"Electric Ladyland" is an essential Jimi Hendrix album, one of the most discussed and revered in rock history. One glance at the track listing will provide a reason, as it boasts some of the Hendrix classics such as the bustling rhythmic 'Crosstown Traffic', the extended 'Voodoo Chile', both versions simply blaze and smoulder with infernal power, the psych rock of 'Burning of the Midnight Lamp', and wonderful lead guitar standard, the blues drenched Dylan penned 'All Along the Watchtower.' This last song is essential Hendrix, with some amazing guitar interplay with the poetic lyrics such as the infamous, "there must be some way outta here, said the joker to the thief." The wah-wah guitar lead is hugely influential and well known by guitarists.
It is also an album with some incredible psychedelic bursts such as the floating, trippy '1983... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)' clocking just under 14 minutes. After a haunting slow start it moves into an improvised percussion segment and some chilling celestial atmospherics, with minimalist guitar and heartbeat bass. 'Voodoo Chile (slight return)' is brilliant, and a staple for guitar enthusiasts that has blasted the radio airwaves ever since it saw the light of day. The lead break is quintessential Hendrix, with slices up and down the frets and soul chilling sustained string bends that pierce like arrows. 'Burning of the Midnight Lamp' has a recognizable guitar signature and Hendrix' voice is saturated with Acid influenced venom. There are also weird experimental pieces such as '...And the Gods Made Love' and 'Moon, Turn the Tides... Gently Gently Away' that are more confounding then welcome additions.
Some of the lesser known songs are the ultra bluesy 'Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)', uptempo fast riffer 'Gypsy Eyes', blues rocker 'Come On (Part 1)', saxophone, Hammond and guitar driven cruiser 'Rainy Day, Dream Away', the sizzling riffing Bolero rhythm influenced 'House Burning Down', and the jazzy, simmering 'Long Hot Summer Night'.
It is the last studio release for Hendrix and came out at the peak of the flower power counterculture era, 1968. The album became the soundtrack for the Vietnam War that was raging strong, and it was the album to play as one was ingesting hallucinogenic psych drugs. This was an era of immeasurable change; Man was about to land on the moon and Woodstock on Yasgur's Farm was still in its planning stages. The front cover was banned in some countries, and photographer David Montgomery's artistic license was not embraced by Hendrix who expressed embarrassment at the naked women adorned all over the cover leering at the music buying public with enticing delight. This cover was quickly replaced with the original design of Hendrix singing in close up, but of course it is the "naked ladyland" cover that everyone remembers and that appears in album cover books.
Overall, the album is a showcase of all that made Hendrix great and as a double album of considerable length, over 75 minutes, it delivers quite a bang for the buck. It features some incredible musicianship from members of Jefferson Airplane and Traffic among others. The extended improvised jam session features Steve Winwood burning gloriously on his keyboard, and there is a massive drum solo, as well as Hendrix taking control with blues power finesse, and a lot of congratulatory cheering and applause. It is moments as these that make the album a milestone of classic rock. Hendrix connoisseurs herald it as one of the best of 1968, and it has gone down in history as an essential rock treasure.