Rolling Stone handled Are You Experienced and Fresh Cream in a dual review, Nov 1967.
Here’s a taste:
The earlier pop groups of the new wave, starting with the Beatles, the Animals, the Stones and the Beach Boys, were all four-instrument groups, and tended to influence others in that direction. But from the beginning some American groups have attempted to enlarge this concept.
Oddly, in England the trend has been in the other direction. The Who, the current Yardbirds, the Cream and Jimi Hendrix are all three-instrument groups. They represent attempts to tighten the music, to eliminate the superfluous and to get closer to the mythical nitty-gritty. In some cases they are going so far as to eliminate the distinction between background and foreground sounds.
In considering the work of two major new trios, the Cream and Jimi Hendrix, it must be remembered that there is no point in eliminating the rhythm instrument if it is a group’s intention to play the kind of rock in which it is important to have one. Any rock form in which there is a solo-accompaniment idea, such as the blues or hard rock, will require more than a bass and drums for rhythm. It is therefore self-defeating to start a three-man group to play those types of music. Hendrix has been more successful in realizing this and in using the three-instrument idea more meaningfully.
This concern about “are there enough instruments for this kind of music?” is the core of the review, and the reviewer is not at all pleased with the trios. No sir. And overdubs? Just proves how wrong the trio idea is. The idea that a record, a studio creation, can be a legitimate work on its own, as opposed to a raw document of what the musicians can do in real time, hadn’t sunk in yet, I guess.
On the Are You Experienced album Jimi has made a tremendous technical advance in the use of three instruments. The superfluous has been eliminated, the tightness of the arrangements is total, the ornament and the background-foreground concept have been limited, if not eliminated, and the level of individual virtuosity is extraordinarily high. But, in Jimi’s case, the sum total of all this is pure violence. Above all this record is unrelentingly violent, and lyrically, inartistically violent at that.
It was a different time.