Mendelsohn: 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?
Klinger: 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. In fact, he keeps the tension moving through the song with his use of the E7#9 chord. It’s one crazy way to kick off a debut album, and it immediately serves as notice that things are going to be different.
What I’m trying to say is that in listening to the 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.