You Hear With New Ears
Recently Sony / Legacy released a treasure trove of Jimi Hendrix LP’s with more on the way. Unlike the earlier MCA releases (which were analog to digital transfers and were great sounding comparatively) they are no match sonically for these new Sony / Legacy all analog titles. (* See - The Tracking Angle Magazine - Volume 1 - Issues 5/6 Winter of 1995/96 - for a complete and comprehensive overview on the MCA reissues *)
The sound of the Sony / Legacy (LEG 23851) "Are You Experienced" is just amazing with solid bass foundation and drums that snap and crack and explode in sound. The sound of Jimi's distorted and fuzzed guitar, phased and echoed perfectly has never sounded better. This is without doubt the best pressing of this LP ever. The closest we have ever been able to get to the actual analog master tape.
I have almost every pressing there is of “Are You Experienced” except for the Japanese pressings. I have the US stereo track order Reprise, The UK track order Track mono and the UK Polydor stereo. The double MCA Hendrix Family issue with both the stereo and the mono track order versions and alternate covers with the extra UK LP tracks. I even have the original long box CD.
None of the above LP issues compare in sound to the new all analog Sony / Legacy LP. So with that I will give a track by track rundown of what I hear on my system.
“Purple Haze” has the vocal panned far right. Way right of the outside edges of my speakers and the vocal appears in its own space. All else is centered here in the mix. The solo enters as you hear the voice in echo say “help me” in the left channel with more echo voices of “can’t go on like this” and “Purple Haze” as the song fades out. Great sound and mix!
“Manic Depression” has the vocal centered and the rhythm guitar panned left. Drums and bass are center then the guitar solo enters. A great track with few overdubs and a little panning. This sounds mostly live with very little fiddling in the mix. A great track with excellent sound.
“Hey Joe” has the guitar, vocal with bass and drums centered. Harmony vocal is in the left channel and overdubbed guitar on the far right. The lead guitar enters panned right and the harmonies sound eerie and echo as the song fades out. A classic in every way. The guitar solo on this track was only outdone by Hendrix live at Monterey Pop.
“Love or Confusion” is all centered in the mix. The voice panned to the left with reverb echo on the right. Solo instruments expand left and right somewhat phase shifted. More echo and phase are added and grows with the snare drum right and guitar left panned back and forth beyond the edges of the speakers. The bass is solid and the snare drum cracks and snaps as it is hit. Great dynamic contrasts, this is superb early rock stereo.
“May This Be Love” the drums introduce themselves and appear left outside the edge of the speaker. The vocal is center with snare left and guitar right. Cymbals and echo appear in the sound stage from nowhere as they are brought up in the freaky mix. With the solo and rhythm guitar panned left and right. Very ambitious even the bass part sounds better. It sounds as if there is a splice as if two takes were spiced together near the end of the track. There is a noticable shift in volume of the bass.
“I Don't Live Today” has the voice panned right with all else centered in the mix. Overdubbed guitar and voice are panned left. The snare taking up space with lots of air around the snare and cymbals. At the end of the track of the guitar solo break you hear Jimi saying “there ain’t no life nowhere”. The drums roll in and out of phase echo fills the room. This is a very ambitious mix. There is more apparent instrumental deliniation here than I have heard on other pressings.
Side 2 opens with “The Wind Cries Mary”. This is the most transparent of all the cuts with the clearest mix. Jimi is on the left and the drums are right with the solo guitar entering on the right. Rhythm guitar is centered with the bass guitar. You have never heard this track sound this good.
“Fire” has the vocals centered and guitar right. Harmony vocal is on the left with out of phase echo. The guitar solo is left and the echo is right. There is lots of echo on the snare drum with great room sound behind it. The outro fuzz guitar stings and sings as it sustains. This track is more solid sounding than ever heard before with even better foundation. Excellent drum sound.
“3rd Stone from the Sun” has Chas Chandler's speaking voice panned right with Jimi in the left channel answering his call. Chas says in a tape slowed voice “starfleet to scoutship - come in Jimi”. Sounds appear and Jimi’s voice enters left with his kinky machine appearing. Guitars feedback like blowing wind. Voices appear slowed on magnetic tape sounding otherworldly, mysterious and three dimensional. With the drums rolling the beat moves forward and then guitar feedback with cymbals heard beyond the edges of the speakers we hear Jimi say. “We’ll never hear surf music again”. Feedback guitar fuzzed and phased with echoed images shifting and then the song fades out. A landmark track in every way.
“Foxey Lady” the half whispered, half spoken voice of the word “foxey” is panned left and the lead vocal and rhythm section centered. The repeated “foxey” is echoed. This is the least ambitious mix with most of the placement of the instruments set in the mix right in the recording. Very live sounding with most of the sound centered between the speakers and behind them.
“Are You Experienced” is a master statement. What sounds like a single note on a harpsichord or piano clangs (or possibly Jimi playing at the octave on the fretted and open strings) in the left channel with Jimi’s guitar mocking the note on his guitar. Jimi’s guitar is panned right and middle breathing in and out in the mix. Jimi’s vocal is center showcased. Backwards guitar and echo enter midpoint as the sound breaths in and out sounding phasey and otherworldly. The soundstage encapsulates the listening room. This track is really something. Astonishing music amazing sound for early rock stereo. This breaks new ground in every way possible.
This album features a glossy gatefold cover with a eight page LP sized booklet with rare photos and liner notes. The booklet contains information previously known and unknown... new and old. The LP is pressed apparently at RTI in 2010 was mastered by George Marino at Sterling Sound. Initial pressings are numbered and limited edition. My pressing was flat and without noise. This is the best sounding edition of "Are You Experienced" to ever appear in the US track order and I highly recommended it.
I remember the first time that I heard “Purple Haze” blasting from the neighbor’s window one afternoon when originally released. Within days I heard the entire album and I was hooked. Hearing this new LP today on a high end system is a new experience and a sonic revelation in every way.
In the original liner notes on the back of the LP cover are these appropriate words. “You hear with new ears.”
Producer: Chas Chandler
Engineer: Eddie Kramer
Mastering Engineer: George Marino
Mastering Facility: Sterling Sound