Hendrix's prettiest songs is believed to have been written after getting into a fight with his girlfriend at the time. The Wind Cries Mary can best be characterized as a psychedelic blues song that tells of the pain felt after losing a loved one. The infamous guitar riff of this song was inspired by one of Hendrix's idols, Curtis Mayfield. This track and Highway Chile, an autobiographic track depicting Hendrix's pursuit of the American Dream, were both rereleased in 1983.
My 3rd favorite song by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, May this be Love, is also featured on this album. This slow, optimistic, pleasant song is about the euphoria one experiences when in love and truly finds bliss. Hendrix describes the beauty of the world and his love, occasionally disrupted by quirky chords. His guitar solo towards the end is gorgeous, I find myself lost in a daydream whenever it comes on. Without a doubt, this song is worth listening to.
On the other hand, there are also songs like Manic Depression and I Don't Live Today that are more pessimistic and depressing. Although there is no known facts surrounding Hendrix's mental health status, these songs certainly express some sort of angst. This feeling of despair is articulated in the following lyrics from I Don't Live Today:
Will I live tomorrow?
Well, I just can't say
But I know for sure
I don't live today
No sun comin' through my windows
Feel like I'm livin' at the bottom of a grave
Stone Free, the first song Hendrix ever wrote, can also be found on this album. Unlike most of the Experience's songs, this track featured Hendrix playing in standard tuning. The lyrics of the song reflect Hendrix's way of life and his desire to be completely free.

An almost completely blues song off of this album is Red House. Out of all of his recordings, this track is the most traditional in form and sound. This slow tune tells of a very common theme in blues songs: the singer's woman no longer loves him and has moved. It's a great example of Hendrix's early work.

The longest track on this record also has the least amount of comprehended lyrics. Third Stone from the Sun refers to the Earth, since it is the third planet from the sun. In an attempt to make space sounds from Star trek, the song includes slowed down dialogue between Hendrix and Chandler. Hendrix even goes on to make a commentary on the modern generation's music from an aliens' point of view:
  Although your world wonders me,
With your majestic and superior cackling hen
Your people I do not understand,
So to you I shall put an end
And you'll
Never hear
Surf music again 
51st Anniversary is a very funky, straightforward tune where Hendrix first uses overdubs. It tells the story of a decaying marriage that ends in infidelity and heartache. Towards the end of the song Hendrix expresses that he is not ready to be married and wishes only be free, and able to live.
The Experience tackles the struggles in relationships yet again in the song Can You See Me? The lyrics of the song suggest a theme of repressed emotions and the inability to communicate with each other, which often leads to the downfall in relationships. This theme appears again in the song Remember. In this song Hendrix is speaking to a woman, trying to remind her of how good life was when they were together. Since they broke up, everything seems to have turned bad or disappeared completely, so he promises to change for her.
The last of the songs on the Are You Experienced album is Fire. Out of all of The Experiences songs, this has to be the most sexual, straightforward, rock song. I best know this song because it was the song Hendrix was playing when he first lit his guitar on fire in 1967.

Seeing as how I believe Jimi Hendrix is one of the best things to happen to rock and roll I would definitely recommend everyone to listen to it. Although people recognize The Experience as a psychedelic rock group, most do not know of his folk and blues background. This R&B edge in his voice makes him a truly remarkable musician. Not to mention he had unfathomable skill when it came to playing the electric guitar! This album (seeing as how it is his first) is the perfect place to start exploring their sound. Jimi Hendrix is such a notable name in the world of music that to deprive yourself of his music would be a disgrace.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Beatles: Paul is Dead!

     The Beatles are known as one of the most revolutionary musical movements in the history of popular music. The band formed in 1960 in Liverpool, England. The original band consisted of four members: John LennonRingo Starr, George Harrison, and Paul McCartney. By the late 60s "Beatlemania" was in full effect as their music grew in sophistication, and began to embody the ideals of the masses. However, in the late 60s a strange urban legend emerged among Beatles' fans now referred to as "Paul is Dead."
     In 1967, a rumor emerged that McCartney had been killed in a car crash in London. Although these rumors were addressed in a 1969 interview, this did not put fans' worries to rest. Later that year, an article entitled "Is Beatle Paul McCartney Dead?" was published in the student newspaper of Drake University. The article addressed the rumour of Paul's death that had been circulating the campus. The conspiracy theory stated that on November 9, 1966 McCartney, after an argument during a Beatles' recording session, had angrily driven off in his car, crashed it, and died as a result. Then to save the public from grief, the Beatles replaced him with William Campbell, the winner of a McCartney look-alike contest. Many conspirators, like college students who wrote articles affirming such beliefs, claimed that there were even clues to McCartney's death in recent Beatles' songs, occasionally through back masking.

     In 1969 a Detroit disc jockey, Russ Gibb, discussed the rumor and clues suggesting Paul's death with callers on the air for more than an hour. Two days after the broadcast, The Michigan Daily published a satirical review of Abbey Road by a University of Michigan student under the headline "McCartney Dead; New Evidence Brought to Light". It identified various "clues" to McCartney's death on Beatles album covers, including evidence from their new album Abbey Road. The writer, Fred LaBour, was astonished when the story was picked up by newspapers across the United States, especially since he had invented many of the clues himself. Soon after that, Gibb's radio station further fuelled the rumor with a two-hour special program on the subject called "The Beatle Plot."

     Conspirators began to find clues to Paul's death in all of the Beatles' work, even their album covers. Abbey Road was the second to last album recorded before the band broke up in 1970. Despite being regarded as possibly the Beatles best album, Abbey Road is also famous for its cover. Many believe that the album cover was sending a message to the fans concerning Paul's death, regardless of the Beatle defending his identity. There are numerous "clues" conspirators have identified along the front and back album covers.

Many conspiracy theorists believe the cover depicts Paul's funeral with John (dressed in all white) as the preacher, Ringo the mourner, and George (in scruffy denim) as the grave digger. Since Paul was the only member out of step and barefoot, theorist assumed that meant he must be the corpse. However, McCartney refuted this claim saying he had been wearing sandals before, but since it was a hot day, he decided to take them off. Another "clue" theorists found on the cover was the cigarette in McCartney's hand. Paul was left handed, however, he is holding the cigarette in his right hand. This fact, theorists believed, supported their claim that Paul was replaced by a look- a- like. A third clue conspirators found in the Abbey Road album cover was in the registration plate. The white VW Beetle in the background has a license plate reading LMW 28IF – 28 being the age Paul would have been if he hadn’t "died."
     Although the Beatles' press office had repeatedly denied the claim for years, rumors truly started to decline when a 1969 issue of Life magazine issued an interview with McCartney in which he stated: "Perhaps the rumor started because I haven't been much in the press lately. I have done enough press for a lifetime, and I don't have anything to say these days. I am happy to be with my family and I will work when I work. I was switched on for ten years and I never switched off. Now I am switching off whenever I can. I would rather be a little less famous these days." Although the evidence is nothing but hysteria and over analysis, there are still people who believe Paul McCartney is in fact dead, and William Campbell has taken over his life.     

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

     Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are infamous names in the history of American communism. In 1953, they became the first civilians executed for espionage in United States history. Julius Rosenberg was born to a Jewish family in New York City in 1918; Ethel Greenglass was also born in New York City in 1915. They were married to each other by 1939. The Rosenberg's were charged with passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union during a time of war.


     Julius and Ethel met in 1936 when Julius became a leader in the Young Communist League. In 1942, Julius and Ethel became full members in the American Communist Party. In early 1945, Julius was fired from his job with the Signal Corps when they learned of his past membership in the Communist Party. On June 17, 1950, Julius Rosenberg was arrested on suspicion of espionage after having been named by Ethel's younger brother, Sgt. David Greenglass, and a former machinist at Los Alamos, who confessed to passing secret information to the USSR through Harry Gold, a courier. Ethel was arrested on August 11, 1950.

     The highly controversial Rosenberg's trial began in 1951. From the beginning, the trial attracted a lot of attention from the media, and generated strong responses from observers. Opinions varied from those who believed the Rosenberg's to be clearly guilty, and others who asserted their innocence. During the trial, Greenglass served as the prosecutions primary witness. He stated that Ethel had typed notes containing U.S. nuclear secrets, and that those notes were later turned over to Harry Gold. Gold would then turn them over to Anatoly A. Yakovlev, the Soviet vice consul in New York City. Both Rosenbergs asserted their right to the Fifth Amendment not to incriminate themselves whenever asked about their involvement in the Communist Party.
     On March 29, 1951, the Rosenberg's were convicted and sentenced to death under Section 2 of the Espionage Act. The Rosenberg's stoically maintained their innocence throughout the length of the trial and appeals. They were finally executed by the electric chair on June 19, 1953. The judge for their case noted that he held them responsible not only for espionage but also for the deaths of the Korean War, since the information leaked to the Russians was believed to help them develop the A-bomb and stimulate Communist aggression in Korea. Their case has been at the center of the controversy over communism in the United States ever since.
     Despite controversy over the sentencing of the Rosenberg's, significant evidence in support of their guilt surfaced in later years, such as Memoir of Nikita Khrushchev.  However, in a New York Times editorial published on the 50th anniversary of their execution, "The Rosenberg case still haunts American history, reminding us of the injustice that can be done when a nation gets caught up in hysteria" is written, supporting their innocence. References to the Rosenberg's are still common in pop culture in modern media such as poems, novels, songs, and TV shows.