Jimi Hendrix's second album followed up his groundbreaking debut effort with a solid collection of great tunes and great interactive playing between himself, Noel Redding, Mitch Mitchell, and the recording studio itself. Wisely retaining manager Chas Chandler to produce the album, and Eddie Kramer as engineer, Hendrix stretched further musically than on the first album, but even more so as a songwriter. He was still quite capable of coming up with spacy rockers like "You Got Me Floating," "Up from the Skies," and "Little Miss Lover," radio-ready to follow on the commercial heels of "Foxey Lady" and "Purple Haze." But the beautiful, wistful ballads "Little Wing," "Castles Made of Sand," "One Rainy Wish," and the title-track set closer show remarkable growth and depth as a tunesmith, harnessing Curtis Mayfield soul guitar, Dylanesque lyrical imagery, and Fuzz Face hyperactivity to produce yet another side to his grand psychedelic musical vision. These are tempered with Jimi's most avant-garde tracks yet, "EXP" and the proto-fusion jazz blowout of "If 6 Was 9."
The 2010 Legacy edition adds a short documentary DVD featuring interviews with Chas Chandler, Mitch Mitchell, and Noel Redding, as well as Eddie Kramer in the studio with the multi-track masters. Again, it's the footage with Kramer and the multi-tracks that's so revelatory. He isolates various parts of "Bold as Love," "Little Wing," "Spanish Castle Magic," "Castles Made of Sand," and "If 6 Was 9," revealing difficult/impossible-to-hear details that are simply fascinating. This is interesting enough (ever heard the floor stomping on "If 6 Was 9"?), but we're also treated to the unreleased take 2 of "Little Wing" (which is quite a bit more raw and aggressive than the take ultimately used on the album) and the true ending to "Castles Made of Sand," which was faded out for the album master. Kramer's continuing enthusiasm for the material is really wonderful to see, and he reveals which Hendrix tune is his favorite. At just 16 minutes, this documentary only whets the appetite for more. [A CD/DVD version was also released.] ~ Cub Koda & Sean Westergaard